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Parents and Teens: Enjoying Spending Time With Family

Sometimes they just don’t want to be with you. They might be busy, they might prefer spending their free time with friends, or they might feel mortified by being with their parents in public. And sometimes, let’s be frank, your teenager isn’t the most pleasant person to be around, either.

And yet, you both probably still enjoy spending time together with your family like you did when they were little. How can you make sure spending time with family is enjoyable for everyone?

Quality Time with Family

“The developmental goal for adolescence is moving from dependence to independence, and that means doing more without parents. But becoming independent doesn’t happen overnight,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Tira Stebbins.

Although teens often seem to only want to spend free time with friends, they usually do spend time with family, especially with parents. “It’s important to carve out fun time with teens to keep the relationship strong and make it a priority,” advises Stebbins. One-on-one time together attending a sporting event or cooking a special dinner is great. “Take an interest in your teen’s passions, whether it’s the sport they play, the music they listen to, or the TV shows they’re watching.”

Teen Bonding Time

How much time your teenager has may depend upon whether it’s summertime or the school year. “What teenagers do in the summer is much more valuable than in the winter,” says Dr. Michael Bradley, psychologist and author of Yes, Your Teen is Crazy! Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind. “Summer is unstructured time,” he explains, “without the demands of school projects, sports teams, and sometimes 18-hour days.”

Bradley advises parents to come up with a possible list of summer activities for teens. Put some ideas out there. “Then let your teens decide what they want to do.” So sit down with your teen to make a plan of what the summer might look like. “You might say something like, ‘Let’s look at our schedules and figure out some things we could do. What would make our summer fun?’” It’s okay to insist that your teens do something this summer. But value their input and work it out together.

What is most important, however, is getting your teen’s input into what you do. “If they have a say in the plans, teens are much more likely to engage,” says Stebbins.

Jane Parent, former editor at Your Teen, is the parent of three.

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