Parenting a tween or teen can feel like navigating an emotional mine field. The strategies that worked beautifully in elementary school are suddenly useless as your daughter enters middle school and high school. She is starting to find her voice, her independence, and her strengths – and that can be very scary, for both of you. Despite her wanting-to-fit-in-and-be-independent attitude, your daughter really DOES want to stay connected with you. The “connection” just looks a little different as our daughters get older. It’s not quite as simple as taking a “Mommy and Me” dance class, but it’s just (if not MORE) as much fun. Read on, rockstar mom. You’ve GOT this!One super important thing to remember is that the time spent with your daughter is JUST THAT – time together. Keep it light. She might expect some kind of emotional interrogation (aren’t all tweens and teens suspect of our intentions??), but surprise her with keeping it simple. And for the LOVE of ALL things DEAR to your FAMILY……put away your electronic devices! Turn off your phones…..both of you. Bam. Let’s move on.
This is a short list of very easy and (almost) free FUN ways to connect with your tween or teen. Please note that these are ONGOING connections, not just one-shot events. Make the connecting time with your daughter a scheduled part of your life. The world is changing rapidly for her, and spending time together gives her the unconditional security, love, and laughter she needs!
Let’s do this!
1. Read a GREAT book together
Just because your little girl no longer demands “Go Dog Go” or “Pinkalicious” before bedtime doesn’t mean that you can’t find a comfy spot on the couch and read a book with your amazing almost-teen daughter. Try taking turns – you read a couple pages, then your daughter takes over for a couple of pages. Making it a collaborative effort keeps you both involved in your reading time together. And YOU TWO are the only ones in the family that know the characters, the plot, the ironies – so it cultivates great conversations outside of your reading time together.
There are great lists on Amazon, New York Times Books, and Scholastic. Even better, check out books at your local library! We love borrowing books from the library because if you don’t love them, no worries. Move on to the next one, rockstar.
2. Learn a new craft or enroll in a class together
There is nothing like fumbling with knitting needles, yarn, and scarf instructions to build a LOT of laughter and create some great (laughable) memories. There are so many things you can learn online for FREE – knitting, painting, building a table (YES!), and SO much more. The great thing is that you create something kind-of-uniquely-amazing together! It won’t be perfect, but who cares? You spent time with your amazing daughter and you learned something together. Maybe you’ll continue to use your new skills together in the future (please!). My daughter and I found a great step-by-step artist on YouTube that does acrylic painting tutorials. Click the button below to check her out!! We love to sit for an hour or so and just paint together – with a few snacks, of course.
3. Sign up for a challenge – and train together
It doesn’t have to be a 26.2 mile endeavor. It doesn’t even have to be 5 miles. Maybe it doesn’t involve mileage AT ALL (my favorites) – just find an event around your area that you can do together. There are SO many trendy, fun community events in every city – Color Run, Bubble Run, Hot Chocolate Run (yes, please!), Turkey Trot – you name it! There are also amazing events to raise money for charities that might have some special meaning to your daughter or entire family. And don’t think it needs to be a run/walk event! There are bike rides, healthy eating challenges (30-Day No Sugar Challenge), or 10 Zumba classes in 30 days. Commit to MOTIVATE and SUPPORT each other. Set goals together and track your progress. I LOVE this mom/daughter connecting activity – my daughter and I try to find 2 events in our area per year that is OUR challenge. Amazing bonds are built through sweat, goals, and accomplishment, my friends. A mom-daughter team is a force to be reckoned with!
4. Volunteer for a community project or charity together
There are so many ways to give back to your community, and working as a team makes it even more meaningful. It’s so important to teach our children the joy of compassion – and to bless others, as we have been blessed. Check with your local Humane Society, Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, hospital, or homeless shelter. There are always opportunities to help another person. Collecting blankets , playing with shelter animals, serving dinner…..all turn our focus and intentions to the world around us. One thing that my daughter and I did together was sponsor a child in another country through World Vision. It was a GREAT experience to write to Elian (our “adopted” sponsor child), send care packages, see his picture on our refrigerator, and talk about how we could support him through small acts of kindness. A loving, kind, compassionate heart is a wonderful legacy to leave with our children.
5. Make one night a week your “Dinner Night”
Find an easy, yummy recipe to make together one night a week. Spending time in the kitchen is a great way to laugh, create, and even learn a little math! Let your daughter pick out the recipe, and have fun collecting the ingredients and planning the meal. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just find something that SHE would love to make, and do it together. My daughter and I like to put on a little music – we even created a special playlist of our favorite pop, broadway, and retro tunes. We dance around singing while we create our special dish. Keep the recipes you make together in a special box – it’s something that she can keep forever – the recipes you created together, and the special memories.
Are you inspired to create a new tradition with your daughter?
I hope you are able to use these ideas connect with your tween daughter and laugh, love, and learn something together. Our lives get busy, and carving out 1:1 time can feel almost impossible. Going through our monotonous daily routine becomes comfortable – but try to remember that your time with your daughter gets shorter every day. By middle school, she has fewer years left in your home than the time she has already spent there. Every moment counts. Staying connected with your daughter is one of the most important things you can do to help your amazing daughter grow into a strong, confident, happy young woman.
If you found this post helpful, please hit the “Save” button and share it with friends on Pinterest. I’d love to hear your ideas about connecting with your daughter in the comments below. Thank you so much for stopping by my Inspired Mess, friends.
These are the days you’ll remember. – Natalie Merchant