As my daughter edges closer to 14 with high school starting this fall, it’s admittedly become more challenging for me to stay connected to her. Don’t get me wrong — she’s lovely — but she’d much rather spend her time locked in her art studio or bedroom, versus chatting with me about her day.
Insert eyeroll here.
(Hers, not mine.)
In fact, I’m pretty sure that the “so, how was your day?” question would fall under the category of torture for her.
That means I’ve had to get a lot more creative when it comes to engaging her. And I know that I’m not alone here, parents of older kids! That’s why I’m so pleased to be working with our sponsor WEYV, makers of a super cool app that actually works to unite families through access to your favorite music and magazines. They’ve even got ebooks, podcasts, and videos coming soon. And we know how the kids like the videos. (Ha.)
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been using WEYV together, seeing just if it really can make a difference in our relationship, and you know what? We’re both loving it.
Yes, my teen daughter and I love the same app — and I don’t mean Instagram. It’s a miracle!
So on behalf of WEYV, I’d really like to help other parents of tweens and teens by sharing 7 of my own personal ways that I try to connect with my teen daughter that I hope will work for you too.
The best part is that these are all times you probably already have scheduled into your day-to-day life; no need to go on fancy vacations, sign up for expensive clases, or change your schedule around completely. Just opportunities that are already there if you look for them.
Now of course the operative word is “try” to connect. But hey, gotta start somewhere.
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1. Hit the gym together, kick a ball around, or just take the dog for a walk. That works too.
Having a new puppy helps! Meet Archer!
I love the idea of exercising with my teen, especially since I’m much more motivated when I’ve got a gym buddy. However, my daughter is pretty much the opposite of a gym rat, and these days, so am I.
Instead, we’ve been taking our new puppy for long walks in the evenings together. Admittedly, my daughter didn’t start out super motivated to bundle up and get out of the house with me, but since we’ve made it our little nightly ritual, it’s become a fun enough that now we look forward to it.
Of course there are plenty of activities for you to do together with your older kid in the free time you already have, whether you love kicking a soccer ball around in the backyard, hitting fly balls at a local field, flinging around a Frisbee, or taking on a rock wall together.
And keep in mind, sometimes togetherness is just about being there, so even if you’re walking on a treadmill side-by-side with your earbuds in, having a quiet game of catch, or walking the dog in total silence, simply being present — together — is the biggest part of connecting with your kids.
2. Get in the kitchen together.
I’ve spoken to so many parents of teens who have told me that their kids really open up when they’re working together in the kitchen, whether it’s making Sunday morning breakfast or baking cookies on a rainy afternoon.
Quinlan and I aren’t exactly Iron Chef material,, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t tried this approach!
For me, cooking together is about teaching her skills I know she’ll need later in life; as well as passing along recipes for certain dishes I want to be sure she can cook. (Hey, I’m a mom! I want to be sure she’s not living off Ramen and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for four straight years of college!)
But what I’ve loved most of all is seeing what kinds of conversations emerge while we’re chopping vegetables or waiting for the water to boil — especially when I let her lead those conversations, and not the other way around.
(Remember: “How was your day?” = torture.)
3. Share music together.
Me jamming to Salt & Pepa. Turns out Quinlan was not quite as into it as I had hoped.
Kids these days have access to way more music than we ever did. (Yes, I just started a sentence with “kids these days.”) And from what I’ve seen from my own teen and her friends, they’ve got a lot more diverse tastes than I ever did.
Lucky for me, my daughter is in a big musical phase right now. While I can’t say I love all of her music (I sound like my mother here, sigh), I am trying to learn more about what she’s drawn to and why.
It turns out that encouraging her to share her music with me — and sharing her feelings about it — has been an amazing way for us to connect. I mean, just think about how meaningful certain songs to you were in your own teen years; that’s what our kids are experiencing right now.
So we’ve been using the WEYV app from our sponsor to do this together and I have to say, it’s been pretty fun!
Once we downloaded the app on our iPhones (available for Android too, by the way), and signed up for accounts (so easy!) we were able to create different playlists and radio stations for each other, then share them.
Instead of giving a child a separate account, parents can add a kid as a user on the same account but they can use WEYV on their own devices. Just open the menu (upper left corner in the app) and tap on Invite to Group and select “User” (instead of Child), then populate their info. In this instance, the parent simply has the child on their account (like a family plan) but the child can access the app on their own device and without any child settings.
The results: I’ve been introduced to some very interesting Japanese Vocaloid, and she is now versed in early 90’s hip hop and rap.
Honestly, I can’t say I’ve been a fan of everything; and I’m pretty sure she’s been a fan of nothing. Ha! But, it’s definitely opened up some new lines of communication with topics besides, “so, how is math going?”
WEYV will be adding ebooks, video, and podcasts soon, which we both love, so we’ll have even more ways to connect with each other.
Besides, it’s definitely worth signing up now since WEYV is offering a 2-month free trial for your family (details below). Do it, and you’ll get all of your own favorite music and magazines free to enjoy and share with your own teens and older kids.
4. Use your car time together for more than zoning out.
When we hop in the car, my daughter’s first inclination is to put her earbuds in and zone out. To be honest, I respect that. In fact, I’m pretty jealous.
But lately, I’ve been thinking of interesting conversation starters, none of which have to do with her schoolwork or social life, to try to engage her in meaningful conversation and keep the earbuds out a little longer.
My approach has been to start talking about a specific topic I know she’s interested in, then share my opinion. Like “You cannot believe what I heard on NPR today!”
It works, too! Nine times out of ten I can hook her, especially if the subject has to do with politics, diversity, or gender rights, three topics she’s pretty passionate about. But whatever your kid is interested in — gaming, sports, art, makeup tutorials on YouTube — it really doesn’t matter. Just remember that that car ride to the supermarket or hockey practice is an outstanding time to connect.
5. Two words: Binge watching.
Are we watching a tiny impala get chased by a leopard? Or two fabulous drag queens lip syncing for their life?
I’m a pretty heavy binge watcher (isn’t everyone these days?) and so I’ve made it one of our official evening pastimes together.
There’s an hour or so after my younger kids go to bed, and that’s when Quinlan and I curl up under a blanket on the couch, kick back, and flip on a favorite show. We tend to have pretty different taste in television; she loves documentaries while I prefer funny sitcoms. So, we have decided to alternate between them, until we make it through all of the shows on our list.
The huge bonus here: couch snuggles, which, if you have tweens or teens, you know are probably rarer than they used to be when your kids were little. (Sniff.)
Currently on our watchlist: Ru Paul’s Drag Race and Blue Planet II, both of which happen to be my daughter’s choice. And both of which I happen to enjoy too. Win!
6. Start a parent/kid book club. Or try newspapers or magazines.
A couple of years ago, Quinlan and I decided to challenge ourselves to read more, so we started an informal book club of sorts, and it’s been going ever since. This is how I got through all the Hunger Games and Divergent books, which of course led to hours of terrific discussion between us about plot lines, favorite characters, and more.
We’ve also been enjoying magazines on the WEYV app, and am really looking forward to the date (soon! Soon!) that they add ebooks so we can continue our book club digitally — mostly because it’ll save me some cash on books. Beside, you always have a book around when when it’s on your phone digitally.
Until then, we’ve been creating magazine article reading lists for each other, which is especially terrific when you’ve got a busy teen (and busy you!) who can be short on time.
7. Ask them for help.
Like plenty of teens, my daughter loves to share her opinion about pretty much everything, and I love that about her. So a friend with older teens (thanks, Lisa!) suggested I start asking her for her thoughts on something, or requesting her help with a task that I can’t seem to figure out — and turns out it’s really been a genius way for us connect.
Whether it’s setting up playlists and stations on the WEYV app (seriously, Quinlan is so quick with that stuff), or just getting her input on my outfit in the morning, it’s a fabulous opportunity to help engage your teen in a meaningful interaction.
When you do this, your kid is not just helping you, they’re helping themselves by learning responsibility, empathy, and compassion.
They’re also learning that their opinions and ideas matter to you, and that’s just so important.
Now I can’t say my daughter comes running when I need help with the dishes, if we’re going to be honest here, so I’ve gotten clever about exactly when I ask her for help. In fact if you feel like you’re always asking (or begging or cajoling or nagging) your teen to help you with chores, that’s a quick way to disconnect from them. And we’re kind of going for the opposite here, right?
So get creative! You’ve got this.
Thanks to our sponsor WEYV for creating a cool app that’s bringing families together through music and magazines, and soon ebooks, podcasts, and videos. Give it a try with your family (and teen). Download the app then sign up for an account. (It’s easy!)
Be sure to use the code COOLMOMPICKS to get two months completely free; no credit card needed.