8 Family Building Activities That Keep Your Teen Close

Teenagers don’t like to admit it, but they still need their parents, and they still want to spend time with them. While it’s natural for teens to become more independent, it’s also important for parents to find ways to spend time with their teens and strengthen family bonds. Typically teens that lose this close and open relationship with their family can become defiant to their parents and resort to needing help from programs such as those offered at a residential treatment center.

Family Time

Plan things that you and your teen, and the whole family, can do together. Have a movie night or a game night - whether it’s board games, cards, or video games. Take turns choosing the movie or game, or put a list of names in a bowl and pick one. Yes, your teen may roll their eyes and say it’s corny. They’ll also put the names of their favorite movies and games in the bowl.

Eat dinner together at least a few nights a week. There is a link between family meals and the emotional and physical well-being of teens. Busy schedules sometimes make family dinner difficult to plan, but make it mandatory at least a few times a week.

Read together. Agree on a book that both you and your teen can read and then spend time discussing the book. If there’s a movie, watch it together. If you or your teen doesn’t like books, read the same magazines and talk about the articles. Your teen may be into graphic novels or comics. Ask them to share some of their favorites with you and tell you why they like them.

Working from Home

During the Covid 19 pandemic, more teens are taking their school classes online, and more parents are working from home. Stop occasionally and ask your teen to show you what they’re working on. See how much high school chemistry has changed since you were in school. Show them the kinds of things you work on and explain a little about your job.

Working around the House

Make your teen responsible for doing some chores on their own, but also do some chores together. Emphasize the importance of a family working together to make the house run smoothly. Cook or bake with your teen. Try some new recipes. After dinner everyone helps with the dishes, or pitches in to do the laundry.

While you work, encourage your teen to talk about their life and what’s on their minds. Be sure to listen and not immediately react or respond to what they say. Do not jump in with your advice or judgement on situations they describe. Ask them what they think about a situation. Make sure to find time to talk with them alone, as well as spending time with the family.

Do Some Projects Together

Do some projects around the house with your teen. Paint a room, or take on a home improvement project together. Do you have some skills or knowledge about woodworking, plumbing, painting, redecorating, or other home improvement skills? Teach them to your teen. Have them help you to plan the project, shop for materials, and complete the work. Maybe your teen would like to change the look of their bedroom. You might want to build a shed, or start a garden.

Do some arts and craft projects together. Take up knitting, tie dye some t-shirts, fix up some old furniture. If you don’t know how to do these projects, get your teen to help you find some DIY tutorials on YouTube or instructions on Pinterest. When you work on projects together you build bonds with your teen and you help them to build self-esteem.

Learn Something New

Take a class together with your teen. If you can’t physically go to a class, then sign up for a course online. Learn a new skill like playing a musical instrument, self-defense or martial arts, cooking or baking, yoga or dance. Try an art class like painting or drawing, pottery or ceramics. Take some computer courses together and learn new skills like programming, coding, photo editing, or film making.

Go Outdoors

Help your teen to appreciate nature and the benefits of physical activity. Hike in the woods, or go kayaking. Find outdoor activities you can both enjoy – golf, tennis, running, fishing, boating, swimming, or water skiing. It doesn’t have to be strenuous activity. You can take the dog for a walk after dinner, work in the yard together, or go for a slow, easy bike ride. Use your phone to take photos of things around you and then work on editing and printing some of the best pictures. Go to local parks and nature areas. Watch a sunset or stay up for a sunrise. Look at the night sky, and talk about the vastness of the universe.

Help the Community

Is your teen concerned about the environment or social conditions? Volunteer with them at an animal shelter or food pantry. Deliver meals or work in a community garden. Work on clean up days at the local park or beach. Participate in fundraiser and activist events.

Take a Road Trip

Many families are not taking vacations this year, but at least plan some day trips together. Find out what kind of attractions are within an hour’s ride of your home and ask your teen what they might be interested in. Make sure the place is still open and what their new visiting rules are. Plan a trip to a nearby zoo, aquarium, museum, nature preserve, or historical site or building. If your teen is learning to drive or has a newly acquired license, let them do some of the driving.

Help for Families with Troubled Teens

These kinds of activities will help to strengthen family bonds with normal teens who have normal teen problems. If your teen has completely withdrawn and refuses to participate in family activities, or if they have become increasingly disrespectful, rebellious, and even violent, they have problems that require professional intervention.

If your teen has serious emotional, phycological, or behavioral issues, and therapy has not helped, they may benefit from treatment in a residential treatment center. These facilities provide a safe, controlled environment for troubled teens, with intensive counseling and academic classes. At a residential treatment center, teens and their families participate in family counseling (online and during visits). Teens live in a family setting where they are responsible for daily chores, and they participate in physical and social activities. They learn about the respect and cooperation that helps families to grow strong.

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