12 Ways to Connect with Your Teen

We can’t go to an ATM and make additional withdrawals on our time. Once the time is spent, we can’t regain the moments. If you fail to make connections and family memories with your teen, you will not regain the opportunity.

Talk with your teen about making a commitment to spend time together this year. With busy schedules, you must both commit to spending intentional time with each other.

Discuss how often you want to commit to spending intentional time together and what you might want to do. Be willing to try new things your teen wants to experience and encourage your teen to be willing to accompany you on some outings that appeal to you. But keep in mind that your teen needs to view this as a pleasant experience in order for him to continue to spend time with you.

Consider starting with a manageable goal. If you haven’t been spending intentional time together, start with the goal of doing something special on a once-a-month basis in addition to your normal interactions on a daily basis. If you need some ideas, consider some of the ones mentioned in this article to get you started.

January – Goal Setting

While you both might set goals for the new year on an individual basis, take this year to work together to set three goals each – one for spiritual health, one for physical health, and one for educational or professional growth this year. Talk about how to support each other in helping each other achieve the stated goals. Have weekly meetings and monthly celebrations to celebrate your progress.

February – Love Notes

Surprise your teen on Valentines Day with a special “love note.” Give him a note telling her how special she is to you. Tell her specifically how much she means to you. Include a coupon for her and a friend to redeem to spend time with you doing her favorite activity (shopping, biking, spending the night at a hotel, playing golf, attending a favorite sporting event, or whatever will appeal to your teen).

March – Kite Flying

If you can find a little wind, you are never too old to head out to a park and fly a kite. After a little kite flying, talk with your teenager about how your relationship is like that of a kite to the one holding the string. Talk about how you give your teen more and more freedom and rope as he demonstrates trust and obedience, but that he is still closely connected to you even when he might feel like he is growing further away as he experiences more and more freedom.

Talk about the things that will help your teen gain more independence and trust. Ask what additional freedoms you teen wants to experience. Let him know your expectations and how to gain your trust.

April – Gardening

When it’s time to plant flowers, enlist your teen and head to your local home improvement store. Grab some gardening supplies and get your teen involved in planting. As you garden, talk about how long it takes the actual seed to bloom. Admit to your teen that your limitations on his life are there in order for him to bloom into a godly young man. Ask him what it takes for a person to grow into a godly person. Talk about the godly men and women you both admire. Talk about why you admire them and what you might want to do to become more like them.

May – End-of-School Celebration

Reward your teen with an end-of-school celebration. Take her to her favorite restaurant. If you can find your old report cards, pull them out at supper and reveal the secrets of your past. Talk about how doing your best is the most important thing in regard to grades, but that colleges do take great interest in a student’s grades. Talk about your teen’s plans for her future education.

June – Car Care

It’s time to make sure everybody in the family knows how to change a tire and check the oil in the vehicle. Give a demonstration, then have a timed family contest with parents included complete with video camera and stopwatch. Talk with your driving teen about his responsibilities as a driver to help maintain a safe vehicle. If you have time left over, spend some time washing all the family vehicles. Make sure you squirt your teenager with the hose just for good measure.

July – Vacation

While school is out, make plans to vacation somewhere with your teen. Pick a place all family members can agree on. If you can’t get away for an extended period of time, at least try to get away for one night away from home. Get your teen to share with you about his friends. Ask him how your family can be there for his friends. Find out which friends need special attention from your family. Spend extended time together on your trip doing something fun. While your teen might need some time alone on the trip, don’t let him spend all his time away from the family.

August – Back to School Party

Spend a day with your teen shopping for school clothing. While shopping with a parent may be the last thing on your teen’s mind, you can work to make the experience enjoyable by treating your teen to lunch at his favorite restaurant or by allowing him to take a friend. Talk about the things your teen most looks forward to about starting back to school and talk about the things he least looks forward to. Ask how you can be supportive during the school year. If a friend is with your teen, ask the friend the same questions.

September – Spiritual Leaders 

Plan to invite your teen’s spiritual mentors over for a meal. Ask the teen to give you a list of three or four adults that he looks to for spiritual leadership or accountability. Ahead of time (without the teen knowing), ask the mentors to write letters of affirmation to your teen regarding what they see God doing in your teen’s life. Ask your teen to prepare to say the blessing for the meal and to say a few words of appreciation for the impact the mentors have had on his life. Eat the meal, then between the meal and the dessert invite the mentors to say a few words about your teenager and to present your teen with the letter of affirmation. Before dessert, you can affirm your teen publicly and thank the mentors for being there for your teen.

October – Back to Your Birthplace

If you have not already taken your teenager to your birthplace, plan a fall trip to return to the city of your childhood. Check out the local football schedules to see if the local football team has a home game the weekend you plan to return. Share with your teen a part of your history. Sometime during the weekend of reminiscing, share your personal testimony with your teen. Let him know that your hometown has a lot to do with who you are today, but that your personal relationship with Jesus has even more to do with who you are today. By sharing your testimony aloud, your teen will have a permanent reminder of your eternal security.

November – Serving Others

Plan to serve a meal at your local soup kitchen during the Thanksgiving season with your teen. If you don’t have a soup kitchen, plan another serving-type activity that you can do together. Talk with your teen about meeting other’s needs. Talk about the things you are both thankful for. Really dig to find out what your teen appreciates most about you and your family. During this season, let your teen hear you thanking God for her.

December – Giving to Others

Talk with your teen about giving gifts at Christmas. Determine if your teen is willing to give up something in order to give to others. If you need to shop for others, let your teen help. You might also decide to give up monetary gifts to each other this year and instead give homemade gifts or coupons that can be redeemed by spending time doing things together.

You can pick and choose the ideas that “fit” your family. Run some of the ideas by your teen if you can’t decide if she would have an interest or not. The best advice is to talk with your teen. Together decide how you can have more time together as parent and child this year. While it’s true that you can’t go to the ATM for more time, you can bank on the fact that your teen will treasure the memorable moments you have together.

Checking Your Connection

If you are desperately trying to connect with your teen but are finding it hard, use this checklist to see if you just have a bad connection?

  1. Are you expecting to communicate with him on an adult level? (Although he may appear to be an adult, he still thinks and communicates as a teenager. When you ask him to explain why, he really might not know why at his stage of development.)
  2. Do you use interrogation as you primary means of communication? (Interrogation puts your teen on the defense. She may begin to see you as the police and her as the primary suspect.)
  3. Are you allowing him to have a different opinion? (Let’s be honest with our children and ourselves. Everyone is entitled to have his own opinion and that doesn’t necessarily make something right. Let him own his own feelings and don’t discount that his feelings may be different from yours. On issues of right and wrong, teach him to go to God’s Word for the final truth on those matters. You don’t even have to debate those.)
  4. Are you really listening? (Listening is key in communicating with your teenager. She is not intimidated by silence. She can wait it out better than you can. Ask how she is feeling about something, and then give her time to both think about it and then answer. If you talk to fill up that awkward time, she may never let you in her world. 
  5. Are you willing to enter his world? (While you may not like being in his messy room, you may find that sitting on his bed and chatting before bedtime gives you that connection you desire.) On his turf, he will recognize that you care enough to just stop in and chat.)


Climb a Mountain

Whether you are an avid mountain climber or not, you might want to branch out and climb a mountain or at least hike one with your teen. Communication usually comes more naturally when you are engaged in an activity. It will also be affirming for your teen to be your partner in the climb or hike. You can talk about the uniqueness of God’s creation and the uniqueness of your teen.

Enlighten Your Teen

If your teen is mature enough, it might be time to talk with her about issues that could arise for your family should you die. While this is not a time to scare your teen, it could be a time of assurance. Let her know your plans for family finances, your plans for her welfare and care, and whom you would want her to turn to for advice in case you are not there for her.

The Big Challenge

Challenge your teen. Ask your teen if he is willing to take a challenge from you and also offer a challenge to you. If he is willing, the two of you could agree to each other’s challenges. Try to make the challenges long term and something that will cause the two of you to engage in conversation or engage in activity together.

The Big Redo

Get your teen’s help in redecorating his room. Who knows? It might be the only way to get everything off the floor at least once before he leaves for college. Work together to decide on a theme and color scheme. While you are working together, spend some time talking about how making a few changes in décor can give the room an entirely new feel. Then talk about what changes he might need to make in his relationship to Christ to renew and restore fellowship.

Trading Places

For one day, trade places with your teen (with the exception of attending school for him). Give her the responsibilities of parenting and you play the role of the teenager. At the end of the experience, talk about what you learned about each other and watch Freaky Friday.

> Joy Emery

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