Simple Ways to Stay Connected to your Teen

Drew and I are parents to 4 kids ranging in age from 21 to 13. Prior to raising teenagers we were youth pastors for ten years.  We actually met as volunteer youth leaders. For the last 14 years I’ve predominately photographed high school seniors. Therefore, I have some experience with that age category.  Dare I say, I love that stage of life. Investing in the lives of teenagers is a thread that has been present throughout my life since I was a teenager myself. Yet, I find myself hesitating to give advice on raising & interacting with teenagers.  

There are a few reasons I hesitate to dish out parent-teen relationship tips.  The biggest one is I have 4 examples and they have been given the same gift we all have, free will.  Free will can be a tricky beast. As a parent I can think I have it all figured out, see the fruits of my labor, and then one of my little peaches make a boneheaded move! Parenting teens is humbling.  Parenting teens is emotionally exhausting. Parenting teens is also highly rewarding.

Here are 5 ways to stay connected with your teenager regardless if you preferred her as a cute, pigtailed toddler; if you kind-of enjoy her spicy 16 year old personality; or if you see the teen years on the horizon and you’re already trembling. These tips are for you!


  1. Gather as a family at the dinner table: Nothing fancy here, friends. Set the table. Leave the electronics off.  Eat food, any food is fine. It doesn’t have to be gourmet. Have an intentional conversation.  Tuesday night is our official family dinner night. We eat together more often than that, but Tuesday is THE night. It’s the don’t-mess-with-Tuesday dinner night.  We don’t make other plans. It was selected because no one has practice on that night. When we first started doing this I got eye rolls and verbal fights broke out between siblings. It was not pretty.  Here’s the secret sauce: Don’t give into their pushback. Keep at it.  Be consistent. To help stimulate conversation, we always begin with a high and low from the day.  Each family member shares the best part of their day, high, and the worst part of their day, low. Do not be alarmed when the squeaky voiced freshman at your table shares from his peach-fuzz pie hole that his low is “sharing his high and low from the day”. Feel free to give your own exaggerated eye roll!


  1. Join them on their bed before they go to sleep: I’ve found when my kids are shutting down for the day and they are relaxing in their bed, they are more likely to open up.  It may be the peacefulness of the time of day, the stillness of the darkened room, or a combination of the two. Regardless, I’ve had some great chats with my kids as they are drifting off to sleep.


  1. Ask them on a coffee date: Don’t get caught up on the coffee part. Sundae. Acai Bowl. Whatever. It’s the one on one time that should be the focus.  Individual time in a way that has a feeling of something special is the aim.


  1. Use time in the car to talk: If you’re like me you may feel like your teen’s personal {yet free} Uber.  Use that time to connect. You may have to break the ice by jamming to their favorite song.  Feel free to embarrass them with seated dance moves if you must. Whatever it takes to get them talking.  It doesn’t always have to be deep conversation. The goal is to keep them communicating with you so that when a problem arises they know you are a safe place to connect.


  1. Ask them to play a game of basketball, take a walk or kick the soccer ball.  The idea here is to move!  There are a few things at work.  The activity is a connecting point.  In addition, the movement means you aren’t looking each other straight in the eye.  Not making eye contact can actually help teenagers to open up. Having something to do physically distracts the nervous energy and cracks the door for deeper conversations. 


Teenagers can be awkward conversationalists.  Don’t take it personally. Push past the awkward and keep asking questions. Keep sharing insights.  Over time it will pay off!

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  • ChristyYou’re amazing! I love the ideas and knowing that what I face in conversation with my teens is all normal! ReplyCancel

  • Molly WickesJust reading this!!  I love it!  Great reminders!! So practical too. xoReplyCancel