Of all the things you taught your kids when they were growing up, when your son gets to be a teenager, you realize those two magical words were all you really needed to teach him. Evidently, they can answer nearly any question.
How's school going? How'd practice go? What did you guys do after the game?
I'm not one to give advice when it comes to kids. So call it an observation.
How can I get my teenager to open up about school and their life?
I've noticed that when we're sitting in our hot tub for 20 minutes, I hear more than "good" and "nothing" from my teenager. Suddenly, I hear a funny thing that happened at school. How algebra is going. What teachers are good and which ones are dolts. And there's more than the superficial stuff. I actually find out what's bothering him, what's exciting him. Occasionally, my sage advice is requested. Holy cow!
I usually read about how hot tubs and spas provide "therapy," meaning hydrotherapy and what they do for muscles, aches, pains. Maybe they offer a bit of therapy of the other kind, too.
Why? I'm not entirely sure. Maybe it's that you're in the same space with no phones, no mp3 players, no books, and in the case of my own hot tub, no television. It's a way to feel unplugged for a while. As far as I know, there's not a waterproof smartphone that allows you to text while sitting in a hot tub. (And if anyone brings one home, it better be extremely impact resistant, too.)
So if you're a bit sneaky and can occasionally time your soak with your teenager without invading his or her space, you might find that communication opens up a bit. Ironically, I've found it's not going to happen if you hop in and start asking questions, so I've learned to keep my yap shut. When I do, I generally learn the answers to lots of questions I never have to ask.
And if we decide to spend some time soaking in peace and quiet, each to his own thoughts, that's not such a bad thing either.
My teenage son doesn't talk to me.
Many of my friends with children talk to me about their own struggles with communication. One day you have a talkative 5 year old, always asking questions and never letting you get a word in edgewise and the next thing you know they've grown into their teenage years and you have trouble getting them to tell you what's happening in their lives. According to an article from the Child Mind® Institute, the right approach depends on the specific circumstances. If you have always had a great relationship with your child but they suddenly shut you out when they become young adults then you should consider the following approaches;
Avoid lecturing or trying to place blame or guilt
This shouldn't be about you. As the parent you should be able to separate and control your own emotions. Sooner or later you have to face the fact that your child is becoming an adult and will require more privacy. If you are having an excessive amount of emotional trouble letting your child grow-up then the problem likely is not with your child. All parents have difficulty letting go of the reigns when their children become individuals and require their own space.
Endeavor to lighten the conversation and consider treating your child more like an individual
Try to avoid confrontation unless there is a serious issue going on. Concentrating on fun will help your children to think of you as a friend.
Engage in your childrens hobbies or other interests
By engaging in your childrens hobbies and favorite past times it often puts them more at ease for personal conversation. Spending time with them doing the things they like to do naturally puts them in a better mood. You will be surprised what comes up when you are spending quality family time instead of sitting them down for a serious conversation right out the gate.
Take them out to eat or make their favorite meal
Good food always puts people in a better mood and the same is true of your children. Consider a picnic at a favorite location and let your child run the conversation.
Don't try to force kids to talk
Let the conversation happen naturally on their terms. Start out the conversation with comments about your own happiness or something light that is going on in the world. And do not be afraid to just sit quietly if that is what they are in the mood to do. Sometimes quiet time together builds trust and confidence more than conversation.
Understand that eventually your child will become an individual adult
Instead of thinking of yourself as your childs guardian, start to think of them as your best friend. There will come a time soon when they will be venturing out on their own and the closer your friendship the more likely they will visit home often and keep in touch regularly. A close relationship with your adult kids starts before they leave home. Learn to respect their individuality and support their decisions even sometimes when you might have doubts about whether they have chosen the right path. Everyone has to make their own mistakes but you can be the hero later.
How can I get my teenage daughter to open-up and talk?
According to Dr. Roni Cohen-Sandler don't give your teens advice unless they ask for it. Learn to be a better listener like you would with your friends. Most of us don't offer advice to our friends unless they ask for it and the same should be true with your children as they get older. Adults and especially young adults do not like to be told what to do. A friend is a good listener and only offers support.
Try to see things through your young persons eyes. Empathy goes a lot further than sympathy or lectures. Remember that good friends support one another especially when they make mistakes.
Keep up with the times and start talking to your kids about more serious issues as soon as they're old enough to understand. If they are asking questions about a subject, even if you consider it too early, don't avoid it or brush them off. Good relationships with your children should start when they are young. If you are still treating them like children into their teenage years then you need to up your game. Don't kid yourself into thinking that you can have a good friendship with them when they're older if you don't have one with them when they are young.
Don't over-react or turn to anger if you hear something you don't like. Treating them more as adults means that they aren't always going to share your viewpoint on every subject. When one of my children says something that shocks or worries me, I always take the time to think about it. Unless it's a more serious issue I'll generally sleep on it to be sure that emotion is out of the equation before I respond. Sometimes when you don't know what to do the best thing to do is nothing. It also seems that whenever something has upset me and I come back to it a few days later my teen has respect for the fact that I thought about what they said carefully before responding. It helps to build a mutual respect and trust.
Just as you should set-up a regular 'date-night' with your significant other, set-up a regular time to spend with your daughter doing something she likes to do. This can be a tough one for fathers but you might learn something about yourself along the way such as pedicures are a good thing. Raising children has it'rewards on so very many levels.
What are the best ideas for quality family time?
Here is a list of great ideas to promote quality time activities with your family or friends;
Do something completely out of character
Change up your routine. Go somewhere you haven't thought about going before whether it's an art museum or the opera. Even if you both hate it there's an experience to be shared and an opportunity to improve your bond.
Roadtrips are great
Think about it, you are trapped in a confined space together for hours and on an adventure. Road trips are a great way to share experiences with your family and to get kids to open up. It is a lot easier to talk about problems at school or with friends when you are many miles from home.
Cook meals together
Preparing meals for yourself and loved ones has so very many health benefits. Preparing meals is in our DNA argues Richard Wrangham, anthropologist from Harvard University. Cooking food protects us from bacteria and disease. Teaching your children to cook their own food sets them up for dietary success in their adulthood. And best of all, cooking meals together is a great opportunity for bonding and personal conversation. It teaches teamwork and helps to better prepare kids for their future as adults.
There are so many great opportunities within our communities to get out and do something nice for someone else. Show your kids that it is important to contribute directly to your community. Whether you clean up a park or a beach, help feed the homeless or deliver meals to the elderly. Involve the whole family to support your community. It's a win/win. Maybe you could help a willing neighbor clean up their yard?
Design a scavenger hunt or mystery dinner
Gather your friends and family together to let them all participate in the planning. Then invite other families or friends to participate and end the day with a big picnic for everyone. Be sure to take lots of photographs during the event and share them later on when you sit down to relax together. Be sure to let the kids take leadership roles in the planning and coordination. It really boosts creativity and thinking outside the box. Those are skills that will serve everyone for a lifetime.
Develop a morning routine together
Maybe it's making breakfast together or having a short morning exercise routine. A brisk walk around the neighborhood with the family dog is something everyone will appreciate. It will help you all to wake up and could inspire an important morning conversation. Maybe you could plan your day together making a written schedule. Creating a daily schedule teaches children to be more organized as well as better time management. It might help you to get more done yourself.
Have a family dance party
With the latest television dance contest rage how about setting up your own family dance off? It's a great time to break out your favorite songs and to let your kids showcase their favorite music as well. Who knows, you might hear something you like! And even if you don't like it, allow your children to express themselves in their own way and don't be judgmental. Remember that your own parents hated your music just as much. Don't be your parents. Dancing is great exercise and a great time for laughter and family bonding.
Go on a nature walk
Gather your cameras and note pads and go out into nature to try and see as many different kinds of animals as possible. Assign one or two of your kids to take notes along the way and take lots of pictures. It can be a very affordable family outing and can involve your friends as well. It's a great time for team building, bonding and getting your kids to open up.
Keep in touch especially when you are busy
Kids love surprises like notes or short videos. If you have to leave early in the morning before they get up consider leaving them a short note or even a video message somewhere you know they will find it. Unlike adults, most teens and smaller children are not inundated with the communication overload we face every day with e-mail and instant messaging. Leaving a note for your kid lets them know you were thinking about them even though you weren't around when they got up.
Learn something new together
There are plenty of opportunities to learn new things. The Internet is flooded with how-to articles and videos. Pick a new hobby or study a period of history together. This can be a real ice breaker later on to segway into more difficult conversations. Studying turbulent times in history such as wars or economical challenges gives you and your family members something to compare your own life to. Studying "the Great Depression era", for example, gives you something to compare with the modern world and brings a greater appreciation for the good things in your own life. How about paddle-boarding or kayaking? You could also tackle a back yard project together like building that gazebo over your hot tub for the winter months or rainy days.
Redecorate a room together
Dads may think this is only for girls but boys like to be creative as well and there's always the man cave that could use a sprucing up or general cleaning. Involving your children in housework and design planning will make them more likely to appreciate their home and more likely to help keep it clean and well ordered. Best of all it prepares them for their life as adults.
Have a yard sale
Announce the plan for a yard sale first then caveat this with the fact that the garage or basement needs to be cleaned first to find stuff to sell. You can also use this as a good excuse to clean their room or family area. Assign your kids specific jobs such as keeping a list of things to sell and determining how much you should ask for each item. It teaches kids money management and organizational skills. When the day comes for the yard sale, give them lots of supervision but let them deal with the customers and learn to negotiate price with your oversight.
I hope you appreciate that list. After much research on the subject of family time activities it seemed like most of the ideas presented by others are common sense; go to the zoo, an amusement park, camping, fishing, etc. but most of the ideas involved money or seemed obvious. Give some of these free and more imaginative ideas a try.
What can I do to help my teenager develop social skills?
Most teens have trouble with shyness and talking to others and in groups. We can all remember those awkward years of our own childhood when being singled out or called upon in class sent the blood rushing to our faces. The world has only gotten more populated since then and social skills have never been more important than they are in modern times. Good jobs are only getting harder to find and the more social your teenagers are the more likely they'll be ready to land that first summer job when the time comes. Many of the activities we have already discussed will help your teenager to feel more comfortable in group settings. Here are some additional family activities that will help your teen develop better social skills or help with shyness;
Send them to summer camp
This could be too drastic for a teenager with extreme shyness but getting your teens away from the comfort of home with other kids in social settings like summer camp really helps them to learn better social skills. Camp counselors keep a sharp eye out for kids that need special attention and group involvement. Most of the really confident and social people I know as an adult went to summer camp when they were kids.
Take them to a school dance
Going to school dances can be really intimidating for teenagers. While they might express embarrassment at the idea of having a parent take them to a school dance, you can embolden them to make an entrance and then hunker down on the sidelines to give encouragement when needed.
Get a karaoke machine and share it with friends
Everyone suffers from stage fright, especially teenagers. The fear of getting up in front of a crowd holds many people back. Encourage your teen to try new things like karaoke. The best thing about karaoke is that you don't need any talent to do it. It's often more entertaining for others to listen to poor singers rather than talented ones. Karaoke not only helps to develop social skills but it also teaches the lesson of failure and success. Nobody who is successful at anything has ever gotten there without failure. The whole point of karaoke is to have fun without consequence.
Attend school functions together:
Not enough can be said about this particular subject. When teenagers participate in after school activities it is critical for their developing egos to have family members attend the events. Whether it's a sporting event, a school play, the science fair, or a performance of the school band or choir you need to be there. Other parents will be there to support their own kids and when your kids have no family members present it makes them feel left out. Don't let your teen be the one hanging about in the background while other families celebrate their childrens success in front of them. Teaching your children to introduce you to the families of their friends helps to build social skills and confidence. It helps you to practice your own social skills as well.
Check out events at your library or community center
There are always clubs and events for kids to join at school but if there aren't any that interest your teen then look around at what is going on in the community. We've already talked about volunteering in the community and that is a great source for social experience and development of social skills also. Libraries often have book clubs and community centers may have teenage programs to promote social interaction and skills development.
Social skills can't be learned from a book or online course. To develop good social skills and confidence you have to get out into the community and practice interacting with people. It's okay if we're not very good at it when we start out. Most people are not very sociable when they are young. Developing confidence and good social skills is a necessary job skill and everything you can do to help your teen overcome shyness and build confidence will better prepare them for an extremely competitive job market.
Buying and sharing a hot tub is just one of the many opportunities you have to talk more with your teenager, other family members or friends. It's healthy for you in so many ways. Contact a Caldera® Spas dealer to find out about the price for any Caldera hot tub model. You can also download a Caldera brochure.