But what does quality time even mean? Quite simply, it means that we connect with the other person in a meaningful way, whether it’s through sharing a memorable experience, or having a deeper conversation where we listen and respond while giving them our full attention.
Get the conversation started by asking open-ended questions.
Many teenagers and their parents struggle when trying to establish or maintain a healthy relationship. It’s important to remember that communication is the first, and biggest, step towards that.
These days, parents often complain about how they simply can’t get their kids to talk! One way that works for many parents is asking your child a lot of open-ended questions like “What did you learn in school today?” or “Tell me something good/bad that happened today.”
Limit online time.
Technology has impacted our relationship with our children in a huge way and has made it more challenging to communicate our feelings and thoughts with each other. Parents feel the pressure to allow their teenagers to be constantly connected to their friends, the internet and social media, because they don’t want to limit children’s opportunities.
But your child’s social well-being will be just fine if they don’t check their phone for 30 minutes! That tweet or text will still be there, and so will that Facebook update. Quality time with each other has to be a priority.
Be a role model.
A big part of establishing family quality time is by parents modeling the behavior they expect from their kids. We are the ones who need to put down the phone first! When you do that, it signals to your child that they are important to you.
Believe it or not, our kids want to talk to us, but many times we don’t see it because we are checked out when attending to our technology, and all our kids hear is “Uh huh, uh huh.” So pay attention to the cues your child is sending out when he or she wants to engage with you.
Show empathy for your child’s thoughts and feelings.
The key to communicating better with any child is through the powerful process of validation which helps your child feel understood. When you validate the actions or words of your teenager, you are communicating that:
- You are listening.
- You acknowledge his or her thoughts and feelings.
- You allow them to have their own point of view.
- You are not judging or blaming them.
When you do get the opportunity, you can validate your child through conversation by:
- Putting away the electronics
- Facing your child
- Making eye contact
- Keeping an open posture (no clenched fists, arms folded across chest, etc.)
- Avoiding eye rolling and sighing when your child is making a point
- Not interrupting when they are speaking
- Reflecting your child’s statement to show you heard what he or she said
- Using language to show you understand
- Asking your child to tell you more
And don’t forget to have fun!
As parents, we feel pulled in every direction throughout the day, so it helps to reinforce our priorities regularly. Spending quality time with our kids is definitely up there, but sometimes we need to encourage it along. Some fun ways to do that are:
- “Tell an embarrassing story about yourself (kid friendly, of course). We all survived adolescence, had first apartments, cranky teachers or hit the mailbox with grandpa’s car. Bring out old pictures of yourself (high school pics seem to go over well). If nothing else happens that day, your kids have discovered you are human.” – Family Dinners for the Rest of Us
- “Have a family fun day volunteering. In addition to the mental and physical benefits, giving together helps unite your family across all ages. Allow your younger or teenage children to make the decision of where to give or volunteer. This can help your children develop a vested interest in causes they care about. It will also help them feel more empowered and valuable in the decision-making process, which gets more buy-in to get involved.” – Holiday Giving as a Family
Becky Doane, LMSW, is a licensed social worker at the Pine Rest Northwest Clinic. Prior to coming to Pine Rest, she spent six years working with children and families in foster care. Becky is a part of Pine Rest’s Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) team, having completed training in the area and specializes in working with adults and teens who have borderline personality disorder, self-harming or suicidal behaviors.