If your home is anything like mine, then your teen is on their device a lot! On top of their socials and gaming, now they have school and peer contact. The world in general has become more online. Here are 6 Tips to engage with your teen without your devices.
Tip one: Find your teens love language. These are: Physical Touch, Spending Time, Words of Encouragement, Acts of Service, and Gift Giving. Based on Gary Chapman's books that focus on the 5 love languages.
To find out what their love language is, ask them: How do you know I love you? It is so interesting to hear what they say. Their answer will somehow link into one or more of the 5 love languages.
For instance, if they say: 'When you get silly and dance around with me' = spending time. 'When you tell me, you love me' = words of encouragement. 'When you make my favourite dish' = acts of service. 'When you bring me a surprise can of V' = gifts. 'When we snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie' = touch.
We can have more than one love language, but often there is something that speaks loudest. Work that one. Our goal here is to engage with our teen in a way that speak to them. Sometimes we only get minutes with them at a time - let's make those count.
Focus in on their primary love language. For instance, my son shows love with acts of service. So in turn, I can do things for him - i.e. make him lunch and ask him to come outside and have lunch together. Also asking him to help me with various things around the place. And then do them with him. This adds spending time and meeting his love language of helping out. Which makes him feel valued.
Tip two: Is there an offline game they enjoy? Or do they like reading? If they like either of these, then ask if they would like to play or learn a new board game. Or read a book aloud together. A chapter each. (I fall asleep every time he read his chapter!)
Tip three: Ask them about their online games, movies, friends and lives. Give them your full attention, even if it is just ten minutes. If you don't understand what they are describing, ask them more about it.
Tip four: Are they into fitness? Get them to put together a workout schedule for you. your fit teen can become your trainer. Do they have some other interest? Get them to teach you. Art? Ball skills? Animals? Building stuff? Get interested. It may not be your fav thing to do but we can fake it till we make it right?
Tip five: Most teens love food. There is so much we can do around love of food. There is the planning, buying, preparation, presentation, and the eating together. Get your teen involved in some way. Even as small as asking them what they would like to eat this week. Gather some dinner ideas together. If they love to cook - dive in and enjoy all aspects together.
Sometimes food is the only thing that gets them out of their room. You have permission to use this to it's full potential. Our goal is to get conversation going in any way we can.
(A rule at our place is to be device free at the dinner table. That goes for us too. Our young person's sense of justice gets triggered by double standards.)
Tip six: Let them know you are worried about how much time you are both spending online. Ask them for some suggestions for offline activities. Schedule some of these ideas in a low-key sort of way. If they are in the 'shrug/I dunno' mode, don't give up, hone in on their love language some more. We have plenty of opportunity to keep trying to engage.
Remember there is no one else in this world who loves your young person the way you do. You got this!