I am the mother of a funny, laid-back, inquisitive, 19-year-old named Noah.
Trying to keep a bonded connection and a good flow of communication with him has been my goal since he was born.
It was only Noah and I for 12 years. I consciously made the choice not to get too involved or have other men hanging around him. I always felt that being divorced had already put my son in an unfortunate position. I now know that was not the case. Noah has turned out to be an empathetic, well-spoken person of strong character and opinions.
He will not be one of the sheep, this little boy I raised alone; he will be of benefit to this world.
A little glimpse of Noah: He has been pulling me into antique stores since he was eight years old. It occurred to me that this could be an opportunity to teach him about appreciating and taking care of his own things. Now, at 19, he humbly appreciates his grandfather’s scuffed, overplayed Bob Seger album, and his ruddy, seasoned, cowboy boots. He is a lover of all music genres. Being a kid of his time, he comes across music that is interesting to him on YouTube or Spotify, then finds the vinyl.
When Noah arrived home from Central Michigan University for his spring break the other week, he asked if he could get lunch tomorrow with “the boys.” This is what his friend group from high school is called. He had wanted to make sure it was okay because he never knows what activities are on the agenda.
Our house is different than his friends’ homes, he said. They don’t engage in activities with their parents like he does. I panicked. Yikes! You don’t like it? He reassured me that his childhood has been unique in being exposed to so much of life—that this has taught him to appreciate art, music, live theater, and buying used.
I always loved the fact that my father was genuinely interested in my life. He called me—a lot. I was tight with him and I wanted that same relationship with my boy.
So how do we accomplish this? How do we keep the line of communication flowing just as electricity effortlessly glides along a wire? How do we forge a bond as tight as a pickle jar to its lid?
I have put together a list of activities that I reach in my bag for, over and over.
I hope that these ideas can be of benefit or at the least that they will ignite other ideas to help keep you connected to your teenager.
1. Take them to their favorite café for an Iced Mochaccino or some other $7 drink.
I know, I know. But spending $7 on a coffee drink or smoothie is a small price to pay for the conversation that will follow.
2. Invite their love interest along for an outing.
There is only a limited amount of time, but having their love interest along adds another layer to your relationship, and in the process, you can gain a new friend. I have so enjoyed welcoming Samantha, Noah’s girlfriend, into our family.
3. Cook their favorite meal and set a nice table or eat outdoors.
Yep, you may be eating cheese, milk, butter, and non-gluten-free pasta (also known as macaroni and cheese), but there is nothing better than sitting down and eating a meal together.
4. Ask them to go to the movies with you.
The discussion after the movie will give you wonderful insights into the person your child is becoming. The insights may not be so wonderful at times, but this discussion could be opening the dialogue for possible course correction if needed.
5. Take them to a local, live play production.
In our area, we have local, live theater productions that range in cost from $5 to $30 per ticket. It’s a great way to bond over local culture and again create discussion about life.
6. Take them to a local art gallery.
This is a great way to support local artists and communities, and gain a sense of beauty and wonder alongside your child. Noah developed a love for drawing and has declared an Art Minor due to his appreciation of the arts.
7. Take a walk.
Talking to your child and being side by side instead of face-to-face, while engaging in any activity, seems to allow them more freedom in sharing details of their life.
8. Offer to teach them how to play Poker or Euchre.
My mother started playing with the grand-kids at an age that I certainly was not thrilled with. But upon further questioning of said grandmother, they were betting pennies on matching cards. Honestly, a great introduction.
Now that my son is older, playing cards together creates an environment to learn in that is safe and fun. I do believe it’s a skill that every adult should have. No more sinking in the corner when someone says, “Hey, let’s play cards!”
9. Go to a museum.
Our local library offered a museum pass. Up to four people could go for free to almost every museum and art gallery in the area. Inquire at your local library to see if this promotion is available. Visiting museums that varied culturally was an education for me too. We grew together.
10. Visit the nearest Metro Area.
We live in a small riverfront town about 45 minutes north of Detroit. One of Noah’s favorite activities is to go to Eastern Market, a half mile-long, open air stroll where you can buy local produce, bread, honey, hand-made jewelry—those types of items. We then have pizza at one of the neighborhood pizzerias. Bonding time in a charming setting.
These are activities that have worked well in our home. Yours may look different. But in the end, these activities help us to keep a strong bond, and provide a stage for keeping the lines of communication open. In addition, I believe my son looks forward to these outings and is keeping a mental note of things to do with his own children one day.
Nothing could be better than establishing traditions and watching them stay alive for future generations.
What ideas does this spur for you? What kind of traditions do you want to establish with your child?