These days, the competition for quality time with your child—especially if they’re an adolescent or teenager—seems to be growing. It’s hard to compete with the latest social media site, and sometimes getting them out of the house with you can be a fruitless effort.
It’s difficult as a parent to be heard over the noise of the internet, television and friends. That’s why staying connected with your child sometimes takes a bit of effort and creativity. That being said, here are seven ideas to pitch to your son or daughter to help win some much-needed bonding time…
1. Go on an Adventure
It’s 8 a.m. on a Saturday and your child is sitting around, bored. There you are, fresh from 8-hours of sleep, waiting for an excuse to take advantage of the weekend. Now’s your chance to suggest a road trip to your kid or embark on a local adventure.
Find a town near yours that has something unique about it—whether it’s a restaurant that serves crazy-sized burgers or a remote ghost town, get your child excited about it and hop in the car. If there’s a nearby trail that goes into a spooky forest you’ve both often wondered about, then today’s the day to explore that trail! You can bring along a picnic lunch and some cameras to capture that day to look back on.
2. Play some Sports Together
A little friendly competition on the basketball court can help you boost your child’s confidence—when you lose 45-10, you can tell them you didn’t actually let them win (and mean it). However, the Huffington Post has a list of sporting activities that are best for dads and kids (moms would probably love them too).
What the article doesn’t suggest is instead of going one-on-one with junior, why not organize some team sports? You could play baseball or ball hockey with your child and their friends on your team, and have a friendly adult (that won’t get overly competitive) organize a team with their child. It’s either bragging rights, or you and your child bond in defeat. It’s a win-win situation, really.
3. Go To a Drive-In Movie
The drive-in experience is not quite like any other, and it’s a fantastic way to spend an evening with your child (let them pick the movie, of course). While the drive-in experience is becoming less common (there were 338 drive-ins across America as of 2014), they are probably worth the drive.
If there’s really nothing like that near you, just going to a movie at a regular theater can be a bonding experience. You may not be able to talk during the film, but you’ll hopefully have lots to discuss on the way home. Ask your child what their favorite parts of the movie were (and why), and share your own too.
4. Make Up Your Own Language
Parenting.com suggests that just for fun, make up some crazy words together that only you and your child can properly use in sentences. For example, “Hey kid, where’s the clickamathing?” (What’s a clickamathing? Well, it’s a remote control, obviously).
Parenting.com also suggests that coming up with nicknames for each other can be a fun way to bond. Just be sure to keep it positive and don’t make up a nickname that can be potentially embarrassing. For example, if your kid is really good at basketball, call them “dunk”.
5. Help Them with Homework
Few kids enjoy homework, and you were probably one of them. So ask your child if they have homework and if you can help them with it—just don’t end up doing it all for them, as this is not going to do them any favors down the road.
This is also a good opportunity to confess to your child how much difficulty you had as a student with certain math and reading assignments. This will open up the conversation and possibly help boost your child’s self-esteem knowing their idol (that’s you) struggled with homework too.
6. Just be Present
In the case of teenagers and adolescents, you can suddenly become “uncool” to your child for no particular reason and that will make it hard to break through their shield of silence. Instead of taking this as a cue to start an interrogation about your child’s behavior, you should invite them into your world with no strings attached, suggests Huffington Post.
The source suggests setting aside an hour or so solely for the purpose of hanging out with your teen—with no intentions of grilling them about their life. Just be with them whether you decide to go for ice cream or shopping, and listen if they start to open up to you. Turn off your phones to show that you’re both committed to spending at least the hour without interruptions.
7. If you Can’t Beat Them, Join Them
It’s no secret that we’re in the middle of a Pokémon Go craze right now. This is an “augmented reality” app that takes players outside on a wild hunt for strange virtual creatures they can collect. While you might think this is weird behavior, this is actually a perfect time to spend time with junior.
Instead of shaking your head wondering what the fuss is about, grab your phone and offer to go Pokémon hunting with them. You can drive them to places their friends can’t to catch the more elusive creatures, and you can slip in conversation about life along the way. Also, your child might think you’re cool by default just by joining in.