While looking over previous research I have read on teenagers I came across a study published in 2007 by the American Academy of Pediatrics Journal, Pediatrics, by Kenneth Ginsburg, emphasizing the importance of play and having fun with children and adolescents. Personal experience as taught me that if a teenager will have fun with others, including parents, then memories are made and a bond is created. Ask your teen or child, “What is one of the best memories you have of our family?” My guess the memory will be centered on a time or experience that was fun for them; included laughter, and you may not have thought it was even important. Yet, I have also noticed over the years that during the teenage years families stop having fun together. This is due to a multitude of factors.
One factor is family life becomes busier and schedules do not always permit “down time” when teens and their parents can just have fun. Between school, homework, sports, other extracurricular activities, church or faith groups, and getting a good night sleep, fun just doesn’t make the priority list.
Another factor is what the teen may consider fun is not the same for mom or dad. After all, sitting in front of a TV for an hour playing Call of Duty or another video game is probably not at the top of most parents’ list, while playing cards with the family for most teens certainly is not as appealing as going to the movies or hanging out with the friends.
Yet, Ginsburg found that play and fun is crucial to forming and creating strong bonds for children and teens. As families we need to figure out how to spend time together creating new memories and having a night of fun. I know from working with teenagers that when we have fun together, I earn the right to influence their decisions. However, this bonding doesn’t just happen, I have to be intentional. For instance, playing video games with a teen can solidify the relationship even though I am really not any good at Call of Duty. With other teens it may be spending time cooking or learning about their favorite hobbies. The important thing to remember is to have fun doing something teens enjoy first, then brainstorm other ways you can have fun together.
During this time of having fun together the brain is solidifying connections and helping all involved create memories that could last a lifetime. Take advantage of the times when your teen wants to “hang out” and have fun. It may be hard to imagine the conversations you can have while cooking, playing video games, tossing a ball, or playing cards, but it will be worth it. I promise! So what is stopping you from having fun with your teen today?
Do you have a cool idea that has worked for you? If so, comment below and share your experience so others may learn from you.