How to Connect with your Teen

My son Matt and I had a “come to Jesus” talk the other day. He’s been slipping a bit in school and needed a kick in the butt and I was definitely in the mood to give it to him. He promised to try harder and we set up a schedule to help him keep on track a bit better. But it reminded me of how difficult it can be to get teenagers to actually open up and tell you what the heck is going on in their minds.

Do you know how you get your kids to actually take the time to talk to you? It’s pretty easy actually. You just make a date with them and take them out to dinner – just the two of you. Picture it, a special date with a daughter and her Daddy, all dressed up nice and in a nice restaurant. Or with a son and his mother out for a night at your favorite steakhouse? 

Even if you aren’t getting along all that well, it gives you a nice neutral ground to just spend some time together and talk about whatever. I guarantee you’ll learn all sorts of stuff and it gives the kid something every kid needs – it makes them feel important. For you to actually set aside a whole evening and spend it with just them, that makes them feel important. I wish my parents did this. I think it would have made a big impression on me.

I do this from time to time with my boys, but usually just at a fast food place, not a nice restaurant. I think this would make a great birthday tradition. Let them have their party and whatnot with their friends, but set this up for the night after or something. Wouldn’t that be a special treat for both of you?

Couple of ground rules you’ll want to establish:

– Make it a priority. Pick a night and stick to it. If you change it even once, it will take the “special” out of it.

– No cell phones – really! Seriously, both of you can live without your cell phones for a couple of hours. Otherwise, they will almost certainly be wanting to text back and forth with their friends and you’ll likely get calls too.
– No griping about anything. This is a biggie. Even if you find out that your kid is interested in something you don’t necessarily agree with or approve of, you’ll spoil the mood if you start griping at them about stuff and then they’ll clam right up.
– Pick the right place. You don’t want someplace noisy or some place like a sports bar with TV’s or other distractions. Obviously, you want to pick some place with food you’re both going to like.
– It has to be just the two of you – one kid, one parent. No brothers, sisters, buddies, girlfriends, etc. No distractions, right?

Try it and come back and tell me all about it. Blake’s birthday is next month, so I’ll let you know how ours goes. Another two years and he’ll be an official teen (yikes!), so I guess I’d better practice.


  1. This is good advice, Adrian. Thanks! I plan to store it in my brain for future use :)

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