Staying connected as your child becomes a teenager is critical. It can feel difficult as they start to become more autonomous, but at the end of the day, they will always need their dad or father figure!
Work hard at creating a safe and solid foundation for your relationship. While it is normal for teenagers to want to spend more time with their friends, it shouldn’t mean that they detach from their families.
As fathers, you need to take deliberate action to stay connected with your teenagers or to re-establish strong connections during this time.
Family connectedness not only gives teenagers a strong sense of belonging and emotional stability, it also has lasting effects on their health and wellbeing into adulthood. Teenagers who describe their relationship with their fathers as warm, kind and consistent are more likely to be involved in positive social contact with other teenagers, struggle less with depression and anxiety and have higher self-esteem.
Taking a deep interest in your teenager will build a relationship that will consist of good open communication, mutual trust and respect.
- Be involved in your teenager’s activities – at school, at sport and their hobbies.
- Take an interest in your teenager’s friends. This will give you valuable insight how they are coping socially and emotionally, as well as connect you to the young people that are most important to your child.
- Make the most of time in the car. Drive them to and from friends’ houses or outings and spend the travel time catching up. When they are learning to drive, supervise their driving practice.
- Make the most of everyday activities. Encourage them to help you cook meals in the kitchen or on the barbecue.
- Exercise together. Go for a run, bush walk or sign up for a social team sport together.
- Participate in activities as a family. Creating lasting memories of fun times with the family is crucial for family connection.
Teenagers and ‘Dad Dates’
Dad dates are an opportunity for connection – and help your child to feel like they are valued, loved and worth your time. Even with teenagers, one-on-one time is still our most tried, tested and recommended tip – and it’s never too late to start.
“And the busier you are, the more powerful this is in a kid’s life. Why is that? It’s not what you say to them, it’s not bonding time, it’s the fact that you bother; you’re busy and you bother and they think, “I must be worth bothering, I must be worth something because dad bothers to spend time with me.” Advice from Professor Bruce Robinson founder of The Fathering Project and Dad.
What is a dad date?
- Are best practised with one child at a time – meaning one-on-one time with no-one else and no interruptions.
- Don’t have to be elaborate – a simple coffee, lunch or just going for a walk are easy ways to create one-on-one time.
- Can sometimes be special – try doing something teenager has been wanting to try, this will help them notice you are really listening.
- Give you a chance to listen – show genuine interest and avoid judgment or criticism.
- Need to be scheduled ahead of time – make a point of scheduling this in your diary, just like a business meeting.
- Can create lasting valuable memories – these experiences create the basis for strong healthy relationships with your child plus memories which can last a lifetime