If you have a tween or teen, you know how they can become too busy for you. So it's more important than ever to be intentional about connecting with them.

If you have a tween or teen, you know how they can become too busy for you. So it's more important than ever to be intentional about connecting with them. Maybe you feel all you do is service them and then watch them disappear (with the contents of your wallet!) to be with friends. While friendships are important, these ideas may help to strengthen bonds with the family.

Make their friends feel welcome. This is one of the best ways to see more of your kids. Sometimes the presence of their friends loosens them up and better facilitates certain discussions than if you were alone, so take advantage. See a movie together. Take turns choosing the film which will give you an opportunity to share your favorite movies or actors they may otherwise never see. Let them help you cook. Trying a new recipe is a great way to bond, even if your culinary attempts are a disaster. My own kids love to help bake yeast breads or bagels, and because of the rising time, they linger much longer than if we were just making waffles. It is hard to be cranky when the whole house smells like fresh bread, and baking skills are a wonderful investment for the future. Reminisce about old times. Tweens and teens love to hear about funny things they said and did when they were little. The stories never get old and often trigger more stories and memories you may have forgotten. Laugh it up! Get hooked on one TV show. Everyone in our house is home on Wednesday nights to watch our family favorite on TV. We even took a family vacation to the location where our show is filmed in hopes of a celebrity brush or two. Eat together. This can be nearly impossible as the kids head in different directions for lessons and sports, but it is important to carve out time. It doesn't have to be dinner. If everyone is available for a long leisurely Saturday morning breakfast, go for it. Let them take turns choosing the restaurant when you go out, and insist they unplug. Shop with them. It will be impossible for you not to learn a ton about your child as you hit their favorite stores. Ask about the bands they like and any new trends at school. My young teen still struggles with being seen with me at the mall so I don't take it personally when he doesn't want to stand too close as we browse. Watch their favorite youTube videos. My kids have introduced me to some of the most hilarious videos only kids their age could discover. Laughing together is sweet relief from all the inescapable daily nagging. Ask about their highs and lows. Since adolescents are notorious for grunting and mono-syllabic responses, regularly ask them to report on their high (the best thing that happened during the day) and their low (the worst). It is as healthy for them to reflect on these experiences as it is for you to be aware of them. Create special memories between holidays. Do not wait for a holiday or birthday to create special moments. Light candles and play fun music on a Tuesday night when it's just spaghetti on the menu. Bake something special on a random night, plating it creatively like a restaurant would. Surprise them on a weeknight by announcing you're all going bowling. Take them out for a one-on-one lunch at their favorite restaurant. Write a love note. It can be difficult to find the right moment to express what is on your heart, but teens need to know how much you cherish them. Take the time to write how thankful you are for them and leave it on their pillow. They may never mention it, but it will matter. Be brave and take a road trip. Sometimes the best way to re-connect is by putting some miles between your family and where the daily grind happens. Even if it is a day trip, find ways to make the commute more pleasant and set ground rules i.e. no arguing or discussing sore subjects like grades and school work.
Michele Ranard is a professional counselor, academic tutor, freelancer, and mother of teens.