How to Put the “Quality” Into Quality Time with Your Teen
Quality time is one of the most common love languages. In fact, 38% of Americans say it is their top love language, meaning it is their most commonly used way to communicate their affection toward another person. Dr. Gary Chapman first introduced the concept of love languages in 1992, with his book The 5 Love Languages. In it, he explains, “every child has a primary language of love, a way in which he or she understands a parent’s love best.” In addition to quality time, the other four love languages are:
- physical touch,
- words of affirmation,
- acts of service,
- and receiving gifts.
Perhaps your teen’s love language is physical touch or maybe it’s words of affirmation. Either way, a good way to figure it out is to spend quality time with them. While it’s a love language in its own right, quality time is also a tactic that can be used to discover your teen’s primary love language.
Now that teens are returning to school and their schedules are filling up with hobbies and extracurricular activities, it is important to set time aside to keep their “love tank” full. School tends to be a heavy stressor for most students, and new beginnings, no matter what they are, are nerve-wracking. Teens tend to learn and adopt the coping mechanisms of the adult role models in their lives, so it’s your job as the parent to recommend (and join them in) strategies to distract them and help them cope. Schedule intentional, quality time with your children to make them feel loved and supported. Try out some new activities this fall and continue the ones you and your teen enjoy throughout the year.
Here are some ideas:
- Community Service: Giving back to the community is one of the most gratifying activities. Most schools offer community service days or other types of volunteer activities to help students strengthen their resumes and expand their civic action. Here are a few community service activities you can participate in with your teen:
- Soup Kitchens: Almost every soup kitchen in America welcomes volunteers. Volunteer shifts are usually hour-long slots, so you can easily squeeze one in during a school day or over the weekend. Volunteers often get tasked with jobs like preparing food, packaging food, sorting donations, or delivering donations. This is a great way to bond with your teen while simultaneously helping your community.
- Cleaning Trash: Certain organizations schedule outings to remove litter from important ecological spaces, like beaches and rivers. Most outings provide transportation, gloves, trash bags, trash pickers, sanitary tools, and will deal with discarding the trash so you don’t have to. Ask your teen to inquire about opportunities at school or find a group near you online.
- Exercise: Exercising has numerous health benefits, both mental and physical. Teens tend to adopt the exercise style of the adults in their lives, so do yourself – and your teen – a favor by establishing a consistent exercise routine. While your teen may have a higher energy level (no shame, we all wish we could return to our teenage bodies!), here are some ideas that you and your teen can do together:
- Go on a hike: Hiking is a relatively low impact method of exercise with a ton of health benefits. The exercise you get from walking up a steep incline is, first and foremost, good for your muscles and your heart. The fresh air you breathe helps your lungs. The vitamin D you get from the sun helps your entire body (unless you get too much – remember to wear your sunscreen!). And finally, the beautiful views at the peak can have a strong, positive effect on your mental health. Give you and your teen a mental break by squeezing a hike – or even just a neighborhood walk – into your weekly routine.
- Get involved with a particular sport: While being a great form of exercise, participating in a sport can also hone teamwork, quick thinking, and follow-through. One-on-one games are a great way to establish friendly competition between you and your teen while having fun and bonding. Multi-player sports are perfect for larger families – so get all the kids off their phone and into the yard with a fun game of flag football. Losers cook dinner!
- Art: Art is one of societies’ most therapeutic hobbies. It can bring people together and spark important conversations, helping people find ways to communicate beyond words.
- Make Art: Set time aside to make something beautiful with your teen. Paint, draw, sculpt – whatever medium gets those creative juices flowing. And if you struggle to get them flowing, don’t worry; there are tons of tools to get you started. For example, if you want to paint but aren’t sure where to start, buy a stenciled, paint-by-numbers workbook. Art is a great parent-teen bonding activity because you can both work on the same project and toward a shared goal.
- View Art: If you don’t consider yourself a particularly creative person, you could try viewing art instead of making it. Invite your teen to go with you to an art show or a museum. This is a great way to garner more support for the local art community and, of course, get your teen away from screens. Who knows – maybe something you see will inspire your teen to design a new art piece of their own.
- Music: Music is one of the most collaborative art forms and it is used all over the world to help people bond, relieve stress, and be their most authentic selves. Consider how you can incorporate music into your relationship with your teen: learn to play an instrument together, go to a concert, or join a neighborhood jam band.
Any or all of these methods can be used to spend quality time with your teen. As long as you’re spending time intentionally, it’s a form of love. Don’t treat it like a chore, however; teens, though notoriously aloof, will likely be able to pick up on your intentions.
Here are some ways to put the quality in quality time:
- Make Eye Contact: Strong eye contact will show that you are paying attention and genuinely care about what your teen has to say. Steering clear of your phone while in the midst of a quality time activity with your teen will help them feel more genuinely respected.
- Use Active Listening: Hearing is easy; active listening is much more difficult. Try these techniques to have a more in-depth conversation with your teen.
- Focus on nonverbal cues: People speak with more than just their mouths. Listen with more than just your ears.
- Lean in: Leaning forward into a conversation shows you are excited and engaged by the conversation rather than passive and uninterested.
- Ask questions: Being inquisitive shows you are keeping up with your teen’s story. Perhaps they left a key detail out that is leaving a gap in the story. Follow-up on it; this shows you were paying attention the whole time.
Use the above ideas and techniques to enjoy more quality time with your teen and help establish a stronger bond. Carving out space for intentional quality time with your teen will also make them more likely to reach out to you when they need your help on the hard stuff – like how to cope with peer pressure or stress.
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