How families can stay connected as the kids get older

Trying to find family time when we’re all so busy can be tricky. Here are some tips on how to connect with your teens, even when they might pretend they’re too cool for Mum and Dad!

There’s no doubt that we’re all busy. With parents juggling work and chores, kids juggling school and social lives, it can be easy to get stuck in routines and float past each other in the hallway.

While the kids are little, connecting in as a family can seem a little easier, as they rely on you for most things, and they’re usually happier to hang out with Mum and Dad!

As kids get older, that sense of connection can become more of a challenge, as they spend more time with their friends, and get part-time jobs, leaving them seemingly out of the house more than they’re in. 

Despite all of this, staying connected is still possible, and it’s also important. Though older kids and teens may not appear keen to hang out with Mum and Dad, it's that connection that can help support them through the tough times. The value of family time for overall lifelong wellbeing can’t be underestimated. 

If you have a teen on your hands and you're struggling to find ways to connect with them, here are some handy ideas:  

Designate at least one family meal per week

It doesn’t have to be a three course Sunday roast, but letting the kids know there will be one day in the week that the family will sit together for dinner is a quick and simple way to catch up. Let’s face it, where there’s food, there are teens, so it’s not too hard to convince them to come and eat. But it’s that chance to casually chat over a meal that can really help that sense of connection with family members. 

Short but sweet 

It’s an oldie but a goodie; it’s all about quality not quantity. That’s what parents need to hold onto as busy modern families, with older kids who are out and about. It’s not about the amount of time spent with kids that leads to a solid connection, it’s about the quality of that time. 10 minutes here, seven minutes there. A quick joke in the hallway while getting ready in the morning, a chat about a TV show you all watched. Even that brief chat in the car on the way to school or work. It’s all connecting. 

Send little notes

When life gets too busy to physically connect, there are ways to be creative about it. Have a post-it note pad in your kitchen, so each family member can write little notes to surprise each other. It could be a note in the lunch box, or a note left on a car door. A simple 'hello', or ‘I’m thinking of you’ or ‘good luck today!’ can be all that’s needed to keep the connection going until you can see each other. 
Three teenagers playing cards - Blue Room - Bupa

Communicate on their level

Why not get tech and social media savvy and communicate on their level. For a bit of fun, try Instagram or Snapchat. Or send them quick texts using every emoji you can think of (the language of teens apparently!), anything fun and novel to stay connected. 

Everyone pitches in

One way to keep connected is to take it in turn organising something for the family. Maybe one night the kids can cook dinner, or the family take a chore each and celebrate with ice-cream as a treat. Many hands make light work so if everyone can do a bit, then there’s more time to relax as a family. 

Seize the moment

Life can get pretty ho-hum when you’re in the grind of work, school, chores and so forth. It can be easy to gloss over those small moments. But if you find your teen chatting while you’re tidying up the kitchen, or if you’re having a laugh at an ad on TV, run with it. 

In taking small moments, being present and flexible, family connectedness can be maintained and strengthened as kids get older. It’s the connectedness that your kids will remember as they form their own families in years to come. 

Bupa Team Family

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