One of the questions that parents have is about what will happen if they spend time alone with a teenager with whom they fight. The answer is often surprising. Most teenagers enjoy the special occasion of spending time with their parents alone especially outside of the home. I counsel many families who have daily screaming matches with their teenagers, but when they take them out of the house, the emotional environment can change very quickly.
During this time with their child, parents should try to imagine that they are going out on a date for the first time. Everyone knows that the first time people meet someone else they are careful with their emotions. They know that they have to be calm and pay special attention to not delve into the other person’s private matters. A kind of healthy distance exists that protects people when they first meet and helps them to maintain a sense of awe and respect.
When alone with your teenager it’s important not to rehash the same issues you have been fighting about in the home. Talking about general ideas concerning current events, music, or sports or about your child’s feelings regarding life and relationships is more productive. The main idea is to have a good time together. Work on developing conversation in the way that you would with a friend.
Many parents think that the only way to get their teenager to spend time with them is by shopping or eating out. But that is not entirely true. I suggest parents connect with their teenagers by finding hobbies and activities of common interest. For example, my wife and I found a pottery studio nearby where parents and children can paint kitchen items like coffee mugs and tea pots that are then professionally glazed in a kiln. Painting pottery is a simple and fun way of spending time together. You can also share what you painted with the rest of your family, which is symbolic of the productive nature of spending quality time with your children.
Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch, MA, is the Executive Director of Shalom Task Force and author of “At Risk – Never Beyond Reach” and “First Aid for Jewish Marriages.” To order a copy, visit www.JewishMarriageSupport.com. For more information about Shalom Task Force, please visit www.shalomtaskforce.org. You can e-mail questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.