Hanging out with the parents doesn't usually top a typical teenager's to-do list. It's just not, well, cool, according to most teens. But Anne Marie Gabriel, a holistic psychotherapist at SANA Healthy Living in Toronto, says teens are seeking parental guidance and direction, and it's up to the parent to make the first move. "The rebuffing is peer pressure," explains Gabriel. "They're looking for guidance because they have so many inputs [from friends, media, boyfriends, girlfriends]." The key is to strike a balance between being a fun parent and the disciplinarian and provider.
With this in mind, here are some ways to get the bonding underway.
1. Ask your teen to teach you how to produce an online photo gallery.
Most teens today were raised in the digital age and are whizzes when it comes to anything technological. Why not bond over lessons on how to make a digital photo gallery or a family web page or blog?
2. Read the same book or join a book club.
Being able to discuss a book you're reading is an intellectual and intimate pursuit. The bonding is even happening when you are reading alone, as the anticipation of meeting and discussing your thoughts about the book creates an instant connection.
3. Take a mini road trip and let them drive.
This is perfect for the teen with a new driver's license. The destination could be anywhere, but venturing out to visit the family homestead or another fun spot of your teen's choosing would fit the bill for an afternoon of bonding. It could be as simple as regular practice sessions in the country or on city streets so that your son or daughter can perfect his or her driving skills. Buckle up!
Page 1 of 2 -- Why not make a family scrapbook, or try a weekend at the spa? Find more ideas for bonding with your teen on page 2
4. Go to the spa.
A weekend getaway or a day spa treatment provides the necessary elements of relaxation and pampering to put mom and daughter into the right frame of mind for serious bonding. Even dads and sons can treat themselves to some pampering at a spa. How does a massage after a round of golf grab you?
5. Consider a cycling holiday or camping trip.
There's nothing like a little survival out in the woods or a long-distance cycling adventure to kick-start some heart-to-heart quality time with your teen. No television set, sharing stories around the campfire and sleeping under the stars is a prescription for bonding at its best.
6. Make a family scrapbook.
There's nothing like poring over old photos, birthday cards and concert tickets to kick the nostalgia level into high gear. This is a surefire way to learn more about teens and for them to learn a lot about you when you were their age. Be honest and don't be afraid to reveal the real you.
7. Bake cookies.
This is probably the oldest bonding technique in the book, next to fishing and taking the dog for a walk. Choosing recipes and planning for the baking session is nearly as much fun as the baking itself. And don't forget to lick the bowl!
8. Join a gym or go to a yoga retreat.
Not only will having a fitness buddy for emotional and inspirational support keep you both motivated to attend classes, but it will ensure a regular and long-lasting commitment to building a close relationship. Think of all the shopping you can do afterward.
However you decide to spend your time together, Gabriel reminds parents that it's a challenge for teens to fight peer pressure because they don't yet have a strong enough sense of self. It is this sense of self that makes it easier for bonding to take place without forcing it, says Gabriel. "With a heightened [self] awareness on both sides, the bonding occurs more naturally than having to sit back and say, okay, how do we do this?
"The bond between parent and child is sacred," says Gabriel. "It has an impact that even goes beyond words." Enough said.
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