Dr. Yanina, mother of a tween and teen and Mindful Parenting & Mindset/Emotional Wellness Expert
What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase “hang out?”
Perhaps you’re picturing in your mind a time when you and your best friends were so relaxed, worry-free, having an amazing time. I’m intentionally using the word “hang out” because that’s how I want you to see it—it’s relaxing yet meaningful quality time you set aside for your tween/teen to enjoy each other’s company without an agenda in mind.
It’s during these special moments that the doors to your youngster’s heart and mind open up. Once they let you in, please be tactful. Don’t bombard them with questions as if you were a CIA agent in an interrogation room. Instead, relax and have a conversation.
Once a week, for at least thirty minutes, clear your time and mind, shift gears and focus on your son or daughter. If you can go longer and schedule hang out time more often, please do so. Another option, especially for busy moms who have more children is to schedule shorter hang out times. These hang out time can be as simple as a conversation in the privacy of her room or more complex as to having a candlelight dinner at the local Italian restaurant.
“The place really doesn’t matter. What really matters is the fact that you’re setting time aside to be present, fully engaged, and focused on your tween/teen.”
Here are some ideas:
- Dining out
- Movie night (theatre or your living room)
- Walking around downtown or the shopping mall.
- Game Night with your child or invite their friends over.
- Art Night
- Play outdoor games, hiking, bowling, tennis, paint ball, laser-tag, archery, go-carts, indoor trampoline or rock climbing centers, etc.
- Go out for ice cream
- Sit by their bed before bedtime and have a conversation.
- Ride a bike or walk the dog together (if you have a dog?)
- Do each other’s nails and hair.
- Together, listen to your son’s top-10 songs. (I know this one might be painful to some moms, but it’ll mean a world to your tween or teen.)
- Let your tween/teen decide!
If this is a new practice for you, take the time to introduce the idea to your tween and teen first. Here’s a suggestion:
“Honey, we’ve been quite busy lately and I miss spending time with you. I would love to do something together, you and I, every week for about thirty-minutes so we can stay in touch with each other. I promise it’s a pressure-free, zero-interrogation time. What do you say?”
Here are a few tips to make this experience pleasant.
- Be present and mindful.
- Stay away from communication devices. No calls or texting.
- Keep in mind this is not an interrogation opportunity.
- Don’t come as a dictator with an agenda in mind. Simply suggest and be willing to listen.
- Relax and have fun!
You can also consider spending a few minutes each day to catch up with each other. It doesn’t have to be scheduled all the time. Something that I’ve been doing with my tween and teen since they were in primary school is what I call a daily preview. Basically, a daily preview is a five to ten minute conversation in which we share with each other the highlights of our day. To be honest, the conversations may last between one to thirty minutes based on the mood they’re in after school.
Since I mainly work from home, most times I am home when my children come home from school. We have our daily preview as soon as they come home. I close my laptop, mute my phone, and listen. I give them my undivided attention.
If you’re not home when your children come home, you can have your daily preview while driving home from their after-school programs and practices, during dinner, or before going to bed. If your children arrive at the same time, give each child time to talk about their day without one interrupting the other.
As you give them a few minutes of your day, every day, you’re strengthening your relationship and connecting with them authentically.
What’s your favorite ‘hang-out’ activity? Share it below!