My blog usually discusses topics that are difficult. Normally I’m writing to you about things that might be going wrong between you and your teenagers such as arguing, lying, cutting, suicidal thoughts, etc. We’re always talking about the darker parts of raising teens.
While the challenges you face are extremely important to consider, sometimes it’s nice to think about how to keep things on the good track too.
Today we’re going to discuss one of the tools I’ve seen be most effective in healing relationships between teenagers and their parents: the daddy-daughter or mommy-son date.
You’re well aware of how important it is to spend quality time with your children. You even know already that to spend alone time with each child has huge benefits to your adolescent’s development. What you might not have known is that this special time together can be something that teaches your teenager multiple lessons in a loving, indirect manner.
First let’s address the daddy-daughter date. Dads, when you take your daughter out, make it special. You don’t need to spend a lot of money, but be thoughtful. Take her to do something she wants to do. If you know there’s a certain movie she’d like to see, or a certain place she loves to hike, take her there. It’s nice to show her things you’re interested in, but this is about you teaching her to feel confident in her preferences. When you leave the house, tell her she looks pretty, and open the car door for her. She will learn how men should treat her from how you treat her. She will learn her self-value from how you prioritize these dates in your life. If you tell her you’ll take her the first Friday of each month, it’s extremely important to follow-through.
For moms: Your date goes a little bit differently. This is your chance to teach your sons how to respect women, and how to treat them kindly. I worked with a mom who would give her son $20 or $30 and then tell him to plan a date for them. She was able to teach him something about budgeting, planning, and being thoughtful as well as teach him all the rules of chivalry.
For both mom and dad: When you take your kids on a date, keep the conversation positive. This is not the time to talk to them about how disappointed you are in their chemistry grade. They should look forward to these times with you. If you treat them the same as every other day, they may dread this instead of look forward to it. This needs to be a time of safe, critical-free conversation.
Spend some time with your teenager and have fun! Teenagers are really humorous, but they can also talk on a deep level. They still need you and crave relationship with you.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT