Teens need our time too

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Facebook and email will always wait, but kids don't. They grow up. And opportunities lost can't easily be recaptured, says parenting columnist Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

Last week I wrote about those numerous "quality moments" in everyday interaction with parents that mean so much to kids. But, as I mentioned, there's more to it than that. These moments also play an important part in shaping the person they're going to become.

Nor do those quality moments become less relevant once they become teenagers. They continue to need them as they go back through many of the emotional stages they went through as youngsters. They need us around them just as much at 14 as they did when they were 2, even if they don't readily admit it.

These quality moments don't necessarily have to be carefully crafted in the way that an amazing, fun-filled, possibly also stress-filled, family holiday might be. They can arise simply while talking together when waiting at the bus stop or in the car heading to the supermarket or when stacking or doing the dishes.

The challenge is that it does require that everybody's phones and headsets and the car radio be off. These moments require engagement.

I feel quite sad when I take our littlies to the playground and see the mums or dads of the other children all sitting engaged with their phones and even laptops while their youngsters play, sometimes by themselves. What wasted moments. Playing together with a ball, even pushing the swing can provide quality moments.

Facebook and email will always wait, but kids don't. They grow up. Opportunities lost cannot easily be recaptured.

And, as I mentioned before, our teenagers still need us to engage with them, difficult though they can sometimes make it. It's up to us to find a way through.

One of the secrets to doing this with reasonable success is through changing the nature of the way we relate to match the changes in them. As a 13-year-old, they're no longer our little child, they're an adult-in-waiting and those changes come fast and furious over the next three or four years. We need to keep pace with them and match them in the way we relate and interact with them.

It's really easy to get caught up in work and with money issues and all that other stuff that descends on us daily and to think that our 15-year-old is old enough to take care of themselves. But that would be a mistake.

It's vital to continue having meaningful and relevant conversations with them and to find something to be involved with them in. It might be as simple as always being there on the side of the netball court or football pitch (without our phone).

Quality moments with our teen should be no less a priority than when they were little.



Keeping conversation circumspect (non graphic), avoids the passing shout "EEW! TMI!" (whatever that means).