Many parents look for the latest parenting fad to help their kids grow into mature adults. Yet one key component for building kids' lives is right in front of them: investing time, energy, and a commitment to "be there" for their kids. A regular, one-on-one 'date night' with each of your teenagers is a great place to begin intentionally investing in the overall health and growth of your child.
Here are five tips for having a great 'date night' with your kids:
1) Choose to do something your kids want to do. Sometimes, when parents want to do something together with their kids, they'll select an activity that they have interest in, but their kids do not. If you really want to create a positive "date night" culture where your kids want to hang out with you, try doing things that the kids are interested in. And remember, "date nights" don't have to be complicated! They can be as simple as taking your child out to get an ice cream cone or throwing a Frisbee around in the yard.
2) Communicate. Be sure to engage your son or daughter in conversation during your "date night." Don't start by talking about your "list" of concerns you have about your child. Instead, talk about anything and everything. Ask your kids about their interests, opinions, and feelings.
3) Listen. Don't dominate "date night" conversation. Communication is a two way street, so be sure to work at listening. Listening is the language of love. Through listening, you demonstrate that you value your kids. When you take the time to really pay attention, show empathy, and listen---you are taking a key step in connecting with your kids. When kids know that their parents will really listen (instead of immediately "correcting") they will be more willing to talk.
4) Display affection. Even though teenagers are in the process of becoming adults and separating from their parents, they still need your affection. In fact, sexual promiscuity in teenage girls can often be traced back to a desire for (and lack of) affection from their fathers. Dads, be sure to offer your kids genuine affection through loving words, affirmation, encouragement, small gifts, and appropriate touch.
5) Never embarrass your kids in front of their peers. A "date night" activity might take you onto your son or daughter's "territory" -- to a place where they may run into some of their peers. Gentle teasing is one thing, but embarrassing your kids in front of their peers can destroy all of the connection you are working to build with your teen. Show respect to your kids and they'll be more willing to hang out with you---and your "date nights" will be much more enjoyable as well.