Raising a teenage girl was hard enough pre-pandemic. Now, with online school, lack of face to face socializing, and the pressures of lockdowns, peace with your adolescent girl might seem impossible. But it’s not. There are many ways of bonding with your teenage daughter — especially if you try to focus on her interests.
Teens are, of course, notoriously self-centered. Their brains are underdeveloped, their executive function still in flux. Their various enthusiasms, however, can run deep. Tap into them, and you have a great opportunity to bond with that mercurial teen girl.
1. Use Technology
Parents often describe screens as both the greatest and worst thing that’s ever happened to parenting. While it’s true that too much unstructured screen time can lead to trouble, you have the power to turn technology to your parenting advantage.
Take TikTok, for instance. Yes, it’s getting a bad rap right now, but teens, especially girls, love it. It’s an enormous source of creativity and self-expression for them, and turns them into budding little video producers. Instead of shunning or limiting the TikTok time, try embracing it. Do one of the dance challenges with her. Help her shoot a video. Be a participant instead of a critic. That way, you can still lurk on her social media, but posing as a friendly voice instead of the police.
Remember to have patience, even if you find her preoccupations mind-numbing. In a previous post on bonding, Parentology pointed out that “even if their interests are boring to you, take time to invest in them for the sake of establishing a strong bond. Doing so will give you insight into their thinking and passions.” Plus, you might even enjoy it.
2. Engage In Beauty Rituals
Most teen girls are appearance-obsessed. And while sometimes it can be negative, leading to insecurity and even eating disorders, most of the time it’s harmless. So, why not engage with her?
Being locked in the house doesn’t mean you can’t order beauty treatments or hair color. Overtone, for instance, has great temporary hair color that’s fun for teens, and might even be fun for you, too. There’s nothing wrong with a little pink or purple hair dye among family members.
Mani/pedis, sheet masks, and even massages can all be arranged for a spa day. You can even do a mother/daughter (or father/daughter, for that matter) Zoom spa meet up. Aha Parenting suggests creating “little rituals to connect,” so maybe making a weekly beauty date is a good idea.
3. Exercise with Your Girl
Lockdowns create sloth. It’s too easy to just sit around rather than move. While Moms.com notes that schedules have shifted to “slower starts and staggered breakfast times,” that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your exercise routine.
Outdoor time, even masked, is key for alleviating anxiety and depression. Get your daughter out with you for a walk or run, especially if it involves a family dog. Biking works, too. And hiking (safely and with appropriate social distancing in place) is another wonderful way to get outside, enjoy nature, and get a good workout.
For the days when the great outdoors doesn’t beckon, there’s never been a better time to explore virtual workouts. From barre to yoga (or partner yoga) to HIIT, there’s a class that’ll suit you both. There’s even training for handstands and contortion. Classes range from an hour to as little as 10 minutes, so you can parcel out your exercise in between online classes and work calls.
4. Ask Her to Teach You Something
Parents spend lots of time telling kids what to do (if you asked her, your teen would tell you it probably seems the entire world tells her what to do). One way to break that pattern: Let her teach you something.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter what it is. She could teach you to play Minecraft. Or teach you the fundamentals of coding. Does she like line dancing? Have her act as dance instructor. This turnabout is great for your relationship.
“Teens want to be more mature. What could be more grown-up than teaching your parents something? You’d be surprised how much your teen knows that you don’t know,” Aha Parenting points out. “Sure, much of it relates to electronics or social media. But she’s likely to be learning things at school that you’d find fascinating, so you might also let her tell you what she’s just learned about Hemingway, or the Roman Empire.”
5. Revamp Her Space
If your teen is lucky enough to have her own room, she might still want to change it up, especially since she spends the majority of her time inside right now. While decorating is a matter of taste (and you’ll be tempted to weigh in), try to give her the space to express her own ideas.
While small changes, like fairy lights, new artwork (if she’s artsy, perhaps she’d like to make her own), and some plants are easy and fast, other changes create bonding opportunities. Painting an accent wall, for instance, isn’t very expensive but can be a fun project for the two of you. Wallpaper is more involved, but new peel and stick varieties make it a much easier endeavor. Discussing colors and patterns, choosing stuff online, or making a fast trip to the home improvement store can be enjoyable.
6. Watch Her Shows, without Judgement
This might be painful. At least at first. Some shows popular with teens just won’t be that much fun for you. On the other hand, some might transport you back to your own tortured adolescence. You can either agree to watch a season of a show (Derry Girls on Netflix is a good one), or pick out a movie once a week.
While it’s more important for her to choose the show or movie, that doesn’t mean you can’t weigh in; there’s a lot to be said for watching “old movies” from the ’80s or ’90s. Just avoid the inappropriate and cringeworthy films like the Fifty Shades trilogy. Because no one enjoyed those movies. Absolutely no one.
7. Book Club
Leave behind your idea of a book club (you know: that includes wine and oddly very little actual book discussion). Rather than some weekly regimented slog, simply pick out a book together. Here are our picks for high school books you should read as an adult (pictured above) as well as top YA (Young Adult) books for this year.
The idea here is just to talk about the book in a casual way. Another option, if your daughter is currently in school, is to read one of her required books for English class so that the two of you can discuss it at mealtimes.
Anything you do together should be things you BOTH enjoy. You might get pushback at first, but if it’s of mutual interest, it’ll catch on. And please, don’t try too hard. “The worst thing you can do as a parent is try to force ‘fun’ when it’s not actually fun for you,” wrote Jessica Grose, columnist for the New York Times.