They might be too old for lunch box notes, but teenagers benefit from TLC too. (Jennifer Bardsley)

They might be too old for lunch box notes, but teenagers benefit from TLC too. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Fun ways to show the teens in your life that you care

The teen years can be challenging but they don’t last long. A little bit of extra attention can go a long way.

One of the poignant things about parenting teenagers is realizing you don’t have that much time left with them. The clock is ticking and there’s no way you can slow it down. Plus, your schedules might not mesh up. You’re at work when they come home. They are asleep when you’re on your computer. When dinner time comes, they have sports or theater practice.

But there are still ways you can show them you care. Think of these as the teenager equivalent to writing a note that you packed in their childhood lunch box.

If you’re home, stop what you’re doing and greet them.

This sounds like the dumbest advice ever, but it’s actually hard to do, especially if you’re on a Zoom call with work or involved in a complex project. Closing your computer screen, rising from your chair and walking to the front door to give them a hug is a big deal. Your boss might notice and be unhappy with you. But do you know who else will notice? Your teenager. Welcome them home and tell them you love them.

Ask them about their day and listen.

That’s all you have to do; just listen. Sometimes the less you talk the better because you might accidentally say something that was the exact opposite of what they wanted to hear. “Wow. Yes? Really. You don’t say.” Be there for them as a listening ear because they absolutely need to know that their mom and dad care.

If you’re not home, greet them with technology.

There are so many cool tricks at our disposal these days that it would make Walt Disney think we lived in Tomorrowland. Schedule your robotic vacuum to tidy up two hours before your teenager arrives home. Set an alarm on your Amazon Echo to play their favorite music around the time they walk in the door. Text them a quick: “I love you. How was your day?” You don’t have to be there to welcome them in some way.

Provide high-quality after school snacks.

Stock the pantry when foods your teen likes that are easy to prepare as soon as they come home. Ramen noodles with shredded carrots for extra nutrition. Dried apricots, fruit leather, mixed nuts. Herbal teas and chocolate milk. Cut up celery and peanut butter. If you’re really feeling nice, bake some cookies. They probably have a long afternoon of studying and activities ahead of them. Feed them well.

Make finals week extra special.

Get up 10 minutes early and cook them breakfast. Send them to school with a thermos of something hot to drink. Stock up on flashcards, highlighters, or anything else that might help them study. Most important of all, causally mention times you bombed on tests, or received bad grades and the world did not end. It’s important for them to know that grades don’t define them and that you’ll love them no matter what letter shows up on their report cards.

The teen years can be challenging but they don’t last long. A little bit of extra attention can go a long way.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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