Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of seeing the Tony Award winning Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway. I loved it and highly recommend it.
At its core, Dear Evan Hansen is about connecting with each other in what appears to me to be a seemingly disconnected world. These days we all have a million different ways to connect with each other whether via a cell phone or online. However in my opinion, facetime is no substitute for face-to-face time.
As a parent of two teenagers, I struggle to find ways to get my kids off their screens and connect with them on a day-to-day basis. Here are some ways I've found to connect and engage with my teens that have not only brought us closer together, but also sparked some great conversations.
1. Read Aloud
Last semester, my daughter (9th grade) had to read the book 1984 for school. She found the text to be challenging and one night asked if she could read the book aloud to me. One night turned into many nights of my daughter sitting on my studio floor reading to me while I sewed. The book served as a springboard for great nightly conversations about politics and current events.
2. Play a Game
Last fall, my daughter asked my husband to teach her how to play chess. He did and playing a chess game or two turned into a nightly activity before bed. Teaching kids to play chess has a lot of benefits, including building problem solving, decision making, and critical thinking skills. For traveling, two games I would recommend that have become family favorites are Scrabble (Pass & Play) and Heads Up, both of which can be downloaded free on ITunes (iPhone or iPad) or Google Play (Android devices).
3. Take a Class
Whenever I travel with my kids, I try to plan activities or experiences off-the-beaten-path. Last summer, I traveled to Rome with both my kids and we all took a private cooking class, in which we worked with an Italian chef to cook our lunch. The kids kneaded the dough, rolled out our linguini, stuffed our ravioli, and watched intently as Chef Maurizio made our dessert. Not only did our cooking class prove to be one of the highlights of our trip, but the weekend after we got home, our kids wanted to make homemade pasta for dinner. For help planning these kinds of experiences abroad, check out Europe 4 Kids Family Tours (pictured below Chef Maurizio showing my kids how to make pasta). Of course you don't have to go to Rome to take a class. Check out your local YMCA, neighborhood martial arts center, local park, craft store, or cooking store for a list of family friendly classes.
4. Watch a Movie
My kids love movies. And while I am not a fan of movies that depict teen-on-teen violence like The Hunger Games or the Divergent series, or what Salon.com calls the Sickness Porn Genre (beautiful sick girl and the boy who dares to love them), my kids still want to see these movies. Earlier this summer, my daughter wanted to see Everything, Everything. She loved it and it proved to be a springboard to some great conversations about love, communication, and courage. For conversation starters, reviews of everything from Wonder Woman to 13 Reasons Why, and answers to top parenting questions, check out Common Sense Media before you go to the movies this summer.
5. Do Something
In the last few months, both my kids have been moved to sign petitions for various causes on change.org. While I support the idea of creating change, there's no substitute for rolling up your sleeves, looking past yourself, and making a difference in your community. In my family, we have volunteered for the local SPCA, conducted a neighborhood food drive for our local food pantry, and adopted a family in need for the holidays. To find volunteer opportunities in your community, check out Volunteer Match.
Perhaps it's my desire to connect with my family and others that inspires my work as well. In fact, I think that people connect to my designs because in this high-tech, fast paced world we are living in, the fabrics remind them of a simpler time.
Don't get me wrong. My family is not perfect and like my art is a work in progress. However, taking the time to find ways to connect with my teenagers has paid off in so many ways and brought us closer together as a family.
So, how do you connect with your kids?