Are you like me – a discarded parent looking for ideas on how to bond with your teen? Sometimes we can go a full week without so much as a good morning from our self-absorbed teenagers. When I asked Mumlyfe readers what they most needed advice on when raising older kids, “Staying connected” was the most clicked on response.
It’s not easy, and some kids are more open to being part of family life than others. My three are all happy to eat dinner together and I can generally drag them along on a family outing most weeks. They are ‘young teens’, though – 13, 15 and a tweenie almost-but-not-quite 11. I can already see my 15-year-old son pulling further and further away from hanging out with his olds.
Here are loads of suggested things to do to bond with your teen. Not all of these will appeal to you, let alone your kid. But something you haven’t tried before might just do the trick. See how you go.
100 ideas to forge an unbreakable bond with your teen
1. Eat dinner together
2. Have time of screens at home
3. Share small moments together
The above were the top 3 things I could find that psychologists agreed would make the most difference for our relationship with our teens and tweens. I wrote about it here:
Here are 97 more moments:
4. Go see a movie together
5. Home/work side-by-side
They can do homework, you can do whatever it is that you do = easy time together.
6. Get your nails done.
7. Go window shopping.
8. Take a walk along the beach or river.
9. Browse in a bookshop.
10. Plan a family holiday.
Decide together where the family should head for a break. Ask your teen to help research accommodation, flights, things to do. It’s a fun project for them and a really good way to keep the conversation flowing for months.
11. Cook together.
A kid has to learn how to cook anyway, and it’s a great opportunity to bond with your teen while you’re at it. Try this raspberry and coconut loaf to kick things off.
12. Go for a walk together after dinner.
I was so good at this for a very long time, but lately not so much. Taking a different kid with me each night for a stroll around the block was perfect catch-up time. I’m going to get back into it!
13. Make each other a playlist.
Kids actually love introducing their parents to the music they love, and you can do the same. Listen to the music together and tell each other why you chose each song, what it means to you, and what you like about it. This one is sure to get you talking, arguing and hanging out in a good way.
14. Decorate their bedroom.
15. Invite their friends to dinner.
16. Learn an instrument together.
17. Raise money for a charity.
18. Play a board game (Backgammon is awesome).
19. Interview each other.
This is a super-fun way to spend time with anyone. Make up a plate of cheese and crackers and get stuck in.
20. Have a weekend away.
Maybe just the two of you, maybe the rest of the family too. Going away for a weekend brings new experiences and breaks old habits.
21. Start a mutual hobby.
Maybe it’s knitting, watercolour painting, football, woodworking, gardening, calligraphy, resin sculpture, yoga, rock climbing, creative writing, acting, parkour, sewing, paintball… whatever it is, it has to be something entirely new to both of you.
22. Watch a sunrise every day for a week.
23. Help them rearrange their bedroom.
24. Listen to a podcast together.
Podcasts are brilliant, especially in the car. We especially like psychological and true crime ones. If you like the same kind of things, try one of these:
• Simplify by Blinkist
25. Make homemade pizza.
26. Shoot some hoops.
27. Give them 17 hugs every day for a week.
28. Start a WhatsApp group and share silly memes.
29. Let them bring a friend on an outing.
Your teens friends are always so much nicer than your teen. This is not true at all, of course, but it is very rare that we get to see our teen’s best self. Just know that the way their bestie shows you manners and consideration, is how your teen actually is in the real world. Pat yourself on the back.
30. Handwash the dishes every night – I’ll wash, you dry.
31. Take a picnic to a park they used to play in as a kid.
32. Go see a sports game.
33. Ask them to teach you something.
By making them the teacher and you the student, you allow them to be the boss for a while. Plus, you’ll learn something new (and, no doubt, they will too).
34. Go camping (if camping is your thing).
Away from screens, somewhere remote, there is nowhere for them to hide. You will probably have to drag them to this one, but they will love it in the end.
35. Read the same book
I love YA novels, so this is an easy one for me and my kids. It’s especially good when you read books that raise real adolescent issues. You can talk about things like attitudes to sex, drugs and being nice through the characters and your teen can pretend it’s not a real thing. You can’t go wrong with these books:
• The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
• The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
• Love, Simon by Becky Albertalli
• The Outsiders by SE Hinton
• It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
36. Watch a movie marathon together.
Either all the Marvel movies or Harry Potters would be a good start, or try some eighties classics:
37. Go indoor rock climbing.
38. Ask them their opinion on something that matters to you.
They will feel wise, mature and needed, and you will feel so very proud. You can’t ask for more than that.
39. Change a habit.
You could both give up sugar, or do a 10 minute plank a day, or aim to eat a vegetable of every rainbow colour every day. You know what you’ve gotta do, and taking them along for the ride is a sure-fire way to bond with your teen.
40. Walk every street in your suburb.
41. Plan the family meals each week.
It’s fun leafing through recipes and deciding what the family should eat. They’ll get to add their favourites and it might encourage them to cook more, too.
A super-simple way to meal plan
42. Do a 30 day challenge together.
It might be an exercise or eating challenge. Or a kindness one. Here are some I think look good:
43. Visit a brand new suburb or town.
44. Do a night class together.
45. Research your family tree.
46. Visit relatives.
47. Do a 1000-piece puzzle.
48. Go out for dessert.
49. Play tennis.
50. Volunteer together
Places like Bushcare, Scouts, and Meals on Wheels are always looking for volunteers. If you do Meals on Wheels, you could get your L-platers hours logged while you go. Check out Go Volunteer to see what’s needed in your area.
51. Do some gardening
It’s probably a bit naff for your teen to start digging in the backyard with her mum, but she might be up for a bit of community gardening. They are really social places, admittedly for the over 55 set, however, it’s always good to encourage inter-generational hanging out. And they could sure use some youth power. Find one near you here.
52. Join a gym
Even if you go to the yoga class and they hit the weights area, it’s still a bonefide activity you are doing together. You’ll know the same people, be able to compare progress, give each other some tips – the gym is actually a tops way to bond with your teen.
53. Start a food blog.
54. Surprise someone.
55. Write fan letters to your favourite authors.
56. Visit the zoo.
Or another place your teen used to love as a little kid. You will find yourselves sharing some great memories while you’re accidentally building new ones.
57. Be part of a team.
There are lots of ‘open age’ sports that you can do together. Most football, netball and tennis clubs offer an opportunity for families to play in the same tournament.
58. Have a go at their favourite video game.
59. Dye their hair.
60. Create some photo albums.
Capture their baby years, or 0-5 years, primary school and beyond. The books will be treasured forever.
61. Enter a fun run.
62. Visit a museum or historic house.
63. Try roller skating.
64. Go horse riding.
65. Host themed foodie night.
Spend the day making food to suit your theme. Ask your guests to dress for the occasion and bring some fun facts to share. Your teen can invite their friends, you can invite yours… it just might work.
66. Binge watch a Netflix show together.
Some great shows for teens and their mums include:
• Sex Education – teen turned sex therapist in a funny and bitter-sweet British-American series. The kids will just need to get over the ‘watching teens have sex with my mum’ thing, otherwise, great!
• Derry Girls – super funny and joyous series about life in Northern Ireland during The Troubles.
• The End of the F*cking World – deep and meaningful, quirky and confronting, but ultimately very smart and funny British series.
Loads more here: 17+ Netflix series you’ll want to watch too
67. Join your local ParkRun
Free weekly 5km runs around Australia for anyone aged over 4 (under 11 needs to have a supervising adult). You can strive to beat your best time, or just enjoy the fact that you are out doing something as a family. Info here.
68. Play truth or dare.
If you dare! Keep it light and fun and then it’s basically just a great way to spend an evening, having a laugh together. Don’t be afraid to share some of your bigger ‘truths’. Your teen will appreciate your candor very much.
69. Go on every ride at a carnival.
70. Join a flash mob.
Daggy fun is the best kind, really. Your teen will soon appreciate this. Booting teens clear out of their comfort zones is so important. It reminds them that putting yourself out there and being a bit vulnerable is not the end of the world. In fact, that’s where he magic is.
Make sure the flash mob is taking place somewhere where they won’t know a soul. And let them bring a friend along if that makes them more comfortable.
71. Learn origami.
72. Do a hip hop dance class for a laugh.
73. Make a new biscuit recipe every week.
74. Learn a foreign language.
75. Eat at a different restaurant every month.
New shared experiences are an awesome way to bond with your teen. You can’t go wrong with trying Italian, Indian, Persian, Vietnamese, French, Pakistani, Argentinian, Thai… if you live in a capital city, you could do this for years. If your area is less multicultural, try everything you can and then consider a trip to the city to keep the new cuisines going.
76. Be in the cast or crew.
Not for every teen, but those that enjoy performing might be okay with their mum being in the class. You can’t get more bonded than being part of a cast. If one or either of you isn’t into treading the boards, you can always volunteer your time as part of the crew.
77. Join a choir.
78. See each other’s favourite band.
79. Take a picture together every day.
The 1 Second Everyday app is great for recording one second every day. We can surely ask for a second, can’t we?
80. Start a shared journal.
I write one day, you write the next. We ask each other questions and share little bits of our day. Shared journals are rather lovely, and an especially nice record of your relationship over time.
81. See a movie at the drive-in.
82. Show them the house you grew up in.
83. Each read a classic novel, then swap.
Any of these will create lots of talking points:
• To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
• Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
• Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
• The Outsiders by SE Hinton (or Rumblefish)
• The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
• The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
• 1984 by George Orwell
• The Time Machine by HG Wells
84. Go backpacking.
Stuff your pack, jump on a train and stay at a hostel. Plan the trip together and don’t take any phones or screens with you. It’s an incredibly freeing and fun thing to do. I can’t actually think of a nicer way to bond with your teen than having an adventure together.
85. Throw a friend a surprise party.
86. Plan an overseas adventure.
You might get to go, you might not, but planning a big trip together sure is fun. Where will you go? What will you see, do, eat? How long will the trip be? And how will you rustle up the money to make it happen?
87. Go on a bike ride.
88. Join a ten-pin bowling tournament.
Such a thing exists!
89. Do a walking tour of your nearest large city.
90. Learn the ukulele.
91. Walk dogs at a dog shelter.
92. Do some random acts of kindness.
There are so many ways to make someone’s day. Doing nice things for nice people is a really special way to bond with your teen. Bake a slice, pay a bill, weed a garden, donate a coffee, give a compliment… there are loads of ideas in our Advent kindness calendar (just ignore the Christmassy ones – unless it’s Christmas, in which case hello Santa).
93. Compete against each other.
Remarkably bonding! Our favourite is going head-to-head in a fierce Minute to Win It battle. One minute, one game, who will triumph? Find some game ideas here:
94. Invent a signature Sunday night dessert.
95. Do an exercise YouTube vid together.
96. Watch old favourite kids shows.
It’s nostalgia 101 and your teen will most likely binge on the classics. Most kids’ shows have some lovely messages about family, being kind and loving yourself that are a good reminder to our teens, too. Peppa Pig is still good value. Or find a new cutie – Bluey is so sweet.
97. People-watch at the mall.
98. Have a conversation about something random.
Teens don’t like talking to their parents, until they do. Start a conversation about something they are sure to have an opinion about and see how you go. Try one of these to kick the conversation off:
99. Give each other a makeover.
100. Go out for breakfast before school.
What do you enjoy doing to bond with your teen?