From Screen Time to Quality Time: 10 Ways to Unplug & Connect with Your Teen this Summer

From Screen Time to Quality Time: 10 Ways to Unplug & Connect with Your Teen this Summer

As summer approaches, many teenagers are excited to have more free time to do something they enjoy. More often than not, this translates to more screen time as they turn to their favourite devices to pass the time. Although it may seem easier to keep your teens busy by allowing them to spend their summer glued to their screens, it won’t help build the connection between you and your teen. 

As a parent, you may be looking for ways to spend more time reconnecting with your teen this summer. When schedules loosen up during the summer, it’s the perfect opportunity to connect with your teen. Literature about adolescence often talks about how teenagers shift their focus from family to friends as they grow up. However, this doesn’t mean that friends replace parents as a significant influence over time. Conversely, as adolescents mature, the roles of parents and friends become more distinct. Friendships become more critical for social connections, and parents are more important for support and care. 

With a little effort and creativity, there are many ways you can unplug from technology and connect with your teens for a well-rounded summertime experience. This article will explore ten ways to build stronger bonds with your teen and enjoy a fulfilling summer away from screens. From outdoor activities to shared interests and quality time spent together, these tips will help you create lasting memories while strengthening your relationship with your teenager. 

1. Try a New Outdoor Activity Together. 

The emergence of technology has made it challenging for teenagers and most people to disconnect from their devices. Whenever we have a spare moment, we intuitively turn to our phones for entertainment. Trying to set screen time limits can be difficult as the convenience of these devices has made it almost impossible to detach. With summer in full swing, your teen will have much more time on their hands, and the easiest way to curb the boredom is to turn to their device. Breaking away from screens and engaging in outdoor activities with your teenager can be a great way to keep them occupied and build a deeper connection. 

Exploring new activities together in nature is an excellent way for parents to bond with their teens while providing opportunities for personal growth and development.

It allows teens to step out of their comfort zones and challenge themselves physically and mentally while experiencing new adventures with a supportive parent. This time spent adventuring and doing an outdoor activity also promotes the development of good memories that your teen can cherish for the rest of their lives.

Additionally, spending time outdoors can positively benefit physical and mental health. Spending time outdoors requires physical activity, which is essential for maintaining a healthy body. Activities such as hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, or walking in nature can get the heart pumping and muscles working. This helps with weight management and lowers the risk of developing chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. Being outside also exposes individuals to sunlight, a natural source of vitamin D, an essential nutrient that helps regulate calcium and phosphate in the body.

Moreover, disconnecting from technology by spending time in nature also has significant mental health benefits. Nature has been proven to have a calming effect on the mind and reduce stress. It provides a break from the constant stimulation of screens and allows individuals to reflect quietly on their thoughts without any distractions. This can improve mood, better sleep quality and increase focus.

Therefore, outdoor time can positively benefit your teen’s physical and mental health. By encouraging your teen to disconnect from screens and engage in outdoor activities with you, you are providing them with opportunities for personal growth while strengthening your bond as a family.

 

2. Create a DIY Project Together. 

Building something together can be a rewarding way to limit screen time and increase quality time. One of the best ways to connect with your teen is by doing DIY projects and accomplishing a shared goal. It is a fun way to spend quality time away from screens, teaches essential life skills, and helps your teen feel a sense of accomplishment when they finish a project.

Building something together can be especially rewarding because it requires teamwork and communication. It allows you to work towards a common goal and problem-solve. This strengthens your relationship because you learn to work together effectively and communicate positively. Studies have shown that participating in activities that involve collaboration and problem-solving can increase feelings of closeness and intimacy between family members.

Doing something as simple as building a birdhouse can improve your relationship in the long run. Not only do these projects provide a sense of accomplishment, but they also offer cognitive development benefits such as improved planning and organisational skills. Through a process known as ‘cumulative learning’, teenagers can apply previously learned strategies to create new projects and continue to develop their skills.

Additionally, taking on a DIY project lets your teen tap into their creativity and imagination. Teens need an outlet for self-expression, which is a great way to do so while still spending quality time with their parents. It is also an excellent way for parents to support their teens’ interests and hobbies, reinforcing their connection. Building something together provides numerous benefits for both you and your teen. It allows you to bond over something productive while teaching valuable life skills, improving communication, increasing intimacy, allowing self-expression, and supporting each other’s interests. 

3. Cook Meals Together. 

Cooking meals together can be a great way to connect with your teenager and strengthen your relationship. You may have fond memories of bonding with your grandmother or mother while cooking a family recipe and hold those memories dear. So, recreating those memories with your teen is another excellent way to spend quality time away from screens. This shared activity reinforces the bond between parents and their teens, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Cooking together can promote better communication between parents and teens. The relaxed atmosphere in the kitchen allows for open conversation and encourages teens to share their thoughts and feelings without feeling judged or criticised. This creates a space for meaningful dialogue that can help strengthen the parent-teen relationship. Cooking together has also been found to affect mental health positively. The Journal of Positive Psychology has found that people who cooked more often had higher happiness and lower anxiety and stress levels. By cooking with your teenager, you may be able to help reduce your teen’s stress levels while promoting positive emotions.

Not only is it a fun way to connect with your teen, but it’s also an important life skill for teenagers to learn how to cook meals that support their health and well-being. They will also learn to follow instructions, measure ingredients accurately, and use different cooking methods. These skills may seem small, but they can help build confidence in young people as they grow into adulthood. 

Overall, cooking meals together is a fun and practical activity and a valuable way to strengthen the relationship between parents and their teens. It teaches life skills, promotes open communication, and can positively affect mental health. So why not grab some ingredients and start cooking with your teen this summer? 

4. Go On An Unplugged Road Trip. 

Planning an unplugged road trip with your teen could be a fantastic way to strengthen your relationship while enjoying each other’s company on a fun-filled adventure! However, it may be challenging due to our reliance on devices for directions or finding the cheapest route – and having access to information about the nearest filling station is always helpful. 

But fear not. You can still have a successful unplugged road trip using your phone’s digital well-being tools. Put unnecessary apps on “Do Not Disturb” mode while using navigation apps to direct you towards your destination. Once you’ve arrived, put your screens away and spend quality time with your teen without distractions. This gives you ample time to communicate, play games, and explore new places together.

An unplugged road trip creates open communication between parents and teens. With no screens to distract either party, you create more space to talk and connect on a deeper level. Without screens getting in the way, your teen is more willing to open up and share their thoughts and feelings. 

Another benefit is an unplugged road trip provides a unique opportunity for adventure and exploring new places. With no screens vying for attention, you can fully immerse yourself in the journey and take in all the sights. This sense of adventure can be exhilarating for teens looking for new experiences outside their daily routines. 

 

5. Attend an Event or Festival in Your City.  

Attending a festival or event is a great way to reduce screen time. An event outside the home allows parents to connect with their teens over shared interests, leading to better communication and understanding. Additionally, attending events outside the home encourages teens to step out of their comfort zones and try new things. This activity can reduce stress and promote relaxation. This allows for a more relaxed environment where both parent and teen can engage in meaningful conversations without distractions. Sharing positive experiences at events can create lasting memories that strengthen the bond between parent and teen.

There are psychological benefits for parents and teenagers bonding over shared experiences, and participating in festivals or events releases endorphins, positively affecting their emotional state. This positivity carries over into our relationships and creates stronger connections between parents and teens. 

Research has shown that people report more resilient thoughts when they share their positive experiences with others and experience positive emotions on the same day. People who shared more positive experiences had a more resilient mindset. Therefore, having a resilient attitude benefits mental health, well-being, and physical performance.  

Attending festivals or events allows parents to bond with their teenagers through shared experiences in a fun way. It promotes communication and understanding, reduces stress and promotes relaxation, builds trust through shared experiences, and has psychological benefits that strengthen the relationship between parent and teen.

 

6. Start a Family Book Club.

If your teenager is an enthusiastic reader, starting a family book club may be the perfect way to share their love of literature with them. Reading and discussing books as a family creates quality time and encourages meaningful conversations with your teen about essential issues, themes, and ideas. Teens often have busy schedules, but in the summer, they typically have more free time available; reading a book together as a family can make it easier to spend quality time together regularly.

Choose a book that appeals to both you and your teenager. You may bond over the shared experience of reading and discussing the book. You should ask your teen for suggestions or take turns selecting books each month. Setting aside regular times to read and discuss the book with your teen is effective in developing accountability because it encourages them to stick to their reading goals to discuss the next chapter.

Encourage your teen to share their thoughts and opinions on their favourite books, as this will improve their critical thinking skills and provide meaningful conversation between you two.

One effective way to encourage a family book club with your teen is to suggest reading the book versions of their favourite movies, such as the famous Harry Potter franchise. You can use their interests to prompt discussions on the differences between the book and the film or ask them to share their interpretation of the author’s meaning. This can help your teenager develop critical thinking skills and formulate opinions on different topics. This approach also provides you, as a parent, with insight into how your teen views the world and allows you to connect with them on a deeper level.

Starting a family book club with your teenager is an excellent way to bond over literature and gain insights into your teen’s thoughts while spending quality time together. Families can create lasting memories while exploring new ideas through literature by choosing books that appeal to everyone and setting aside time each week or month for discussion.

 

7. Volunteer Together.

A positive way to connect with your teen is by encouraging your teenager to volunteer with you. This can help solidify your role as an essential part of their development and journey into adulthood. Have you ever heard of Mahatma Gandhi’s quote:

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”?

During adolescence, teens search for their identity and actively try to figure out who they are. Volunteering is an excellent way for them to discover themselves while positively impacting the community. It allows you to work towards a common goal and share meaningful experiences.

Volunteering can foster a deeper connection and bond between you and your teen and provide valuable insights into their character. Volunteering together allows you to see your teen help others and contribute positively to society. This can provide valuable insights into their personality traits, such as empathy, compassion, and leadership skills. By observing how your teenager interacts with others and handles different situations, you can better understand their motivations, values, and what is important to them.

Additionally, volunteering has been shown to have psychological benefits for both the volunteer and those receiving help. Research has found that volunteering can reduce stress, improve mood, increase self-confidence, and provide a sense of purpose. By experiencing these benefits together, you and your teen may feel more connected to each other and the community you are volunteering in.

Finally, volunteering together allows open communication between you and your teen. Working side by side on a project or activity creates natural opportunities for conversation without the pressure of traditional parent-child dynamics. This can result in deeper conversations about values, beliefs, and goals, strengthening the bond between parent and teenager.

8. Implement a Technology-Free Dinner Rule.

A technology-free dinner can be a great way to strengthen the bond between a parent and their teenager. Dinners hold significant traditional aspects that are centred on family bonding and communication. In today’s fast-paced world, finding time to connect with loved ones over a meal can be difficult. However, by making it a habit to have dinner together without distractions from phones, you can create an opportunity to spend quality time with your teen and deepen your relationship.

You can engage in meaningful interactions by putting away phones and other devices during dinner. You can have meaningful conversations with your teen without the distractions of technology. This creates an environment where your teen feels heard and valued. It also allows you to learn more about what is happening in your teen’s life and strengthens your emotional connection by showing you care. 

Having regular technology-free dinners also has many benefits for teenagers specifically. It provides them with a sense of stability and routine in their lives. Traditional tech-free dinners enable your teen to recognise that this time is time you have set aside to dedicate to listening to their day and being there for them. This can lead to improved self-esteem and confidence as they feel heard and validated by their parents.

Several research studies have demonstrated that children who regularly attend dinners with their families are less likely to exhibit negative behaviour or engage in substance abuse.

Technology-free dinners help teenagers develop essential communication skills throughout their lives. By engaging in face-to-face conversations with their family members, they learn to listen actively, express themselves clearly, and understand different perspectives. These skills are essential for building healthy relationships inside and outside the home.

Implementing technology-free dinners is an excellent way for parents and teenagers to connect more deeply. By prioritising this time together, families can strengthen their bonds and build lasting memories that will stay with them long after the meal.

 

9. Learn Something New Together.

Learning something new together can be an excellent way for parents to connect with their teens. Studies have shown that sharing a learning experience can increase closeness and bonding between individuals. Parents can engage in various activities with their teens to learn something new together. For example, they could learn tennis, learn a new language, or participate in an art workshop. These types of activities not only provide an opportunity for parents to bond with their teens but also allow them to develop new skills and knowledge.

It is beneficial for parents to demonstrate to their teenagers that they are continually learning too. Adolescents are in a developmental stage where they frequently investigate and learn new things about themselves and the world. By attempting novel activities and making errors, parents can illustrate to their teens that expertise in anything is not innate; it requires consistent and persistent efforts to progress and correct mistakes. Moreover, this fosters a growth mindset, which is crucial for enabling your teenager to succeed academically and in other areas of life. Encouraging your teen to undertake challenging tasks and become enthusiastic about new challenges is vital.

When parents make mistakes while learning something new alongside their teen, it creates a teachable moment that strengthens the bond between parent and child. Learning something new with your teen creates positive outcomes, including higher self-esteem, resilience, academic performance, and social competence. By engaging in shared learning experiences with their teen and modelling behaviours like taking on new challenges, parents can create opportunities for a deeper connection with their adolescent child while enhancing cognitive function and personal growth.

 

10. Start a Digital Detox Challenge.

You may be worried about the adverse effects of excessive screen time on your teen’s mental health and social skills. You aren’t wrong in worrying. Constant connection to technology can be overwhelming for teenagers and a significant source of anxiety. Taking a digital detox challenge or setting aside time away from screens can be an excellent way for parents to connect with their teens. You can learn more about how technology and social media contribute to teen anxiety in our blog.

With the constant use of technology in our daily lives, finding quality time to spend with our loved ones without distractions can be challenging. By committing to a digital detox, you and your teen can create an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations and activities and strengthen your relationship. By limiting the usage of digital devices and social media, teens can experience various advantages. These benefits include:

A boost in creativity, improvements in social skills, anxiety reduction, increased self-confidence and better sleep.

Adults may also benefit from a digital detox for similar reasons. Additionally, teaching teens healthy habits for the future is more effective when they see their parents modelling the same behaviour. 

Creating a challenge with a goal and a reward system can help encourage your teen’s participation in the digital detox. For example, try a screen-free bucket list. Your teens list all the things they want to try that don’t require a phone. Or you can track how much time each family member spends on their phones. Whoever has the lowest gets a reward from the wish list. This encourages your teen to learn discipline and how to work towards their goals. The healthy competition created by such challenges can further strengthen the parent-teen relationship. These shared experiences will allow you to bond with your teen while developing trust and respect.

Create Lasting Memories 

In your pursuit of screentime to quality time, don’t forget it’s about being present. It’s essential to play an active role in your teen’s life and not try to control their actions. You can find more ways to connect with your teen in our blog here. You can spend quality time together while creating lasting memories by providing opportunities to unplug from screens. 

Incorporating outdoor and interactive activities into your teenager’s summer plans can profoundly impact your relationship with them. This shared experience can lead to a deeper connection and understanding between you and your teen. This will strengthen your bond for years. So why not start planning and preparing for an unforgettable summer filled with adventure and connection?

 

GT Scholars
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