Four (4) Tips for Dads of Teens

Courtesy of National Fatherhood Initiative
My son and I had a great opportunity to have a conversation on Family Time Q&A with Brandon Cunningham about being a father of teenagers. It was a new show format for us, and it went well. I look forward to doing another interview like it in the future. Here are some of the tips we shared in our conversation. You can listen to the entire conversation by clicking here.

Four Tips for Dads of Teens


1. Just open the door and talk, maybe knock first though
I recently attended a conference on Technology-Related Crimes Against Children hosted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In all the stories of teenagers who were duped into running away into the arms of a pimp, handler, or human trafficker, there was one glaring pattern. Regardless of all demographics of youth victims, there was a disconnect in relationship between the teens and their parents in every case.


The teens wanted to feel loved and connected to their parents, but felt they couldn’t talk to their parents without being judged. Their parents wanted to talk with their teens, but felt their teens wanted nothing to do with them. The end result was the giving of too much space. Yes, I believe our teens need room to grow as they get older, but not so much space they feel their parents no longer care for them. It’s up to us parents to open the door and talk, hang out, and just be there.


This doesn’t just apply to preventing youth from getting caught up in domestic minor sex trafficking either. I come across this feeling among youth all the time when leading discussions on bullying and cyberbullying, too.


My post-show notes from Episode 27 of Family Time Q&A.


2. Quantity time leads to quality time


People often say they desire quality time with the ones they love, but I think it is quality time we truly desire. When I was fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom, I had a moment to think about what would happen if my life on Earth came to an end. Everything that I had accomplished on Earth, everything I had learned to do would come to an end. What would be the one thing I wanted to do one last time? The answer was to have another moment with my family. I wanted to hold their hands, tell them I love them, and ask them to think of me from time to time while they also made the most of their own lives. I am grateful that I didn’t have to be on my deathbed to come to that realization.


Intentionally seek out quantity time. Carve it out of your schedule every week. If you are married, first carve out one-on-one time with your spouse. After that, carve out one-on-one time with each time at least once a month, then build up the frequency after that.


3. Do what they like to do


Our kids are not clones of ourselves. While earlier in their lives they enjoyed hanging out with us doing the stuff we enjoyed, that seems to change when our kids become teenagers. They want to do their own thing. If you want that quantity time, you’ll have to be willing to go where they want to go.


One of Olivia’s greatest memories of her father was when her dad took her to see New Kids on the Block perform in concert. He went with her, and she still talks about it nearly two decades later. She also cherishes the times when the two of them would travel the country and visit various amusement parks. They found that thrill rides were their thing together. For Jacob and I, it’s playing Xbox together and watching YouTube videos from gamers, and with Emma it’s pretty much anything with dancing or arts and crafts.


The bottom line is to meet your kids where their interests are, and enjoy those moments with them. We have to ask ourselves what is more important. Is it more important to watch that college football game, or to play a game with your own child no matter how goofy it makes you feel? If you’re intentional about it, do both.


4. Schedule one-on-one time
Brandon has done a neat thing with all of his kids for as long as I have known him. He intentionally schedules one-on-one time with each of his children. Since he is a part of a blended family, this includes his stepchildren as well. Whether it’s taking a child out of school a little early for ice cream, a lunch date with his daughter, or a weekend trip to Schlitterbahn, Brandon takes the time to get to know each member of his family on a deeper level without distraction.


My priorities for one-on-one time: (1) God, (2) Olivia, (3) Children. Everything else comes after I’ve set my time with those three relationships first.


How much time should you set aside for one-on-one time? As much as you can. See Tips #1 through #3.


Comment below: How do you apply any of the tips listed above? What are some tips you’d like to share that have worked for you in staying connected with your kids?


Listen to Episode 27 of Family Time Q&A to hear more from the conversation among my son, Brandon, and I.


RESOURCES
NetSmartz.org – Download free resources from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (missingkids.com). Whether you are a parent, guardian, or school teacher or counselor, there are age-appropriate education materials available to start the conversation about Internet safety. I am a firm believer that technology and social media will only become more prevalent in our lives, so it is important that we teach our youth how to navigate these waters safely with supervision than to bury our heads in the sand.


Effects of Absent Fathers by Frederick Goodall (@MochaDad)

Would you, as fathers, love no matter what? TED Talk: Andrew Solomon: Love No Matter What

Download Strength Revisited, a free eBook download based on my TEDxCorpusChristi Talk about how we define strength in manhood.

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