Family Activities to Engage Your Preteen

Posted on by admin | in Nanny

preteenIt’s no secret that preteens can test your patience. They are moody and trying their best to establish independence and freedom. However, preteens need family interaction to keep them grounded when hormones and confusing feelings surface. In fact, the more involved your child is with the family, the less likely he or she will be to seek out trouble and fall into peer pressure traps.

Even though your tween may not always be eager or willing to join in the family fun, with some imagination and creativity, you can engage him in activities that keep your family connection going strong.

Make the Most of Meal Time

With the hustle and bustle of work life, after school commitments and household responsibilities, family dinners often take a hit. Revive a meal time routine to keep your preteen engaged, suggests Dr. Fran Walfish, California-based psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent.

“Eat family dinner together at least five to seven times a week,” she says. “Make this a solemn commitment. Unfortunately, the kids who join gangs are those who long to belong to a group of togetherness. Make it your family.”

Family togetherness during meals offers benefits for everyone – not just your preteen. “Most American families are starved for time to spend together, and dinner may be the only time of the day when we can reconnect, leaving behind our individual pursuits like playing video games, emailing and doing homework,” says Dr. Anne Fishel of The Family Dinner Project. “Dinner is a time to relax, recharge, laugh, tell stories and catch up on the day’s ups and downs, while developing a sense of who we are as a family.”

Cater to Your Preteen’s Interests

If your preteen is less than enthused about spending time with the family, try catering to his or her interests and hobbies. Make sure to know what interests your tween enjoys and find activities that will appeal to him, recommends Erica Ives, licensed marriage and family therapist in California.

“Take the time to get to know your preteen and find out his likes and dislikes and, most importantly, listen to them,” she says. “Take interest in their music and share your playlists. If he or she is interested in a particular sport, then go to a sporting event.”

If your tween is an art enthusiast, venture out on a day trip to visit museums, art supply stores and exhibits. Visit a clay activity where each family member can create something special. Provide your preteen with a creative outlet and show her that the family is supportive of her hobbies and willing to try something new.

You can even gather the family to create a mural with your preteen guiding the project. The more you enable your preteen to exhibit control over her interests, the more willing she may be to share her ideas and skills with the family.

“Show your preteen that you are interested, even if they seem disinterested that you are engaging and even if they display resistance,” says Ives. “Do your best to not allow your own frustrations or feelings of rejection cause you to withdraw or become disengaged.”

Break Out the Games

A board game may seem “lame” to your preteen, but when he or she gets to choose the game it might become a little more interesting. From Pictionary to Uno, engage your tween with a family game night complete with popcorn, snacks and milkshakes.

According to Dr. Christine Carter, sociologist and author of RAISING HAPPINESS: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, a recent survey revealed that 91% of families who play games report that playing those games together improves their mood – even for preteens and teenagers. “The survey found that the more a family plays games together, the more satisfied parents tend to be with their family time,” says Carter.

Carter offers the following tips to ensure your family game night is successful and engaging for your preteen:

  • Don’t keep score or automatically let kids win: Although rivalries can be really fun, they can obscure the benefits of family game night. Once everyone is enjoying the process and fun of playing games together–without obsessing over who is winning or losing–then go back to keeping score, to teach the important skill of winning and losing gracefully.
  • Don’t feel compelled to play games that bore you: Make sure you have a selection of games that work for everyone in your family, no matter their age. Family game night can be fun for everyone.
  • Be the fun family in your neighborhood: As kids get older, time with their peers becomes more important to them than time with their family. Don’t let these priorities conflict. Instead, encourage kids to invite a friend or two to come to your family game night. Let the teens choose the food and the music (but check their smart phones and devices at the door). On weekends, plan for game night extensions, allowing teens to continue play without parents and younger siblings.

The key to successful activities or game nights with your preteen and family is to be consistent. “Decide which day of the week will be your weekly game night and then be consistent so that it becomes a ritual anticipated by everyone,” says Carter.

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