25 Intentional Moments with Your Teens and Young Adults

"Mom, can we go on a date?"

It starts when they are little, but it doesn't have to end there. 

Teens and young adults LOVE intentional moments with their parents, too. 

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A wise, older mom once encouraged me to foster a relationship with my children when they were young. I have to admit, it wasn't always easy to be excited to watch ants make a hill, walk around the lake hunting for tadpoles, or play Candyland for a second or third time as laundry hollered to be loaded and dinner shouted to be started. There were seasons of new babies and illnesses. 

But, I listened to my friend's her sage wisdom, what she had learned from her experiences.

The purpose, she said,

"If you want a relationship with your young adults, start when they are little and never stop!"

Twenty-seven years into this parenting thing, I can say I was intentional about putting my best foot forward to engage in my children's lives.

But, I will be honest. I wasn't always happy about setting aside my ideas or my activities. 

There were moments I complained. There were days I was tired, but persevered anyway. My children saw my intentions. 

What I learned from that older mom?

My efforts mattered--all of them, even the ones that were not picture perfect.

Fast forward. 

What do we do when children get older, when dates are more than playing a game (though some older children still enjoy games), stopping by the playground, or catching butterflies?

Or, what if life circumstances kept us from spending as much time with our children as we would have liked? Do we throw in the towel and assume a relationship with our teens can't be fostered? 

We start with where we are now--parent and child, parent and young adult.

No one outgrows the need for relationship and time spent on relationships is never wasted. 

So, where do we start (or continue) with our older children? 

Start with what they enjoy, what they like. 

With five very different teens, young adults, and adult children, the times we spend together varies.

Sometimes I initiate time together. Other times a child asks will ask to spend time together. Some of my ideas are really creative, others met a daily need, or accomplished a  task. Our favorite times include:

1. Sipping hot chocolate. Outside on the patio or sitting cross-legged on the couch, just the two (or three) of us.

2. Taking a walk. This is a favorite for one of my health and fitness-minded young adults. 

3. Going to the thrift store. Often there's a goal for our adventures at our local thrift store's half-price Wednesday. We most always arrive home feeling great about the time we spent together and the bargains we find.

4. Working out together. This is a HUGE stretch for me (no pun intended!) but makes my young adults chuckle. Yes, we've had some laughs at my expense! Laughter is part of relationship building.

5. Painting the bedroom. At some point in the teen years, most young adults desire to freshen up their room. Spending a weekend choosing a color and applying the new coat of freshness can make memories, for sure.

6. Designing a website. My entrepreneur asked if I'd help her figure out how to build a free site. A few days later, we were able to say, "I couldn't have done that without you!"

7. Going shopping. My children know shopping is not something I really enjoy. I like bargains, but I have other things I would rather do. And, with eight children, it seems someone always needs a new shirt, underwear, or a larger size sneakers!  And, often the request doesn't come at an ideal time. However, if one of my children needs something and asks me to go along, I'm there. In fact, one of my favorite mommy heart moments was when my adult child set up his first apartment and asked me to go with him to give my opinion on a couch. I was honored and accepted the invitation with a warm heart. I will never forget that day!

8. Eating a plateful of nachos. While my boys were playing high school baseball, they would often arrive home starving and needing to process the action of the game. It was often hard to keep my tired eyes open--and I rarely remembered the fine details of every inning--but those late evenings were more than worth the sleep I lost. I will admit these late night dates made maintaining weight a challenge. 

9. Reading a book. One of our young adults loved to read and then engage in conversation, pondering thoughts with someone else. Often Mike or I was that someone else. What an honor and a privilege! Perhaps your young adult might enjoy this type of time together. 

10.  Sharing an appetizer. Sharing an afternoon appetizer at a local restaurant may be just the change of scenery your young adult needs. Often restaurants offer afternoon specials to encourage patrons. Research the deals in your area. It may be just the renewal a relationship needs. 

11.  Solving a jigsaw puzzle. Though this hasn't been a terribly frequent choice, when we did engage in this challenge we were able to say, "We accomplished a task together."

12. Making greeting cards. From the very early years of our marriage there hasn't been a lot of extra cash in the budget for cards. Creating cards to make someone smile, has definitely been heart-warming. Making several to keep some on hand for needs that arise may be a great way to spend time with your creative. 

13. Visiting a museum. One of our young adults enjoyed visiting museums, especially art and history. Interestingly, I became quite interested in both art and history, neither of which were natural interests of mine. I love when the interests of one family member rub off on another. 

14. Volunteering together. When my high schoolers began to need community service hours, we were always looking for venues to serve. Though it would have been easier to drop off and go, when invited to stay, we accepted. As it turned out the experienced blessed several family members for several years. 

15. Enjoying free coffee. I have a young adult who is very frugal...and loves coffee. This has definitely been a favorite date, especially National Coffee Day rolls on September 29.

16. Using a coupon. In a large family where money can be tight, we have gotten creative and in the process have enjoyed great times together, frugally. Honestly, once they got the hang of it, my teens and young adults came up with amazingly great deals and ideas to send time together.

17. Riding bikes. Whether biking for the sake of staying fit or enjoying time outside, this has been a favorite in all stages of life. 

18. Doing a DYI project. If you have an innovator or a creative, this can be a fun way to spend the afternoon. I have learned fun DIY ideas from my young adults. 

19. Enjoying nachos, AGAIN!  WHEW! The high school ball nights turned into freshman year of college--seemingly overnight! My oldest--then a college freshman--invited me to share his nachos, a little later in that season of life...at 1 AM. I said YES! And, I never regretted it. He continued to ask and I gained what I call the Mom Freshmen Fifteen!

20. Going BOGO. One of the favorite date requests for our youngers and olders is BOGO shakes at the local Steak N' Shake. The waitresses know us well!

21. Sharing a tradition. Some of our dates were a vehicle for generational sharing. Consider the traditions of your family and how you might share those with yet another generation--shopping for sibling Christmas presents, coffee with Grandma, attending Memorial Day veteran celebrations have been among our favs.

22. Learning a new skill. Learning is life-long. We parents can model this by inviting a young adult to learn a new skill alongside us or we can offer to help a young adult learn a new skill, perhaps one he or she has desired to learn for awhile. Together, my young adults and I have learned how to make lollipops, plant a garden, paint window shutters, and sew aprons. What new skills may await the relationship with your teen?

23. Opening a bank account. Sometimes life's seasons bring amazing date opportunities. Embracing these times, we have with our young adults matters. Often we grab an ice cream or coffee on the way home!

24. Cashing in on rewards. I wasn't a big coffee fan. However, when one of my young adults wanted to join a reward program so we could date and earn rewards, I was all in! And, we've both enjoyed the time together and the freebies!

25. Sharing life! Moments with your teens and young adults don't have to fancy or elaborate. The important point of cultivating a relationship with your children is being intentional about taking time to share life together. In doing so, the parent-child-young adult relationship is built and fostered.

Every. Moment. Matters. 

 

 

Interests Fuel Life-Long Learning

Dogs.

It's everything dogs for our littlest learner. 

She's curious about what dogs eat (getting eye level--but not too close--to watch ours furry friend eat). She's curious about how why they pant, how they feel to touch. She wants to know everything about every dog she sees, large or small.

Sitting in the dentist office last week, waiting for big sister to finish her appointment, I found a treasure--an attention grabbing-just-what-we-needed-at-that-moment treasure. 

A book featuring photographs of dogs. 

I handed it to our youngest. I knew it would keep her attention. 

It was a "mom hung the moon" moment.

She looked at me. Her eyes seemed to say, "Thank you for caring about my interest!"

The excitement on her face. The eagerness in her learning. The pure joy!

As she paged through the book, I engaged with her about the pictures on each page. She'd look at me and smile. With every smile, I thought about two workshops I have been writing for an upcoming speaking engagement; one workshop for parents of elementary learners and one workshop for parents of middle schoolers.

Relationships and curiosity fuel learning.

Like adults, children need relationships. Couple that with natural curiosity--questioning anything and everything--and there is a recipe for building a love for life-long learning. 

How do we keep a person's natural curiosity aflame for life?

Ask questions. When the art of questioning is modeled, it is readily available for learning.

I am not natural questioner. I like to teach; to tell. As a consequence, the parenting years hit me hard. The more I told and commanded, the more frustrated my children became. And, I noticed they stopped asking questions and waited to be told to do things--waiting to do school work and chores until they were told. Stepping back from the situation (and asking for Mike's input) I realized my children had valuable ideas, valid questions. They needed a mom who listen and then ask questions; a who would practice the art of questioning. At that point, I decided to be intentional about asking more questions and encouraging my children to to the same. I asked questions like:

  • I wonder how that works?
  • I wonder why the hermit crab needed a new shell?
  • I wonder what will happen if we add more soap?

I had to work hard at replacing my teaching/telling bent (saving it for where that bent was really needed) with an intentionality to listen and engage my children in thoughtful questioning. Though it took a bit of time to turn the cart around, I began to hear my children returning to their natural bent of asking questions. Definitely worth my effort.

Find answers. With questioning comes the need to find answers.

If I was going to be intent on encouraging critical thinking skills and the art questioning, I would also have to purposeful in helping my children find answers. And, as the children grew we had to have conversations about where to find accurate information; to ponder whether an author had the knowledge and experience to speak to a topic. 

We began to build a home library of reference and resource materials--field guides, a Magiscope, a heavy-duty magnifying glass, kitchen scales, history books, classic literature. In some cases, we found apps to be the best resource, for example Sky View and Sky Map. We talked to our children about the importance of primary source documents and role played how to carry on conversations with people--should they want to ask questions of someone. In addition, as our children entered middle and high school, we discussed volunteering and job shadowing. These opportunities encouraged our young adults to answer their questions about career interests by talking to professionals in the field.

Be observant. Interests are not always obvious.

Some interests are obvious, like my daughter's curiosity with dogs. Others are a bit more hidden, sometimes even unknown to the beholder! To discover the interests of some of my children, I had to watch, listen, and be open to how they spent their time (versus controlling every minute of their day).  In my watching and listening, I began to ask myself questions. 

  • Was my child wanting to take things apart and put them back together?
  • Was a particular career intriguing to my child?
  • When we were at a church event or field trip who did my child gravitate toward certain people--children or adult?
  • What did my child do to fill extra time in the day?
  • Did my child have an ability to put together colors, lines and shapes or craft inspirational poetry?

My littlest learner is not yet old enough to verbalize her questions, yet her curiosity is evident in her facial expressions and gestures, through her hand clapping and dancing. Her reaction--her joy in learning--invites us to ask her questions, interact with her excitement, and fuel her curiosity by providing resources (like finding her dog books at the library). In doing so, her siblings, Mike and I are learning to help her dig deeper into her interest. As a result, our curiosity about how she learns is fostered. It is a cycle of interest-fueling learning. 

 

And it is a beautiful life-learning cycle. 

It's intentional, real, and relational. 

 

 

 

Helping Learners Foster Strengths and Interests

"Mom! I want to go with you!"

A trip to the electronics store. I was hoping to go alone. You know, time to enjoy quiet; time to think without questions. After all, it is ONLY the electronics store. 

My mind rattled through all the pros and cons.

  • They grow up fast.
  • I need a few quiet moments.
  • It was a chance to spend individual time.
  • I should seize the moment!

"Yes, you can go."

She put on her shoes. We got in the car and talked all the way to the store. We parked and shopped. Paid. My daughter carried the box, proudly, spring in her step--a wide smile beaming across her face. She insisted on holding our purchase all the way home.

She was energized.

After ten minutes of silence, she asked.

"How could I work at that store?"

Followed immediately by, 

"I just love it there! All the electronics, the gadgets, the cables."

How do we help foster strengths and interests in our children (especially when it is not what we had in mind)?

  • Be open. When my daughter announced she wanted to work at an electronics store, my immediate thought was not impressive. I wouldn't have won Mommy Points. Why would you want to work in an electronics store? Stellar, I know. Thankfully, having been in this place before with other children, I learned from mistakes; held my initial thought. Counting to five helped.
  • Avoid a defensive/reactive posture. By waiting, even just a few seconds, I was able to offer an open, positive response. And, being in the car I didn't have to worry about impatiently shifting my weight or a tapping toe, thankfully. I have spoken those unintended messages before.
  • Ask a question. Asking a question keeps conversation and relationship open. This is another hard lesson I've learned. I'm a global-thinking fixer. I see conclusions (sometimes wrong conclusions) and big pictures before the speaker, so waiting for a response or waiting to hear the whole story takes discipline.

"You asked a great question. What skills do you think you would need to work there?"

  • Wait for a response. If the child is processing thoughts, a response may take a few minutes. And likely, he or she hasn't encountered the scenario at hand in the past. When I keep active and engaged while offering patience, the conversation with my child stays alive. When my mind wonders or I feel something else tugging for my attention (and there are many of those!), my daughter knows. 

"I would need to learn about computers, cameras and equipment."

  • Affirm and ask another question. Affirmation keeps the conversation moving forward and also allows children to internalize that their thoughts are worth processing. Remember, the reason the conversation started was to answer a pending question or entertain an important thought. A piece of affirmation and a follow-up question provides motivation toward considering perspectives and ideas which might not be clear, YET!

"Indeed you would need to know about those things. How could you learn more about electronics?"

  • Don't fret. In the process of thinking things out--engaging in dialogue--it is helpful to remember that just because it is said doesn't mean it will happen. Children and young adults (and I would venture to suggest even adults) express ideas which will never come to fruition. This is part of processing thoughts. In other words, if a child or young adult mentions a possibility for employment or the intention of attending an event, it is an opportunity to learn conversation skills and decision making--another opportunity to share and consider. When I short circuit the process of my child or young adult's thought process prematurely, progress halts. I've had to remind myself that my children need opportunities like these to develop soft skills: problem solving, conversational etiquette, consideration of other people, adaptability, time management, and emotional intelligence. If I cut them off, define all the problems and solutions, discourage conversation, I place my children and young adults at a great disservice. Decision making, Interpersonal skills, work ethic, and research skills must be practiced and experienced before my young adults forge out on their own. 
  • Welcome the unexpected. It may be a passing thought. It might never happen. However, when I welcome and am open to the thoughts of my children, there is a greater chance they will come to me when really big things come to the forefront of their mind. Today's thought about working at an electronics store may be tomorrow's thought of whether an entire savings should be used to buy a car. As a parent I've had to keep my hands open. A desire to work in an electronics store isn't the end of the world. In fact, it could be the catalyst needed to deepen a relationship or it could be the gateway to a lucrative career (or a stepping stone to fixing Mom's technology).
  • Brainstorm. What began as a question ended with a wide-open slate of possibilities. Together my daughter and I discovered several ways she could learn more about electronics. As we talked, she became more engaged, more excited, asking if she had to wait until middle and high school to start. Of course not, learning can start immediately! Perhaps there is something you can do or offer today to fuel the excitement in your leaner. 
  • Open to possibilities. As a homeschooled student, my daughter can learn from an array of environments: online tutorials, online certifications, shadowing, volunteering, mentors. And, she has time to do so! JOY! What possibilities wait for your leaner? 
  • How can I help? I am a busy mom with full days. Believe me, it is not easy for me to ask for more to do. However, when my children face a new endeavor or potential change, they usually embrace the chance to have someone walk along side them, cheer them on. I WANT to be that cheerleader. In my twenty-seven years of parenting, I've learned if I don't get excited--walk alongside, ask how I can help--my children will find someone who or some place which will provide for this need. Companionship is something we all need, children, young adults, and adults. 
  • What's the next step? The next step may not be obvious or easy. Even for me as an adult, I'm often not clear about what my next steps might be. It's silly for me to think my children will know, every time, what their next right steps will be. Helping to identify a next steps and then encouragement to follow through offers another opportunity to affirm and build relationships as well as soft skills and life experiences. 

What strengths or interests are your children or young adults asking you to foster? 

Those strengths and interests may begin with a question and end with answers. Or, those strengths and interests may begin with a request to tag-along and end with an opportunity to walk alongside. And even still, those strengths and interests may start with you--the parent--pointing out an area you see your child could excel, something of which he or she may not even be aware.

Potential is ripe, right where you are--your child and you--together. 

Oh, I forgot to mention. 

Within twenty-four hours, my daughter had spent a good bit of time watching online tutorials and how-to videos about building computers, extracting parts, wiring circuits and more. And her interest began with a tag-along opportunity, some engaging conversation, and insight into next steps. 

I wonder what she will do tomorrow? 

I wonder what your learners might discover TODAY!

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

 

 

 

The Benefit of Interests: Motivating Learners

Last Saturday I spoke to a group of parents homeschooling high school (or soon to  be homeschooling high school). During the Q&A at the end of the the workshop, a mom bravely asked, 

"How do you handle learners who always want to default to computer or social media games?"

Tough question. 

I quipped, 

"Do you have a whole day for the answer?"

This is a tough question to answer without any knowledge of the family or of the learner, in my opinion. There are just too many factors which come into play: learner ability, amount of work expected to be accomplished, time of day, social/emotional circumstances and more. In addition, I am not a formula answer kind of gal. There are often no right answers, all the time, for every family, for every learner. 

Tough question. 

I could only share the ah-ha realization from our personal experience as well as the conclusions found by families with whom we've walked the journey. 

When children and young adults have a goal to aspire to, something they want to build, some cause to fight, bottom line, some passion that propels them, there is reason to prioritize the day, reason to manage time. 

Yes, there will be ideas to listen to, questions to ponder, problems to solve, seasons of failure. However, when there is an interest, there is motivation--positive or negative. 

Interestingly, just three days after my weekend workshop, my adult son (who didn't know I was posed with the above question on Saturday), sent me an article. After dinner, my engineer daughter had an idea. 

"Can I have that water jug in the fridge?"

Sure. We emptied the remaining water into a pitcher.

Off she went. Spent several hours trying and retrying.

When there is an interest, a problem to solve, a question to research, a goal to accomplish, there is motivation.

This isn't the first time we've encountered the rewards of interest. In fact, one of our adult children refined his natural strengths and reoccurring interests (meaning interests visited and revisited, refined--passions) and is now using those in his vocation. Thousands of hours practicing, experimenting, refining gifts are now impacting a company, people in his sphere of influence. Another adult child continues to refine his skills and interests in graduate school. His career goal (which uses his passion and care for people) is motivating him through 12-15 hour days of study. 

What problem does your learner want to solve? What question is he or she pondering? Is there something significant to accomplish? 

There, too, will be motivation.

With you on the journey!