When children become teenagers, they desire independence. They want to experience freedom from the many restrictions of childhood. You may find as they enter these years that your teenage son/daughter becomes more difficult to connect with. Here are some ways you can connect with your child through sports in their teenage years:
1) Do activities with your child that require physical activity. This will promote a healthy lifestyle for you and your already-active teen. Take walks together. Play a sport together. Do an activity that you don’t do often and laugh your way through it. By doing something your teenager will enjoy, they won’t feel like it’s something you’re doing just to find a way to get them to talk. You could go play Frisbee golf, go bowling, or play corn hole together. These activities provide great environments for casual conversations.
2) Take a genuine interest in your teen’s favorite sport. Find ways to engage your teen revolving around the sport they’re involved in. You may want to take them to see a local college game, or set aside a night to watch a game on TV together with pizza or whatever their favorite food is. Ask questions about the sport that your son/daughter can answer. This empowers them to become “teachers” and in turn gives them more confidence. Do some research on the sport on your own to get a basic understanding so you can be able to talk knowledgably with your son/daughter about their games and practices.
3) Use current sports’ stories to engage in conversation. The popularity of sports is huge in the U.S., so use that leverage to talk about major sports’ stories and their cultural and moral impact with your son/daughter. Tie this stories in to a moral or ethical conversation. As the website Aha! Parenting says, it is important in the teenage years that young people still have their parents as their moral and emotional compass. Don’t lecture them with your view on certain topics. Instead gauge their view points and engage in conversation with them. Giving them the freedom to share their views without judgement is critical. This allows you to share your view and connect on a deeper level.
4) Show up to their games and tournaments. This may seem obvious, but just being physically present at their games means the world to your child. Your support and encouragement is key, especially if your son/daughter is having a tough game. Don’t try to coach from the sidelines; your son/daughter already has a coach to do that. Be a source of comfort and confidence for your teen, regardless of the outcome of the game. If something happens to where you can’t be there, be sure you follow up with your child soon after. Ask them about the game and tell them you’re proud of them. Showing sincere interest hours after their game is effective when being present at their game isn’t possible.
5) Create a routine around something your child loves. This can be as simple as shooting hoops every Saturday night with them, or watching every game of their favorite NFL team together on Sundays. Setting aside a special time each week or month creates a routine that your child will enjoy and look forward to. This will give you numerous opportunities to connect and have fun together! Your teen likely won’t look back and remember material things you gave them or even what the score of a big tournament game was, but they’ll remember the moments you spent quality time with them.