Ten Tangible Tips for Connecting With Kids

By: Dr. Peter Benson

Parenting is a rewarding challenge, but discovering opportunities and making time to build relationships with young people in our communities can be challenging as well.

The truth is, kids need to have relationships with caring adults outside of their families, including neighbors, their friends’ parents, program leaders, and other community members in order to grow up to be healthy, caring, and responsible adults.

So, how do you connect with the young folks in your life?

Consider incorporating a few of the following tips into your daily routines to begin building relationships and impacting lives.

1. Text a message of encouragement or a simple “Good Morning! I hope you have a wonderful day!” and do it often. If you don’t know how to send texts, ask a teen to teach you how.

2. Offer to tutor a youth through community groups and library programs.

3. Organize informal weekend or evening activities (such as pickup basketball, horseshoes, build-your-own-sundae parties, Monopoly contests) with kids in your neighborhood.

4. Plan and prepare a meal with one of your children. Invite your child’s friend to join you.

5. Ask a young person this question: “What book are you reading now? May I borrow it after you’re done?” Once you’ve read it, reconnect to discuss it. You may even consider starting a book club that includes teenagers as well as adults.

6. Contact a school to find out if they need chaperones or volunteers for special events.

7. Whenever you get a chance, ask a teenager for an opinion on something you are struggling with (for example, a conflict in your office, a school policy issue, a moral dilemma).

8. Ask a young person to give you a hand with a home project.

9. Use Facebook, Twitter, and other social-networking platforms to communicate in genuine ways. A word of encouragement is worth a lot in any medium.

10. Make a family “business card” for your household. Include contact information and a message about how you’d like to connect (gardening, going for walks, etc.). Give one to every neighbor family that has children or teens.

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This blog was adapted from the book, Parent, Teacher, Mentor, Friend, by Peter L. Benson, Ph.D. Benson is president and CEO of Minneapolis-based Search Institute and one of the world’s leading authorities on positive human development. He weaves together rigorous scholarship with a commitment to influencing society to be more attentive to children and adolescents.

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