If you have ever known a teenager (excluding when you were one), then you know that one of the hardest things to get an average teenager to do is to have fun when spending time with family. Traditions of family game night, family dinners longer than it takes for the teenager to shovel the food into their mouth, and mom and dad knowing anything become a thing of the past. In fact, with teenagers, words either become a rambling of jumbled jargon and mess or they turn in to monosyllabic monotone “yeahs”, “nos”, and the occasional “I don’t know” or its replaced with the ever present shrug of the shoulders.
Needless to say at some predetermined point generally between 13 and 14 but definitely by 15, the sweet, loving, often generous child you know and love is transformed in to a…teenager. Now I could go on and on about teenagers but I’d rather focus on a creative way of bringing them, at least temporarily, back into the folds of the family.
I would never normally advocate anything other than conversation and eating at family dinner. But when you have a teenager, well, desperate times call for desperate measures. Its a pretty simple theory that showed positive results.
First, dinner becomes something that is ONLY served and eaten at the dinner table. I find that in the middle of basketball practice, church events, friend get-togethers, school activities and so many other calendar filling events that dinner can easily become something fast and eaten in front of the TV before rushing out. Insisting on the meal being shared at the table, you defeat one stumbling block to getting family time back.
Second, pick a game that either can be played in teams or can involve all that is equally conducive to eating dinner. We have found Scrabble, Clue, Monopoly, Sorry, and similar games to be very effective for this. One that is great done in teams, really forces teens to use their brains and is definitely fun and engaging is Trivial Pursuit.
Third, act as if there is no other option at dinner. Its really simple. Have the game you chose set up and ready at the table. Share the rules. Make teams. Then just start playing. It may go a little rough at first but give it time. Your teen will get into it. You will have, at least temporarily, your teen and family time back. It worked for our family and, in the end, we all had fun. By taking a chance and having game night over dinner, you may just end up capturing your teen for family time…and they will enjoy it!