Dr. Courtney Knapp

Child & Adolescent Psychologist Serving Orange County, California

Special Time with Teens


I often teach parents of young children about “special time” and advise parents to carve out about twenty minutes a day to play with their child. During this time the child is in charge and I will show parents how to make special time with their child an important way to reduce conflict between them. That is why I loved this article about how to continue “special time” with teens.

It seems there are a lot of resources for how to parent younger children but when it comes to teens (who are still children) there are not as many materials available. I think this is due in part to our society mistakenly viewing teens as more capable of adult sense than they really are. Something I have seen several times in regards to parenting teens is that it is important for parents to be the initiator of connection and to make a conscious effort to connect with their teen. This is important because developmentally teens are drawn to peer interaction but it is important not to forget that they are also needing parent time. Because it may be harder for a teen to express this need than his or her need for time with friends it is crucial that parents reach out. The author states it may have to be a subtle “just hanging out” kind of feel as teens may be less open to this special time than a young child would be. The article discusses some guidelines for “special time” with a teen including discussion of expectations and just as with a younger child much of the time should be lead by the teen not the parent (for example don’t use the time to discuss worries about grades).

Before beginning special time with a teen, the article notes that it may be important for a parent to have a “listening partner”. This is someone the parent can vent to about his or her own feelings regarding the relationship with the teen and even his or her own memories of being a teen. As the adult, having a safe place to be heard and understood increases the likelihood one can then do this for his or her child. So while special time with a teen versus a young child looks different the basic concept is still the same. Special time is an opportunity to connect with your child in a way that is different from the rest of the interactions you have with him or her. What makes special time different is that the child is in charge and the parent tries to be free of judgement and simply offer undivided attention and observation. This is easier said than done but in time and with practice it is possible to build these moments with children.

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