Building strong social networks for teens provides a foundation for later success in life.
Homeschooling through high school has more ups and downs than a roller coaster. In these years, our teens seek a sense of identity and purpose. They want to try new things and experience ever-widening independence. Helping them practice independence, while you are around to gently guide them, is a healthy thing.
We all know teens have a gnawing desire to be around peers. They wonder how they measure up or fit in academically, socially, and physically. They want to know know they can lean on what they know about managing life and relationships without you there to oversee it all. Sometimes, they just want a break from family to figure out who they are and if they can stand on their own two feet!
Hormones and strong wills can test the best of us at this stage. I always felt as if we were revisiting the terrible two years when our children were developing independence. Keeping that comparison in mind helped me say yes to as many non-harmful things as I could.
Ask yourself, “How often do I say, ‘No,’ when my teen makes a request about social outings and events?”
If you are saying no more than yes, you may be poisoning your parent-child relationship. Unless they are asking to do something dangerous, work with your teen to turn as many ‘knee-jerk no’ answers into yes’s as you can.
It’s important to choose your battles wisely. As my wise husband once said:
Teen End Goals
When you are hyperventilating over the challenge in front of you, remember what your end goals are. When your parenting job is over, you want children who:
- Love God.
- Have strong character.
- Exhibit a strong work ethic.
- Maintain good relationships with friends and family.
- Are able to navigate the world with confidence and success.
Listening to their desires for social activity builds trust. Keep communication lines open by not criticizing their dreams and ideas, no matter how impractical they seem. Ask yourself how their request may be answered in a way that supports one of the five goals above.
Self-discovery is healthy when it’s allowed and encouraged within safe boundaries. Let them know you want them to succeed. If they know you won’t criticize them when they fail, they will feel safer coming to you when they do. And, they will.
Don’t fight their need for social activity because it is overwhelming or scary for you. Work with your teens to create safe and trustworthy options now, so they will know how to set good boundaries later when you are not there. With some creativity, you can tweak most any social experience into ones which will satisfy you both.
Ideas for building strong social networks for teens:
- Start a small Bible study group in your home and help your teen lead it.
- Sign teens up for an online class. This is a great option for interacting and relationship-building with students from all over the world!
- Don’t hover when friends are around. Get a basic feel for the group interactions, retreat to give some privacy, and trust your teen’s judgment.
- Host a Biology dissection group with the help of a knowledgeable friend.
- Be willing to drive a group of high schoolers to a field trip or movie once a month.
- Sign your teen up for a class at the local community college. They will become comfortable when taught by others, practice social engagement during class, and earn dual credits.
- Encourage a new independent interest: horseback riding, ballet, debate team.
- Help them find a job and apply the experience towards a work study credit.
- Start a Literature co-op in your home. Go on related field trips, cook literature-themed foods, and host movie nights!
- Sign them up for a creative writing class that inspires self-expression and encourages self-publishing. Young writers can make an income!
- Help teens create service projects and invite others to participate.
- Play a team sport or join a tennis club.
- Do some things just for fun like ice skating, roller skating, geo-caching, or bowling to burn up energy.
- Join a choir, band, or theatre group.
- Host an art group and explore different art mediums like water color, art journaling, or stamping. Take the group to an art museum or art show.
- Make home movies, music videos, or documentaries.
- Host a teen talent night at your house or church.
- Host a makeover and snack night with the girls.
- Encourage them to be a summer camp counselor.
- Start a photo club and host a photo scavenger hunt.
If you feel ill-equipped for building strong social networks for teens in your home, go over our list with your teen. Ask which ideas they like and brainstorm more. Guarantee ya, they’ll have some! Then, network with other parents to help build strong social networks for your teens and theirs. All of you will be giving your teens an enormous gift that will last a life time.
This article was originally published on our Homeschool Launch Blog.
Here is another great article on teenagers, “We’re Raising Grown Ups“.
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