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Monthly Projects for a Fun Year of Connecting With Your Teen

JANUARY:  Make over your teen’s room.  The fundamental benefit of this little project is that it requires starting with a CLEAN room.  Get your teen interested in a new color scheme for her walls or comforter.  Your assistance might be needed in the painting phase, but the project can’t even start until she cleans the dust bunnies out from under her bed.  The final result doesn’t have to be a costly remodel.  Since most teens highly value their personal spaces, a bit of freshening up can go a long way.

FEBRUARY:  Celebrate Valentine’s Day with your teen.  Get festive by making and decorating heart-shaped sugar cookies.  Add a neighborly twist by preparing a double or triple batch of dough, refrigerating several small batches in parchment paper.   The smaller batches can then be shared with neighbors—providing your friends with an easy cookie day, without all the hassle of mixing up the dough themselves.  They can focus on the fun part:  frosting and decorating!

MARCH:  “Date” your teen.  Okay, I know that gives everyone an immediate “EEEEEWWW!”  Obviously, we’re not talking about romantic dating, so here’s what we're getting at.  Research shows that teens are highly influenced by their opposite gender parent.   Make some quality one-on-one time with your son or daughter this month.  Mom, train to run a 5K with your son this spring.  Dad, now is your chance to take your daughter out to a nice restaurant and set an example of proper male manners.   This outing could also be as simple as a trip to the local coffee shop for an hour of caffeine and conversation.  The possibilities are endless.

APRIL:  Clean a closet.  Most teenagers in 2009 have far more stuff than they actually need.  So simplify.  And recycle:  As your teen purges her space, make a pile for resale.  Trendy, name-brand clothing in excellent condition can snag some extra spending cash at a resale or consignment shop.  Check for locally-owned businesses in your area or for one of the resale franchises that are sprouting up across the country.

MAY:  Get on your teen’s level.  Play the wii with him.  Challenge him to a rousing game of Mario Kart.  You might find there is a REASON he spends all his time hooked up to those video games—they are FUN!  Does your teen spend hours on MySpace or Facebook?  Ask her to help you set one up for yourself.  This will help you better understand what it is your daughter does online all evening, and it can even get you in touch with some long lost friends at the same time.  It is encouraging for teens to have an adult learning from them for a change.  Give them a chance to show you something new.

JUNE:  Make arrangements for grandparent time.  During your teen’s summer vacation, carve out some time for her to spend exclusively with her grandparents.   Most likely, grandparents will simply like to have one on one time with your teen, but they can also be great resources for new skills or interests, too.  

JULY: Build a website.  Okay, this is not for the faint of heart.  But a simple website seminar can be a great computer confidence builder.  A class is probably available through your school’s community education program or through an area math and science center.  Sign your teen up for a class, and then set him free to create his own site.   Check in on the progress and insist on seeing a draft before your teen sends the site live.  

AUGUST:  Take your kid to the movies.  Summer is the time for big movie releases, so odds are good you can find a flick that you and your teen can agree on.   Go to a show that you both find appealing, even if it requires a compromise on your part.  After the movie, take a coffee break together and share your opinions on the film.  No matter what the topic, you and your teenager will probably discover some common feelings, and this shared experience is a great conversation starter.

SEPTEMBER:  Pick apples.  Or go to a farmer’s market.  We have a family tradition of apple picking, so fall is just not complete without this outing.  Choose a crisp, sunny day and explore what your local farm stands have to offer.  This is also a great way to meet some of your neighbors and enjoy some wonderful, organic, local produce.

OCTOBER:  Take a road trip!  Take your teen to a college sporting event that interests her.  In my house, this would no doubt need to happen during women’s volleyball season.  Witnessing the level of play at college level will do two things for your teen:  give her something to strive for on the court, and provide a visual for exactly what happens after high school—COLLEGE.  It’s never too early to encourage higher education.  Attend multiple games at multiple schools.  Give your teen lots of options.  Maybe one of these college trips will lead her to the campus where she will ultimately spend four (or more) years.

NOVEMBER:  Get ready for Thanksgiving by creating natural wreaths and centerpieces with your teen.  Give her the freedom to choose a décor color palate or design, and then assist by providing appropriate materials for implementation.  When arranged artfully in a stunning container, fresh fruits or vegetables make gorgeous decorations.  Purchase cut flowers to add to these containers and other vases, mixed with foliage you can harvest from your own backyard.  Tie your teens decorating scheme together by repeating the centerpieces in a smaller scale throughout your home, and coordinating napkins or tableware.

DECEMBER:  Introduce your teen to the simple joy of home cooking.  The holidays are a great time to dust off your family cookie or candy recipes and encourage your teen to choose a few that sound yummy to her.   Ah…quality time!

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