Part of your development as a teen right now is learning how to make your own social circle. Beyond your parents and whoever they pick for your play dates, beyond your siblings, maybe even beyond your cousins, this is the time in your life to start exploring the concept of “chosen family.” Selecting friends and maintaining those relationships – or learning how to let them go – is part of growing up. Your friends are an important part of your transition from childhood to adulthood.
Yet, it’s important to keep your family close by. You may not feel like their little child anymore (and you aren’t), but that doesn’t mean you don’t still need them.
SHARE A MEAL
No matter how busy you are, everyone needs to eat. While you probably have lunch at school most days, there’s still breakfast and dinner to consider. And sure, mornings are probably hectic in your home. Maybe you’re lucky if you manage to grab breakfast at all! (You should. Breakfast is important for mental and physical health in the day ahead.)
But what about dinner? Study after study shows that family dinners are important for growing kids and teens. Sitting down to a meal with your parents and siblings helps you perform better in school, maintain better physical health, and can build your self-esteem at a time in your life when you probably need it most.
Keep in mind that dinner doesn’t have to be a fancy 3-course affair. The point is not the food – it’s the company. You might even enjoy helping prepare a dish or two! Don’t just sit at the table sulking, either. Talk about your day and ask your family how theirs went. Let this be a time when you simply enjoy being with the people who know you best.
JUST 15 MINUTES
We know that time is at a premium for you, but we’re certain even you – the fabulous and busy young entrepreneur – can find 15 minutes in your day for your family. Take a few minutes off social media scrolling. Save those text responses for later. Turn off that YouTube video. Add it all up together and you have 15 solid minutes to spend with your family.
There will be few times in your life when you’ll experience the nurturing, unconditional love of a parent. Enjoy it now, before you head off to college and have to live with a dormmate who might not be into giving warm, lingering hugs and constant reassurance that you are wonderful.
Even if you can’t give your family 15 minutes a day, try to schedule it a few times a week. What you do during those 15 minutes is up in the air: play a game, learn something new, or go for a walk. Sit and talk. This is about quality, not quantity. After a while, you might find yourself feeling calmer overall.
PLAN A TRIP
Whether your family loves camping, big cities, new countries, Disney World, or long road trips, nothing brings people together like a vacation. Now that you’re older, ask your parents if you can help them plan a family trip. The trip can be as big as spending a summer abroad, or as little as a day trip 2-hours away. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you can find ways to help.
- Create a list of sights to see
- Make up a scavenger hunt for your siblings
- Research new foods to try (what’s the local specialty?)
- Learn the history of where you’re going
- Collect addresses of friends and family for sending postcards
- Print out maps and itineraries in case you all wind up in a cell phone dead zone
When everyone pitches in, the trip becomes more fun. Having a say will give you a chance to hone those all-important leadership skills that all young entrepreneurs need.
ATTEND AN EVENT
Attending an event together is a wonderful way to connect with your family – and for them to connect with you. That is, the new you who is just starting to head out into the world on your own. Have you recently tried a new sport? Ask your family if they’d like to attend a game with you. No professional teams around? Check the local college or minor-league team. (Those are usually cheaper and more fun, anyway.)
Invite your family into this new part of your life. Give them the chance to see how much it excites you. Show off all you’ve learned and let them be impressed.
Alternatively, ask your parents what they like and can teach you about it. We’re not saying you have to attend a knitting circle or coin collecting club meeting. But you might ask to learn some basic knitting and go with your parent to a craft store to pick out materials. Or join your parent at a coin show and see what the fuss is all about. At worst, you lose a few hours of your entire life. At best you gain a new interest for yourself and a stronger connection with your parents!
DON’T NEGLECT YOUR SIBLINGS
Friends will inevitably come and go in your life, but siblings are forever. Who else will be there to validate your memories as you grow up? Who else knows exactly how cringe your uncle can be?
If your siblings are older, ask them what they wish they’d done differently at your age. They are closer to where you’ll be very soon and have a fresher perspective. If your siblings are younger, take the time to give them your attention. Even if they don’t always express it, they probably idolize you.
When possible, try to have some sibling time that’s just for you. No parents, no friends, no other adults. Stay in the house and play cards together. Or make a video. Do you drive? Take your younger sibling(s) out for ice cream one night. Don’t drive? Go camping in the backyard. We promise that everyone involved will gain valuable self-esteem and confidence from these interactions.
We can’t choose our family. But we can certainly make the most of the time we have with them.
The Kantner Foundation awards college scholarships to young entrepreneurs in Florida. Click here to learn more and apply.