My teen and I have a close relationship, but I wondered recently whether I appreciate it enough.
I planned a trip with dinner and brunch, a hotel stay, and a day of outlet shopping.
A clinical psychologist said one-on-one time is vital for discussing sensitive issues with kids.
My 13-year-old daughter, Kennedy, has been my sidekick since her birth. She's never been a "daddy's girl." As she's grown into one of the most incredible young women I know, she's remained close to my side.
We bond over the simplest things: Taylor Swift, good Starbucks drinks, mani-pedi dates, and Target runs. Talking to her feels easy, while it's much more difficult to get a word out of my 15-year-old son. After a lot of experimentation, I've started taking my son on trips to theme parks and watching horror films with him since we've discovered those are ways we like to bond.
I want to celebrate my strong bond with my daughter
Recently, I've realized I shouldn't take for granted how easy it is to bond with my daughter. Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist who works with families and adolescents, agreed, saying that whether you find it easy to chat with your kid, it's important to intentionally create one-on-one time with them.
"We make assumptions that we know what is going on in that child's life, but we shouldn't. Those assumptions can be costly," Greenberg said. "Kids need space and time alone with you to discuss more sensitive issues."
I planned an overnight girls' trip for some quality time
Since our small Florida town is close to Orlando, I planned an overnight trip for just the two of us. We stayed at one of our favorite Orlando hotels, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, and kicked off the night with dinner at the hotel bar.
A parenting pro tip I've learned while traveling with teenagers is that having a one-on-one dinner side by side at bar seating makes them chattier. I've asked my teens how they feel about this and learned they feel less put on the spot when sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with a parent.
Over a dinner of shared small plates, a glass of wine for me, and a virgin mojito for her, we chatted about everything from her favorite foods to her friends. Greenberg said these one-on-one conversations are key, regardless of how close you think you are with your child.
"Kids often tell me their parents think they know them when they really don't," she said. "It's yet another reason to devote equal time to all of the kids no matter what the quality of the relationship is with each child."
I've learned my daughter loves when I don't take myself too seriously
In our hotel room that night, my daughter asked if she could take a "0.5" of me. I had no idea what she was talking about, but she explained that these selfies were something she and her friends found hilarious. From what I can tell, it's a terribly angled close-up taken by switching your iPhone camera to an ultrawide camera lens and getting right in someone's face.
I obliged and loved that she collapsed into fits of laughter every time I let her take one. Weeks later, she still asks me to stop and pose for a "0.5" with her, and her friends tell her it's very cool that her mom is in on the trend. It's a great reminder that kids don't always see their parents cut loose. Letting her see that I don't take myself so seriously — and that I wouldn't be opposed to an unflattering selfie — was a parenting win for me.
I took my daughter on a shopping spree and watched her embrace her own style
The next day, we hit up the Orlando International Premium Outlets, a shopping venue in Orlando with more than 180 stores, including most of my daughter's favorites. I told her the day was all about her and that we could shop wherever she wanted. We went to stores including American Eagle, PacSun, and Converse. Watching her try on clothes and share what she did and didn't like was both enlightening and amusing.
My daughter has her own style, and in true teenage fashion, she hated just about everything I suggested. We did manage to agree on a love of oversize crewneck sweatshirts, which I took as a win.
While walking around the outlets, we sipped boba, shopped, and chatted easily about her life and relationships. Like sitting side-by-side at the bar, chatting with the added distraction of a shopping spree made the conversation flow easily.
Our mother-daughter night away was a huge success, and I'd do it again
Greenberg said it's important for parents not to "turn the easy kid into the invisible kid."
"Sometimes, easier kids start to get sad or mad if they feel they are not getting equal time," she said. "It can lead to surprising and unexpected acting out."
Weeks after my overnight trip with my daughter, I feel like the experience brought us even closer. Our conversations gave me more insight into her life and showed me areas where I could continue to check in with her to make sure she's doing OK with her personal goals, her friendships, and her interest in auditioning for upcoming neighborhood-theater productions.
The experience was a great reminder that it's equally as important to focus on one-on-one time with my "easy" kid as it is with my tight-lipped son. I learned more than I expected about her thoughts and personal life and had some great laughs with my girl that I wouldn't necessarily have had in a Target aisle or during a mani-pedi session.
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