Ways to connect offline with your teen

Bend Health
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If you have a teenager in 2024, there’s a good chance that they have a device that they never seem to want to put down. It isn’t your fault — social media and video games are designed to be highly engaging and can be addictive.

But there are some ways that you can encourage healthier habits surrounding tech and make time for connection offline. You may even find that these screen-free moments give your whole family a mental health boost.

Here are our expert's top ways to connect with your teen offline: 

  • Prioritize family meals. First and foremost, take steps towards making family meals a priority. This doesn’t mean every meal must be a grand affair, but strive to have at least one meal a day, perhaps dinner or breakfast, where the family gathers without fail. Things will come up, but making an effort to protect this time and space will let others in your family know that it is important for your household.
  • Encourage their IRL hobbies or activities. Encourage your teen to find a class, club, or activity that interests them. Make time to get outside as a family by planning a picnic, a hike, or a trip to the beach, and plan “no screen” experiences as much as possible.
  • Start a tradition. Perhaps it’s a family game night, a nature hike, or a monthly trip to go thrift shopping at your teen’s favorite stores. Creating small screen-free moments that everyone looks forward to can help you connect with your teen on a regular basis.
  • Cook together. Involve everyone in the meal preparation process. Use the prep time as a chance to chat, teach, and learn from one another. You can even ask your teens to pick out a recipe so that they feel like their opinion matters when it comes to mealtime.
  • Don’t invite phones to dinner. Encourage your family to keep their devices away from the dinner table and use this time to connect without distractions. To get the conversation flowing, try playing conversation games such as "Two Truths and a Lie" or "Would You Rather?".
  • Walk it out. Walks are a great way to get teens to open up about whatever is going on with them, so try incorporating one into your routine. It’s okay if you walk in silence for a bit. By just holding space for your teen away from screens, you are letting them know you’ve got their back when they want to talk. Plus, being in nature can lower stress levels and bring more calm into your days.
  • Schedule tech breaks. Is there one chunk of time that you can ask everyone in the family to unplug for a few hours? Maybe it’s taking Friday night as a “Tech Shabbat” so that you can all play games together, or maybe it’s Sunday morning so you can all take a nature walk together. Make it a family tradition and really relish the time together doing things you love. Notice how you all feel afterward and celebrate tapping into a little mindfulness together! 

If you find your family is struggling to connect without access to technology, a mental health coach or therapist can be a great resource. By working with a mental health professional, your teen can learn to connect with the emotions that tech use (and reducing tech use)  brings up, set goals to improve their screen time, and learn tools to help them fully experience life offline.  

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