Making the Most of the Teen Years Before They Leave Home

I was struck with the realization that my only child is now a high schooler. While it might sound cliché it happened so fast. It seems like we just started this homeschooling expedition just a couple of years ago. But it’s been 9 full years now as we begin his 9th-grade year. The saying, “the days are long but the years are short” is so accurate. I’m just starting to grasp how short. There are just a few years remaining and the empty nest will be coming before I know it. I want to be sure I’m making the most out of these teen years.

Making the Most of the Teen Years Before They Leave Home

Perhaps you are in the same situation. You are coming to know that you have five years or less to teach your children what they need to know before they leave home. There may only be a couple of years to ensure they are prepared to be adults. You may find that they are entering dual enrollment and you’ll blink and suddenly they are all grown up.

Before they do it’s time, mom, to make sure you are making the most of these final years in the safety of your own nest. Set some goals as a family. Work with your spouse to ensure that you are dedicating time to meet those goals.

Family Time During the Teen Years

Our teens are much more independent than when they were toddlers. This might mean that you find yourself dropping them off for activities to go and do on their own. While that’s a good way for them to learn to navigate the world outside of your watchful eye it also means your family time is reduced quite significantly.

Which means you need to be purposeful in how you foster time to bond. It might mean implementing some new family rules. Or, it could be that you institute a mandatory family dinner time for a certain number of nights. Think carefully about what you want to accomplish and work WITH your teens to figure out ways to make the most of the time you are together.

Ideas to Foster Family Bonding Time During the Teen Years

  • No Cell Phone Zones
    Cell phones seem to be glued to the hands of our teens. But, are we modeling that? What I mean is, are we as parents modeling the cell phone culture? Do you always have to check your social media on your cell? Are you consistently jumping whenever your phone pings?
    To bond with your teens set up some no cell phone zones.

    • In the car: This is a great place for you to have a conversation with your teen. Maybe it’s catching up after a football game, or checking in with them while running errands. Whatever the conversation ends up being, you are modeling two good behaviors. 1- Not using your cell while driving, ahem. And 2- you’ll be helping them to build conversational skills.
    • At the dinner table: This should be a time for families to reconnect. I often print out conversation starters such as these Would you Rather prompts.
    • Family game night: When you gather for games, turn off those phones. It might just be a couple of hours but those hours are precious and if you, or they, are more focused on phones rather than each other, you’ll be missing out on some awesome memories and miss making the most of your time together.
  • Speaking of game night.

I’m a firm believer in having at least one family game night each month. As your teens get older those game nights might look different. In fact, they probably should. Classic games always have a place around the family table. Whether it’s Scrabble, or Monopoly, or other classic games they can bring laughter and build memories for the entire family. Since they are timeless, teens won’t care that they are the same games that parents played as kids.

But,  you may want to switch it up from time to time. Think outside the game box and introduce your teens to your favorite card games. I remember Spades, and Hearts from my high school and college days. But there are many others.

Also, meet them where they are. Our teens love video games. Learn how to play their favorite game. At least give it a try. They may laugh at you the entire time you are trying to build your first hut in Minecraft, but, you’ll be laughing together and that’s the important thing.

  • Work Together
    Coming together for a common purpose helps your teens develop many skills. First, you are teaching them how to work cooperatively. Second, you’ll find that as you work you’ll be forming bonds. Work doesn’t always have to be grungy chores. Work can be in the form of a variety of projects.

    • Service Projects
      Working together to support the needs of others helps teens to think outside of themselves. Let them see how blessed they are by serving someone else.
    • Family Research
      Do a genealogy project together. It’s never been easier than it is now with internet tools to research one’s own ancestry. Diving into your family history together helps your teens to know where they come from and can be an exciting treasure hunt you do together.
    • Go Geocaching
      Download the free app. Do a small amount of research, and then get out there and start treasure hunting.
    • Start an encouraging card ministry.
      Look around you, there are always people in need of encouragement. Perhaps it’s the clerk in the grocery store, or the lady behind the counter at the license bureau. Once you open your eyes to people who are all around who seldom get thanked for their service you’ll be surprised at how meaningful running errands with your teens becomes.
    • Grow a Garden
      Even if it’s just a small flower bed in the back yard, managing a garden from tilling, to harvest takes time. Working together to accomplish this brings together both planning, work, and satisfaction when seeing the fruit of your labor. Doing it together makes the fruit all the sweeter.
    • Remodel the kid’s bedroom into a teen bedroom.
      Let her pick out a paint color, bedding or accessories to make her room her own. Teach her the skills needed to paint a room, change the sheets or add fund details to the walls. Guys may not be as interested in this as teen girls are. However, I’m guessing he’s going to reach an age where he’s ready to move past the baseball wall paper and have a more grown up feel to his room as well.

Get even more Family Bonding Ideas

10 Family Bonding Time Ideas

Teaching Life Skills in the Teen Years

Let’s face it, our teens are going to be adults faster than we can imagine. They are going to need to know how to manage their own lives. From cooking to laundry, and utilizing community services to applying for and maintaining a job to household management. It’s a lot! And, the earlier you begin to ensure your teens are ready for those quickly coming adult years the more likely you’ll be successful in preparing them.

Because I’m homeschooling a gifted teen who struggles with emotional intensity, and what to many are simple tasks can be more difficult for the way his mind works. Therefore, I wrote a series, Practical Life Skills for Gifted Teens, however, these really are life skills for any teen.  You’ll find links to the entire series below.

Cooking 101

Finance Management

Household Management 

Personal Care Skills

On the Job Front

Be sure to see also these life skills for the teen blog posts from some of my friends.

It’s your turn. Tell us what ways you are making the most of teen years before your children are ready to leave the nest.


About the author

Renée Brown is a homeschooling mom to her advanced learning son, blogger, author, and she works online as a virtual assistant. She writes regularly on her blog about homeschooling an only child gifted learner, home and family life, developing and strengthening Christian marriages, and encouragement for living a Christian life.

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