Gary Burns, the creator of "Communication," a board game for busy fathers and daughters, says, "Connecting with your children in a unique way is what’s really important." However, in the age of computers, video games and hectic schedules, many families aren’t connecting.

Gary – a husband and father of two girls – kept busy with business trips and a calendar full of appointments. These days, he makes time for his family (especially his teen daughters) and offers parents practical tips to do the same.

Make the time

"Time is crucial," Gary says. To be there for his daughters, Gary often clears a section of his schedule. He holds his girls responsible to do the same but allows them freedom to be with their friends, too.

In order to make sure they connect, he might ask, "When can we get together this weekend?" If they’re busy Saturday, he says, "How about Sunday afternoon?" If their friends want to hang out, too, he’s all for it – the more the merrier.

Talk and listen

"Talking is great," Gary says, "but don’t forget to listen." Many times he’s been astonished by what his daughters have said. "Sometimes they’re witty; other times they’re heartbroken. Most of the time, they just want to be heard."

Whenever they talk, he makes direct eye contact and concentrates on what they have to say. Instead of solving their problems for them, he’ll ask things like: "And what do you think you should do in this situation?"

Give respect

"If you want respect, make sure you’re giving it," Gary says. Sometimes his daughters see things differently than he does, but he still respects their views and allows room for expression.

He also believes that parents who admit when they’re wrong will open a door for not only respect but also honesty.

Learn to laugh

"Learn to laugh," Gary says. "Instead of getting upset about everything, learn to make light of the less important things. You’ll be amazed how fun life is and how close you and your teens become."

From Focus on Your Child’s Teen Phases, December 2006. Published by Focus on the Family. © 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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