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What Does Your Teen Enjoy? The Answer Might Surprise You

By Suzanna Smith,  PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida
Reviewed by Victor Harris, PhD,  Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida

What makes a teenager happy? For some, the first thing that comes to mind might be a new electronic device, or a day free of parents asking nosy questions. It may be a bit surprising to learn, then, that time with families is actually very important to adolescents’ overall well-being, and that time with fathers may be especially crucial.

Researchers writing in the Journal of Marriage and Family  used time-use diaries and surveys to study how over 200 teenagers spent their waking hours. They learned that eating together and spending leisure time together as a family both had noticeable positive effects on adolescents’ emotional well-being. Eating family meals with both parents was most beneficial, but it was noteworthy that fathers’ presence at family meals improved adolescents’ enjoyment of meal time, lowered their stress, and reduced their negative feelings. Spending leisure time with both parents also was important to teens’ happiness and enjoyment of such activities.

This was a small study, and its results might not apply to single parents or lower-income families. Even so, couples who are busy juggling work and family life may want to know that teens really can benefit from those shared family meals that are sometimes hard to come by. And while our schedules can make this difficult as well, try to spend time with your teen doing things you all enjoy. This could mean engaging in sports, games, or outdoor activities together, or something as simple as talking and watching TV with one another.

Work-life balance is an important part of the picture here for many of us. Policies that give parent-employees more control over their schedule can help give families more of the time they need to be together. Though the teen years can be challenging, the pay-off from connecting with your adolescent is likely to be great.

Further Reading

Tips for Communicating with Your Teen from

(Photo credit: teenagers by PetraCC license.)


Offer, S. (2013). Family time activities and adolescents’ emotional well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 75, 26-41.