07/14/2014 01:40 pm ET Updated Sep 13, 2014

Why You Must Play With Your Teens

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I'm on a mission to spill some secrets today and I'm going to risk my own relationship with my 20-something-year-old in the process. You see, I'm all about helping you on your journey to raise your teens well. I guess I should be honest and tell you that I did check with my daughter before I wrote this and she said that she wouldn't be too upset if I shared some secrets. She just asked me to say that I am talking about my other daughter. The problem is that she is my only daughter. So, here goes.

You talk to me all the time about how to get your teens motivated, how to get them to hang with the right kids and you especially like to ask about your teens and social media. In fact, that last issue is the hottest topic lately. How much screen time should you allow? Can I check my teen's texts? And, a real favorite: "Will my kid be out of the social loop if I limit their texting, Facebook, Instagram time etc.?" These are all great questions and I love them, but we are forgetting about a very essential part of our teens' lives.

We forget to teach our kids about the importance of playing. In fact, during our adulthood many of us become so serious that we give our kids the impression that there is no room for play and that play is only for little kids. I say not so fast, parents. There is a tremendous benefit to teaching our kids to play, to laugh and to be silly. Parents need to be modeling a bit of this and playing with their teens -- not all the time, but some of the time.

Let me share a little and please darling daughter, don't disown me. When my daughter was a teen, we used to do this thing that we called "the happy dance." When we felt excited about something, we would get silly and just dance. We were the only two around. Please keep in mind that one does not discuss such private behaviors around your teens' peers. My teen and I also used to play a game that we called "tent" when there was a storm. We would pretend that we were seeking shelter from the storm under blankets. There was a method to my silliness here. I wanted my daughter to know that play is not just for kids, but is instead for everyone at all ages.

Play is important because:

1. It reduces stress.

2. It gives everyone a break from the usual daily routine.

3. It fosters creativity.

4. It makes life fun and fun is oh so important.


5. Did I mention that it creates a magical bond?

I am not suggesting that you make a u-turn and start being your teen's friend. I'm suggesting instead that you remember to teach your child about the importance of work, the importance of love and the importance of play. If we have all of those ingredients in our lives then we are much more likely to make it through the day unscathed. So parents, "teach your children well."

Good luck.