This Mini Basketball Hoop Is the Secret to Bonding with My Tween

published Mar 16, 2023
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Father with daughter eating a piece of cake in kitchen at home
Credit: Oliver Rossi/Getty Images

My 12-year-old son isn’t a fan of small talk. We both prefer silence over chatter, and diving into weighty world topics over general musings about our respective days. Couple these facts with him being a tween (who, by their very nature, don’t like superfluous chitchat), and it can be difficult getting him to open up about what’s going on in his life. I didn’t want to give up when my attempts to talk to my kid were met with the monosyllabic replies every parent dreads, so I made it my mission to find a lighthearted way to hang out together, with the hope that conversation would ensue.

For kids these days, surviving a day of middle school can feel like a Herculean feat. By the time my son gets home he’s frankly spent and craves solitude to recharge before heading off to soccer practice until the late evening. Some nights it’s past 10 p.m. before he’s ready for bed … and by that time we haven’t had much time to connect. 

I knew I needed to make those last minutes we have together before lights-out really shine. I figured a low-key activity would be ideal so late at night, so we started with card games, board games, and inventing new secret handshakes — but nothing quite did the trick to unleash free-flowing conversation until I hung this mini basketball hoop on the inside of his bedroom door. Who knew a small hoop would end up being the portal to conversations we may never have had? 

I suspected we’d have fun playing indoor basketball together, but I was so happy to discover that the activity would also bridge the gap between us. Closing the door to the outside world and creating a cozy, home-court advantage for connecting with my son has been a game-changer. 

Now, every night at day’s end, we shoot hoops and shoot the breeze between bouts of whisper cheering like a packed stadium for the shots we make, or belly laughing over our air balls. For added excitement, the mini basketball hoop’s shatterproof backboard even boasts a breakaway rim mounted on a spring to make dunking a reality for “short kings,” as my son (who’s waiting on a growth spurt) refers to himself. 

I know sometimes tweens and teens are uncomfortable having face-to-face, sit-down conversations with their parents, and playing a no-pressure game together really helps my kid open up about what’s going on in his life without any awkwardness or being put on the spot. Between layups and trick shots he shares funny anecdotes about what happened at school, tells the latest joke he heard, relays his worries about tomorrow’s math test, and even asks for my advice about tricky peer relations.

Our bedtime routine used to be filled with rubber duckies and nursery rhymes, but now it’s all about a rubber basketball and victory chants. I’m so grateful to have discovered this slam dunk for connecting with my tween at an age and stage where fostering open communication is so vital.

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