If you have one or more teens in the house, you probably know that it can be hard to love them at times. REALLY. HARD. Those years are full of so many changes both for your teen AND you. Things aren’t nearly as simple as they used to be. Their hormones are changing at warp speed, they desperately need to become their own person, and they have no idea what that is supposed to look like. And neither do we.
We currently have 4 teens (along with 2 married daughters and 2 younger children). I have often felt like I am walking through a maze with a blindfold on trying to figure out how to get them to adulthood with our relationship intact. They will probably always love me, but I really want them to LIKE me by the time they become adults. I have blown it more times than you can imagine, and somehow I still have a good relationship with all of them.
But it takes work. It means being intentional. It means loving them when they are the hardest to love. Here are a few ideas on how to LOVE your teen:
Listen: Be available to talk when they need to. My experience is that they usually want to talk about the time you are ready to FALL into bed at the end of an exhausting day. I have often resisted the urge to point them to the door, but honestly, I’ve never regretted taking the time to listen. I don’t know that the glimpses into the secret places of their hearts would have happened at any other time.
Offer support: It’s super easy to keep parenting them like they are in elementary school, telling them what to do instead of asking questions without judgment. Even offer to DO something to help. This helps them know that you are on their side. When they feel supported, they are encouraged to come to their own conclusions about things. It’s crucial that they learn to work things out for themselves and in this type of conversation, you often have the opportunity to help direct them. It’s also more likely that they will come to you for guidance more often.
Validate: It’s really important that our teens know their feelings are valid. The truth is that no one can tell someone else how to feel. So when our kids are dealing with feelings of disappointment, frustration or anger, we need to give them validation by empathizing with them. I don’t mean that they can act any way they want to, don’t get me wrong. That part does need to be kept within boundaries. But it’s usually best to wait for their emotions to diminish before problem solving or discussing possible solutions to the deeper issues.
Encourage: It’s doubtful that you could give your teen TOO much encouragement. They are already dealing with loads of self-doubt. Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager? It’s crazy HARD! What are some of the ways you would have liked to be encouraged? Try some of those out and see what happens. I recently emailed letters of encouragement to each of our teens. I took my time and was thoughtful in what I wrote to them. They were thrilled!
Don’t forget to ENJOY your teen. It can seem like conflict is endless at times, so it’s that much more important that we have FUN with them whenever we can.
Lastly, don’t think for one minute that you can pull this off without God’s help. I’ve never felt so needy as I have in parenting teens and I’ve never felt God’s presence so strongly. I’ve seen Him answer VERY specific prayers for the hearts of our teens over and over again, and I’ve had the privilege of watching our teens grown into amazing, confident, God loving adults.
Growing great kids is NOT for the faint-hearted, so be brave and be encouraged! It’s a worthwhile investment!