A common myth I often hear about parenting is that the teen years are REALLY hard, and you probably won’t stay connected to your teen. Many parents believe it is normal for teens to rebel and pull away from their parents.
As a mom of eight kids, I would agree that parenting teens CAN be hard. However, you don’t need to buy into the myth that you should just expect your kids to rebel and pull away from you.
Because teens are no longer children and are becoming adults, it IS normal for them to want a little more independence. That doesn’t mean that you still can’t connect with them though. In fact, the most important thing you can do while parenting your teens is focus on keeping their hearts. Keeping those heart ties strong means having the opportunity to continue to pour into them, teach them your values, and influence them.
Here are a few ways to stay connected to your teen:
Our teens need us to be available to listen to them, to encourage them when they need it, and to support them. They are going through a lot of changes in their bodies, their hormones are changing, and they may be having a hard time with it all. We need to be willing to stop whatever we are doing and be available whenever they need us.
I found that my teens often needed to talk late in the evening when the younger kids were in bed. This was a time when I usually tried to get work done, but I reminded myself that I was blessed to have teens who wanted to talk to me about anything and everything, at any and all times. The work could wait.
Make them feel it is safe to share their heart with you
It is SO easy to immediately respond negatively or give correction when your teens share their feelings with you. You may think what they are dreaming about doing or getting isn’t wise.
However, if you say something to them about it being silly or a waste of time/money, it conveys a lack of acceptance to them. Bite your tongue if you need to, but don’t be negative.
They have opened their heart to you and if you are critical, they will then hesitate to share their thoughts with you in the future.
Communicate acceptance to them
It is vital to communicate acceptance to our teens. They should never feel they need to change in order for us to “like them” or accept them.
If they fail to find that acceptance from us, they are going to take it from the first person or group that offers it to them. At that point, the connection to us is weakened and replaced with a connection to the person who DOES accept them.
Not showing acceptance is one of the quickest things that push our kids away from us.
Hug them every day
Our kids never get too old to need hugs and physical affection. Sometimes as they start growing and changing, it seems a little awkward. But they still need it!
That little act shows you love them and will go a long way towards keeping the relationship strong.
Have fun together
One of the things I remember most about my mom is how much fun she was. She laughed and didn’t hesitate to be silly when we were doing things together.
Laughing together created a bond. (Who wants to spend time with someone who is always grumpy?!)
Listen to more than their words
Sometimes we hear what they are saying, but we don’t listen for the emotions those words are showing. Sometimes their words may show hurt, or worry. We need to listen and acknowledge their emotions, not just their words. As we convey understanding while listening, they feel loved, knowing that their feelings matter to us.
Show interest in the things that interest and excite them
This is one of the best ways to get your teens talking to you! Ask them questions about those things that interest them, and get excited about learning more about it.
There was a time when I wanted to improve a relationship with a lady at church. She was kind of short with people, and I never felt like I could really talk to her. One day however I found the key — I asked her about her grandkids! She opened up to me like she never had before, and talked and laughed like we had been best friends forever.
It’s the same way with our kids! Ask them about the things that are important to them, and then prepare to listen. They are excited about it, so you should be too.
Have a special activity together each week
This can be as simple as watching a movie together, going out for an ice cream cone, or just talking over a cup of hot chocolate. The activity isn’t as important as the fact that you are choosing to spend time with them. This speaks volumes to your teens and tells them you enjoy being with them.
Keeping a strong connection with your teen takes times and effort, but it is well worth it!
Kathie Morrissey is the mother of 8 children, wife to Alan for 38 years, and a committed homeschooling mom of 31 years. She is the founder of The Character Corner, where she loves to blog about parenting, family life, homeschooling, and life in general. Kathie is a popular speaker at homeschool conventions and support groups, as well as ladies retreats. Her heart’s desire is to help and encourage parents to be purposeful in raising Godly children with strong Christian character, and a heart for God.