Dearest parents of teenagers:
Let’s begin with a big deep breath, shall we?
(I sensed we needed that.) (Or was it just me?)
I hear from a lot of you, and I know it isn’t always easy…Your teens may do everything in their power to make you believe that they do not want/need/enjoy you much at all these days. Your teen may pull away, push away, or just walk away. I mean, it’s not always that bad (I am happy to say that I have two very respectful teens…and I’m holding on to hope that they’ll stay that way) but even the most well-mannered teen will occasionally give off the air of, “I’m doing ok, thanksanywaysmom.”
But parents: Don’t let them fool you. Your teens need you as much as ever right now. Yes, they appreciate a bit more space these days, and your ability to accept the fact that they’re not five anymore means a lot. And it’s true, they might be pretty sure that they’re smarter than you (and if they’re like my teens they might be right.) But they do need you. They still love you. And deep down, they still want to be close to you.
So our job now is to do our best to reach them where they are, with love and support. To move in close…(but not too close! “Really mom!?!?”) and at the end of the day…
To be the kind of parents your kid quietly thanks God for.
Here are eight simple things that your teenager is sure to appreciate, (even if they won’t admit it until they are thirty-five.)
1. Late night chats. If you “happen” to stay up late at night once in a while, your teen is likely to not only be awake, but willing to talk to you. (Like with words and everything.) Keep it cool, folks, and for goodness sakes don’t dive in too far too fast. (it’s an art form…) Try to act casual as you plop down on their bed while they put their things away, or make them a cup of hot chocolate and just sit at the counter next to them. At first they might act a little bit annoyed, but play your cards right and they might just start to open up a bit. In fact, sometimes there are things teens actually want to talk about, but can’t find the right time for in the busyness of the day. Regardless, they’ll appreciate knowing you’re there without an agenda, and that you’re available if they need you. Then, (this is key—) cheerfully say goodnight and leave the kid alone.
2. All of the food. Teenagers may appreciate nothing more than a fully stocked kitchen. And they really really love it when you actually make the food for them. I mean, I’m all for self-sufficiency and letting teens help themselves (Because really: They are capable now, and how many millions of years did we have to do every…single…thing…for them?) But if your goal is to score points, then go big, Mom. There isn’t a teenager in the world that won’t smile at a stack of piping hot pancakes waiting for them first thing in the morning. A gallon of ice cream…a loaf of buttery garlic bread…This stuff is the love language of teenagers! Feed them the food. Then feed their friends. You will be appreciated.
3. A back scratch/shoulder rub. Sure, your teen might be pulling away from you physically, and even the cuddliest of toddlers eventually grow up. And that’s normal, (even if it
shatters our heart is a little hard.). But it doesn’t have to be over yet. Just when you think you’ve lost all physical connection…Enter the scene: Homework back scratches, or after practice shoulder rub. While your teen is reading a book or hunkered down over the computer, offer a little back scratch or shoulder rub and try as they might, they won’t even be able to utter the word NO. Before you know it they’ll begin the nightly habit of slouching down next to you on the couch with their shirt pulled up, saying “I love you Mom.”
4. A kind note. Parents: We have a lot of thoughts. Emotions….Sentiments for our teens. And sometimes these thoughts come to us in the middle of the night (amiright?) and sometimes they hit us at other weird times. I can’t explain these things you guys, I just know they happen. And as much as we’d love to pour out our hearts in a bunch of words to our teens, it usually just isn’t the right time. So try writing some notes. Don’t make it an exhaustive letter about every feeling (memory from their infancy…hopes for their future–) those things have their place but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Simply name a thing or two you love about them. Give them an inspirational quote or a Bible verse that might encourage them. A note slipped onto your teenagers pillow (or into their backpack if you’re really slick) will encourage them more than you know.
(and it will quite possibly travel the miles with them in years to come.)
5. Family Time. Ask your teen to skip a night out with friends to hang out with Mom and Dad once in a while. I know that some of you are already shaking your head “no way” at this one, but hear me out: Your teen wants time with you! Sometimes teenagers feel like they have to do everything the other kids do. And when Mom and Dad say yes to everything, they feel even more pressure to do it all. So sometimes ask them to stay with you instead. They might initially argue about it, but deep down, they are often relieved. Your invitation to do a family game night, dinner out, or just cruise and watch Netflix may be just what you’re teen really needs. (Even if they don’t admit it for a few more years.)
6. Your advice. Your teenager may act like they’ve got it all figured out. Some people think teens only listen to their peers, but that isn’t true. Teenagers DO want to hear what their parents think of things. Of course there is a right and wrong way to offer them your wealth of wisdom and life experience, but if you do it right, they’re most likely going to listen. And they’ll remember what you say. Keep it short and sweet. Don’t lecture. But offer your sincere advice in a loving way and they will be listening.
7. Your (genuine) interest. Your teen will appreciate it if you take the time to figure out what they’re interested in, and show a little interest in it too. Don’t even try to fake this one because: they’ll know. But you also don’ have to be perfect — some sincere effort will score you points every time. I have one friend whose son was really into sports, so she got an app on her phone that gave her all of the current sports updates. Even just asking your teenager some questions about their current hobbies or interests, and then remembering to follow-up later with questions will mean so much. (BTW–this was my teenagers first suggestion when I asked him to help me with this list!)(Closely followed by “Food.”)
8. Your compliments. Trust me on this one: Teens appreciate (love…need…crave) compliments. Tell them when they look good. Tell them when they smell good. If they perform well, speak well, do well in school, chores, or anything else: Say it! I try hard to focus the most on character traits, but they’ll take anything. Tell them you love their heart or their jokes or their muscles, and even if they act like you’re a weirdo, you’ll probably catch them smiling as they walk away.
Teens are so great, I could talk about them all day long. There are more things to add to this list, but I’ll let you add some of your own in comments below. What have you discovered your teenager appreciates most? Maybe something surprising? Do you remember (even quietly) appreciating something your own parents did for you?
Thanks so much for stopping in and I hope you get to practice a few ways to love on your teen right away!
Before I go: Great news! I have gathered my most popular “BOY POSTS” onto one page for your convenience! There will always be a link in my blog side bar ——>
and you can click on image below to check out the page with the complete list and links!
(sorry it only took me forever to do this!)
PS A few helpful resources:
The MOB (Mother of boys) Society is doing a month-long series on parenting to target our kids’ love languages. Check it out here!
AND….If you need some help figuring out the best way to communicate love to your teen, you might enjoy this book: The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively
ALSO: I just came across one more free resource, “The Cultivate Love Challenge: 50 ideas and resources to help your family grow in love” It’s a super fun and resource-packed package that will encourage your family for sure!