Connecting With Your Kids: How to Find the Open Doors
The four boy tuck-in routine can be exhausting. Our four-year old is the most challenging of any of our kids at bedtime, and by the time he is down, I’m usually on my last nerve, or ready to collapse.
When we finally get the little guy down, there are still three more boys to read to (on a good night,) say prayers with, and get into their bed. By the time I get to my oldest, it is usually an abbreviated tuck-in. He doesn’t need much. He reads to himself. Finishes school work. One hug and kiss is plenty on a good night. He’s easy.
So that one night not too long ago, when I said goodnight and I love you and was just about to hurry out to tackle the next thing on my nightly to-do list, I’m not sure what made me PAUSE.
But I did.
And I just sat there and was quiet for maybe ten seconds. I looked at my son, relaxed, and with no agenda. I expected nothing, but instead just hung out there with him for a few seconds.
Something about that unhurried moment seemed to open a door, and my son spoke up.
And I happened to be there in a moment when he was ready to talk.
It wasn’t a shocking confession, or any really big issue. He simply talked about something that was bothering him. Something that wouldn’t just “come up” in the middle of the day. This kid is really hard on himself. He works things out quietly, and doesn’t need to talk about little issues. I suppose I have seen this as not only a great quality, but one that simplifies my parenting requirements. And maybe one I’ve taken for granted…
On that particular day, I don’t think he needed me to share wise counsel or really to say anything at all.
He simply decided to let me in on things.
And that moment pierced my heart a little bit.
It made me ask WHAT have I been missing. These little moments…they are treasures. A peek into the heart of my son. A chance to know what he ponders. What bothers him. How I might pray for him.
Yet I am so busy, with the daily tasks, and the managing of the family, and the disciplining of the younger ones…that I am afraid I have rushed past the one that might just need a listening ear the most.
Obviously we are all human. We can only do so much in a day. If we are blessed to have one independent kid who is self directed and doesn’t require a whole lot of special attention, it’s a blessing.
However, the brief moment with my son that night, followed by a few more intentional moments since then, have taught me that I don’t want to miss them any more.
I don’t want to miss his heart.
His creative ideas and interesting perspectives.
So, I’m learning to slow down. To pause intentionally. When I greet him in the morning, I remind myself to stop. To look into his eyes as I ask “How are you?” And mean it. When he gets home after surfing, or a youth group event, to actually stop what I’m doing and ask “How did it go?” And yes, at bedtime…I am trying to cut down a little on the time I spend battling my four-year old, and giving a little more time to the teenagers.
Of course all of the kids need this one on one time. The second-born is dying for a little quiet focus. And the ten-year-old…Oh a listening ear means the world to that one. He is surrounded by noise on all sides. But teens–you can’t always choose when they will talk. So, you kind of have to be ready for it when the time is right.
Sometimes an open door is found by asking questions. Connecting might happen in the car when I turn my music low, and my blue-tooth off. We can connect over cereal in the morning, or while sitting at the beach. An open door may deliver pure silence, and sometimes that is just fine. I think they need to know that we can handle a little quiet, too.
When we are intentionally available to our kids, we say:
“You are valuable.”
“I am interested in you.”
“No one else matters more right now.”
“I’m not just here to speak at you.”
Sometimes a quiet pause is the best “I love you” that we can give.
Have you found the best way to connect with your kids? Does communication come easily, or is this a challenging area for you?
Oftentimes, finding an open door doesn’t require a whole lot of time or planning.
It’s just a matter of being intentionally available.
I’d love to hear from you in comments!
And if you haven’t already, I’d love for you to join my blog community by Subscribing to future posts here! 🙂
Yes my eldest is like this easy going low maintenance does what he’s told occasionally breaks the rules. And I so understand this night time routine. My youngest is just 10. Loves being read to or reading to me or colouring in , us time. Takes all my time and isn’t keen on sharing with his bro. So I’m always in and out kiss I love you hug to Liam. He’s just shy of 13 and last week held onto my hug in the dark and didn’t let go. I sat. And my heart broke.
I just recently started reading your blog. I have found your views on the teenage boys the most interesting. This being because I have one..he is 15 and an amazing young man, but lately I can feel the pull away. We have always had a very strong relationship, easy almost. He is the most like me of my kids and has always been such an old soul, but lately something is off. The first pull was the start of high school, my husband said…this is normal. I of course agree, starting to spread those wings, right? The second pull, a change of friends, not a bad choice, but at first confusing…he normally would have just told us why, but we felt like we were pulling teeth before he finally told us. The final and most recent pull away, a girl, not unusual right? Just a girl and she is a nice girl, she does have some emotional problems from her past, but still a nice girl no judgement from us. We are not those people, it is hard finding your way at that age, and to be judged and tried back when she was 12 is silly, and unfair. So we have tried to be open and understanding with him, have always had a clear set of rules that bending is not tolerated. He has ALWAYS obeyed them, part of who he is, like your oldest he has made parenting almost easy. Lately, this is not the case and this evening when he arrived home after his curfew and he was told the punishment, (which he already knew). He informed us we are the reason he is so depressed?? That he tries so hard to please us but we are never happy? I know you do not know us, but we are not like that AT ALL. He is told daily how proud we are of him, and that we love him, and your hug rule has always been in effect in my house. We have always kept him busy and have been hands on in his life. He is very close with his other siblings and my husband and I. Not just as a family but one on one. Hunting and fishing with Dad and date nights with Mom. Softball games to cheer on sis, and game nights with little brother. He has a good heart, strong beliefs, and I know he is not doing anything he shouldn’t but all of this is kind of like being hit with a baseball bat upside the head. We are reeling with an overwhelming sense of failure and confusion. How could we have missed this? Or was this just a bad tempered moment? Or is he feeding off of a friend? I am at such a loss right now. Have you experienced anything like this?
Oh Lisa…I’m so sorry. My heart hurts for you. Though this could so easily be a bad-tempered moment, or just a rough patch, to our mom-heart times like these feel like the end of the world, I know. I believe you’ve done a great job and I am confident that because of your great communication and consistent loving messages, that you will all get through this. But yes, you may have some layers to peel back. I’d suggest you all get some rest and when there is a good moment maybe sitting down to revisit things is the best idea. You’ll want to determine if there are influences affecting him? (my first thought.) If he is struggling with deeper questions – insecurities or identity or faith-related. You might offer counseling if he thinks he needs it (he did say “depressed” so it’s worth opening up in conversation.) We have not faced anything exactly like that, but I promise you are not alone. Teenagers go through lots of stages. A loving parent who sets boundaries can make all the different win the world!
One thing, our boys did not ever date in high school, and the fact that your son is dating might have opened up some emotions and vulnerabilities that he’s not ready to deal with yet. Just a thought. Wish we could have coffee and talk, but I will pray for you right now! Blessings and feel free to keep me posted. ALoha-
I just recently subscribed to your blog and every article I’ve read has been so truly helpful and uplifting and encouraging. I wanted to comment on “how to find open doors”, this article is exactly what I needed to read right now. I have 3 boys, two are teenagers, and thank you for the reminder to slow down and be aware, we might just be there at the right time when they are ready to talk.
I experience the same thing taking more time to put the younger one to bed then by the the time I actually get to bed worry that I didnt connect with the teenagers, and often feel I missed my moment. So thank you again you are so right, I want to try and slow down and be more cognizant to everyone,
Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Christine. I am thrilled that some of my posts are connecting with you. Slowing down can be so hard (so against my nature!) but a little intention goes a long way! 🙂 Much aloha to you–please keep in touch.
I learned recently I needed to slow down, and found the best time to talk to my tween (for 2 more months) in the oddest of places and times… but, if it works for him, I’m making it work for me… this reminded me to keep doing just that! Thanks! 🙂
Well now I’m curious!! What is the odd place you find to talk to your tween? I’d love to hear! 🙂 Much aloha and keep up the great work!
Thanks Monica for sharing. 🙂 I have twin teenage boys (I couldn’t imagine how “full on” 4 boys in the house would be) who are as different as chalk and cheese and have been so since birth! We recognised early that one required more attention than the other which we accorded, nevertheless there was always the doubt that perhaps the more independent self-reliant son was missing out.. Anyway they have grown so much since then but their personalities and needs haven’t changed and bedtime remains a precious moment they both hold on to. As a single mum it is sometimes hard to know whether you are doing what’s best for your children, so thank you for sharing your family life and thoughts, it reassures me that I am. God bless you xox
Thank you so much, Monica ! this resurfaced at just the right time in my hectic life !!
Oh I am so glad to hear that, Caroline! Many blessings to you! aloha-
thanks for giving that advise
My pleasure! Thanks for taking the time to comment! 🙂 Aloha-
I can relate to what your saying. I have a 12 year old son who gives me these special moments in his live. He worries a lot about things, kids at school, problems that he’s facing and sometimes he talks to me about it more than saying nothing and I’m okay. I often am busy with work both in and out of the house and he tells me “Mom your always busy. I never want him to feel I’m to busy for him. When he opens up to me with “Mom, I want to talk to you about something” I know it’s time to pause. You never get those moments back.
Laurie–You are so right and so wise to take the time to pause. We all get busy but knowing when to put things aside is the key. 🙂 Bless you and Aloha-
So good Monica! Needed that reminder to be more intentional–esp since baby #3 is almost here.
I believe everything happens for a reason–and I am so glad I made time to read your blog tonight. Your words have hit home and made me realize that I haven’t failed as a mother if my daily pursuit of being intentionally available does not result in a two-hour conversation. Given that I already talk circles around everyone else in my house (as the only female), I need to remember that “a quiet pause may be the best ‘I love you'” and it may possibly be the most important moment of the day for my boys. I want to know their hearts and I’m willing to wait for them to share.
I’ve learned so much about being the mother of boys, especially teenage boys, as a result of your stories and I look forward to future posts. Even if they’re your personal reruns. 🙂
(Thank you for sharing this post again! Being a new subscriber, I missed it the first time around.)
Oh Lisa–That blesses me so much!! Thank you thank you. I really debated which archived post to share and hearing from you makes me happy I chose that one! 🙂 I am certain that you haven’t come close to failing! Keep up the great work and drop me a comment anytime–You’re a great encouragement! 😉 Aloha-
This post hit home. My eldest is always even keeled. The youngest almost demands the attention while the teen is introspective. This was written in a voice about my son and me. Intentional pausing. Thank you so much for posting this….archives or not. Because “I don’t want to miss his heart” struck a nerve. Thanks Monica. Hope your women’s event goes well this weekend. 🙂
This post is my life as well! I have three children-2 sons (10 and 13) and a daughter ( 12). They all still get a special tuck- in at night; even my 13 year old. He’s the quiet one. The one who quietly ponders and, when you least expect it, confides. Every night is busy. I’m a first grade teacher, so at the end of the day, I’m bone tired. There have been times where his special time has been cut short, until the one night he asked why I rush through his time. Never again!! I take time with him every night and pray with each one of my children nightly. I was so blessed by your post because I too have learned to stop and allow each child his and her time to share special thoughts and moments.
I love hearing about this. It really reassures me that my nightly routine of massaging their backs and listening to them if they are in the mood to talk can never be lost in the shuffle. I hope to never become to busy or tired to stop and have this time when I put them to bed. Even at 11 and 14, my boys can still rely on this time from me.
That just happened recently with my youngest son Spencer. My oldest, Luke has no problem talking to me. We can have conversations that can last an hours but my youngest kind of keep to himself until recently. I had invited him over for dinner thinking he will not come over but he did!
We had the best conversation and he talked so much about his Cross Country and his Spanish teacher. What I felt he needed was to talk to me and not so much me talking back for example “Oh I know what you mean” or ” I can relate, that happened to me”
It was so nice to see the excitement in his eyes and he has grown so much in so little time, so thank you about letting us know to be aware, slow down and truly ask them questions from your heart like you wrote, “How did it go?”, etc. These precious time will be engraved in their hearts!
Thanks again Monica!!!
Thank you so much Pegi! What a great story, I love it!! Keep it up and do stay in touch!
Very thoughtful post, thanks! Funny, my husband has to remind me from time to time that our oldest son just wants to be heard. Even though he is just seven, I have to work to remember that he has thoughts to express,too. It’s not that I don’t want to hear his ideas, I just get distracted with ” the teachable moment”. Thanks for the reminder!
I connect with my boys by turning off the radio and really talking and listening while in the car. Also, I spend an entire day one on one with each boy, doing whatever he wants, each summer. Hands down my favorite days of the summer!
Great Blog. I just have a question speaking of open doors. When they close their doors at night
does this mean do not enter? lol Trying to figure out the closed door thing. I usually go in and make sure he is alseep and kiss him goodnight. Sometimes he needs me to rub his feet and I do, then he wants the hands and back….but then he does the closed door thing and dosn’t say goodnight. ???
I just figure its 13 going on 14. I guess I need to ask him. But seriously Your blog is really helping me to ask those important questions. So Helpful!!! Love in Jesus Keli
Thank you for sharing! I have 3 boys of my own ages 3, 6, 9 and this describes our evenings right now to a “T”! Like you, I’ve been trying to take those moments with my oldest b/c I know I may not get them as he grows older, but sometimes I feel like the other two require so much of my time that he gets the short end of the stick 🙁 Your post reminded me not to just give up and to continue taking that time to spend with him, even if its just a few minutes at bedtime!
Great Posy and GREAt reminder…by your article, my oldest is very similar and this is a GREAT reminder! Although he is just 8, its good to start now..thank you!
Yes Valerie–You are right. My oldest was very similar when he was eight…many things about their personality do not seem to change. 🙂 So glad if you can use this! aloha!
My children are now adults, grand babies are coming and yet I remember how important these intentional moments were with my children – where their hearts spilled out into words for my ears and heart. Finding moments as a family and individually is so important – Make time to eat dinner as many nights as possible – wonderful conversations come while sitting around the table.
Love this, Monica! Your writing is so awesome!
Mine are still young, so they talk away about silly things and serious sometimes too. My oldest is almost 7, so he is starting to talk more about serious things. I find if I will just play with them we talk about a lot or talking while eating is always great for us. I love talking around the dinner table!
I love your blog….everything you’re discovering makes sense to me and the fact that you’ve made an art out of your thoughts and experiences, is something that I’m treasuring. It is hard for me to express emotions in front of my children, yet it was harder for my mom, so at least I’m accomplishing something. I want to ensure that my nearly 11year-old son knows just how much I admire him and enjoy his company…..your writing is helping me secure this for our relationship…..THANK YOU 🙂
Thank you Gretchen! What beautiful encouragement! It means so much to me. And yes, all we can do is improve on what we know…I’m sure you’re doing an awesome job! keep it up. Aloha!
Hi Monica, all the way from South Africa, I have 2 boys, one 12 years and one 8years and a teenage daughter 15 years. Thanks for your advice, it is a huge help to remind us to stop for a moment and give these little people our attention.
God bless you more so you can continue to bless us. Xxx
This is a great post. Truly priceless words for parents. Thank you!
Great post my friend. Bedtime conversations are precious. But I totally understand that by the time you get to #3 and 4, you are exhausted. That is how I am as well. Thankfully the older ones don’t NEED us every night like the little ones do. So I make sure to grab hold of those spontaneous times like in the car or over breakfast like you mentioned. I think the little guys need quantity whereas the bigger guys need quality. (Generally speaking of course….)
Love you! XOXO
I have 2 boys who are completely opposite but yet I’ve learned that the same approach works with both to get them to talk to me. The way and amount they share will vary between them and on the day. I consciously find the simple moment where I ask them how their day was, how was their lunch and then I ask them what was their favorite/best part of the day. Or I’ve asked what good thing happened that day. We can all get caught up in the bad stuff and complaining. That has often times been enough to open the door to wherever they want to take the conversation. I happily listen even if I don’t fully understand the topic (football rules at the moment). I am trying every day to set up a good foundation with my boys so that as the teenage years come, in about a year officially, I have something to fall back on to keep doors open with them. I try to always make them feel comfortable to talk to me about anything, even if it’s not “important” so that they will talk to me when it is important.
Intentionally available! I love that. Exactly what I needed to hear. I have 2 teen boys and its been such a learning process to know how best to communicate with them without pushing them away. This just really hit home with me. I’m going to be available in those moments and let it happen! Thank you for sharing!
Bedtime is the best ! My son , almost a teen (next month) actually begs me to stay most nights. “Will you rub my back ?” I’m thinking and sometimes do say , “i can’t , I have so much to do “… Laundry, dishes cleaning” which then he says “I’ll rub your back ” haha I’m a sucker and stay . The laundry will still be there 5-10 min from now but someday my son will not be .
Actually the best talks we have are right then , when I’m listening , giving support and wisdom (sometimes) .
Thanks for reminding me how important this time really is .
I love this Tarah. My oldest son, Chase, 16 still says, “Mom, will you love on me?” How in the world can I say no to that???? I never do. In just a few short years, he will be off to college, and I may never hear those words again….that thought hurts my heart. My youngest, Chad, 14, is more stand-offish when it comes to affection, but will ask for back or foot rubs sometimes. He ALWAYS gets them….love my boys!
Beautiful intention setting! This was so helpful and sweet. Definitely something to keep in mind.
Love this. My two boys are so different. My younger one is a little more natural for me. He wants touch. Hugs a lot. You can feel him relax with an arm squeeze or a tickle war. Or forehead kisses. Every emotion he feels comes flying out 100 mph. But my older guy is internal. Not quite a teen, but he easily goes into his own world and doesn’t invite others. Wants to tell me about football or his fantasy ESPN team right in the middle of me getting then other out of bath or trying to wash dishes with the water running and I can’t hear him without turning it off, stopping what I’m doing and going into the other room. Its tough sometimes to do that. To make his interests important to me even if its naturally interesting to me. Thanks for the reminder. I need to make sure I’m open when he chooses so later, he will know I’m open.