Connecting with Your Teen
The teenage years, at times, can be challenging for the average Christian young person. It is during these years when style, preferences, and ideas are constantly changing, being altered or questioned by any number of external influences. Although these formative years can be frustrating for the teenager, they can be equally complicated for the parent. Some parents begin asking themselves these questions:
- What happened to the little child I used to know?
- What am I doing wrong?
- Why are we not connecting?
If you are like most parents, you have probably asked yourself a question similar to at least one of these during your child’s adolescence. In my years of serving our teenagers as well as their parents, I have come to realize that many Christian parents feel that they have become “out of touch” or no longer “connect” with their child as they once perhaps did in earlier years. Because of these emotions, parents often unknowingly or purposefully resign their God-given responsibilities to other people who they feel can relate better with their children, i.e., teachers, youth pastors, coaches, and others.
Though the intention might have some degree of well-meaning, that is not God’s design. The parent is to be the leader of the home. (This does not mean, however, that teachers, youth pastors, coaches, and others cannot be a help; but none of those groups should be the primary source.) Parents, the good news is that YOUR TEENAGER WANTS TO HAVE A MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU! How could I possibly know this?
During a recent Teen Time—this is when I meet briefly with our youth group prior to the Sunday evening services—I asked the young people this question: “What can you do, as a teenager, to connect with your parents?” What amazed me the most was the sincerity in their answers and the desire they transparently expressed to have a relationship with their parents. If you are a parent and feel as if your relationship with your teenager is disconnected, let me encourage you to get reconnected. Here are a few suggestions:
Spend quality time together.
Believe it or not, your teenager actually wants to spend quality time with you. Although many may never express that feeling to you, deep within the heart of the teenager is a desire to spend quality time with Dad and Mom. Many times, young people act out in school, develop relationships with bad friends, or spend more time with entertainment than with family simply because their desire for attention is not being met at home.
- Eat meals together.
- Take family bike rides and walks.
- Sit in church together.
- Play games together.
- Work together.
- Enjoy family outings together.
- Develop family traditions.
- Run errands together.
- Go to ball games together.
No matter how insignificant the time may seem, no time spent with your teen is wasted time.
Express appreciation to them.
Parents, let me ask you this:
Does your teenager know that you appreciate them?
Many times, pastors and youth pastors preach to their teenagers about the need of expressing gratitude to their parents; but let’s make it a two-way street. Teenagers need constant affirmation that you, the parent, love and appreciate them. How can you do that?
- The Written Word. Have you ever expressed your appreciation to your teenager by writing him a note? You would be surprised how much of an impact a note from you would make.
- The Spoken Word. Find the good and praise it! Let your child know that you enjoy being his parent and that you are so thankful that God has given him to you.
- Random Acts of Kindness. An act of appreciation does not need to be big or expensive. Your teenager just needs to know you care.
Pray with them.
There is something special about a parent and a teenager praying together! It is during this solemn time of prayer when a teenager is allowed to see the heart of his parent as they talk to the God they both love. Parents, never underestimate the power of praying with your teenager!
Open and honest communication is an essential key in staying connected with your teenager. It is very alarming that many parents rarely even speak to their teenagers, let alone with. If you are like many parents, you probably feel as if this area is considerably lacking. Don’t be discouraged; keep trying and never stop!
Listen to them.
Teenagers can feel disconnected simply because parents don’t seem to listen. Your teenager has struggles, dreams, feelings, and interests that he is willing to express if you will just listen. Many parents fail to connect with their teenagers because they fail to listen.
What a privilege you have to be the parent of a teenager! I trust that these few suggestions will be a help to you as you seek to cultivate a meaningful relationship with your child.