I’ve only been a mom to a teenager for two years, but it has made me believe that our teens need us just as much as our tots do… or maybe even more.
Sure, we don’t spend nearly as much time keeping our teens alive as we do our little ones. They (mostly!) know better not to stick forks in outlets, put plastic bags over their heads or do other dangerous things. But they desperately need our presence in their lives on a consistent, daily basis.
They Need Us
According to Josh Shipp in The Grown-Up’s Guide to Teenage Humans, teenagers spend about 20 minutes of face-to-face time with their mom and dad combined per day. And, this may really surprise you, but teenagers consider their parents to be the biggest influencers in their lives. It may seem like their friends or social media influence them more than you and me. But it’s not true. We are one of their most important and valuable relationships.
As our teens grow up, life gets busier and busier. Sports, summer jobs, homework, extracurricular interests and social activities begin to crowd our teens’ waking hours. We spend less and less time with them as they are away from home more. It seems like they don’t want or need us around so much.
I think that many of us take their busyness as a sign that our parenthood job is coming to a close, and we sort of check out. But that is the last thing that we should be doing. Now’s the time to refocus on our ever-changing roles as parents.
Our teenagers need us more than ever. This world can be an intimidating place for our young people. Acceptance, safety, guidance, support, and love can be hard to come by. Thankfully, our homes can be places to find the rest and support they need.
Plus, our teens are facing some big decisions for perhaps the first time in their lives. It’s our privilege to walk alongside them while they make choices. We can be a reliable place for our teens to talk through and wrestle with options if we check our judgment at the door and listen with an open heart.
Teens Can Be Prickly (As Can We…)
Some days, it’s all we can do to make it through two sentences between us and our teens without an argument or eye rolling. What a dramatic time of life this is! But don’t give up talking to your kids, no matter how much they push you away. Underneath the bravado is an emerging adult who wants and needs your support and love. They are counting on our tenaciousness.
Don’t let fear get in the way of making an effort to connect with your teen. Yes, they can be prickly like a cactus. But with care and time, even the sharpest cactus blooms.
Be Intentional and Inventive
So, you want to connect with your teen, but don’t know how or when or where. I can relate! My son has some pretty different interests from me, so I have to sometimes push myself out of my comfortable activities to find some common ground.
Here are a few activities we’ve tried: Go to the movies and let your teen pick what you watch. Afterwards, have a conversation about why they liked it. Go to the store that your teen loves to discover why they love it so much. Create their favorite food together and enjoy eating it together. Ask them to teach you about their favorite game or sport and try to understand why they like it so much.
One of my favorite times to connect is in the car. Like most teen parents, I spend a lot of time driving my son around. It’s the perfect time to chat. I let my son pick the radio station so I can hear songs he likes to keep in touch with him. If the news comes on, it can be a good conversation starter, too.
Another good time to connect with teens is over a meal. It doesn’t have to be homemade or even at home. Making an intentional choice to share a meal together on a regular basis can totally change your relationship with your teen (and your whole family).
Whatever you and your teen like to do together, be sure to write it on the calendar. Make it a priority!
Drop your favorite ways to connect with your teens in the comments.