By Alicia Searl, Crosswalk.com
Let me first start by saying this, I am in no way an expert when it comes to raising teens or how to connect more deeply with them. But I will share my heart and speak from my own experiences, hoping it offers you a bit of encouragement today.
In all honesty, these past two years have been rough. I have two teen daughters, and while they are growing into lovely young ladies, we have encountered plenty of rough patches. In other words, we haven’t always connected in the most loving of ways. Some days I want to pull my hair out. Some days I want to pull their hair out!
Raising teens is not for the faint of heart. It has plenty of ups and downs. Moments in which you question everything you are doing and want to throw in the towel. And moments in which you can’t stop staring at them in wonderment, wondering where the time went.
Yes, these years are hard. But they are also some of the most amazing years we can have as a parent. Nobody ever tells you that. Nobody ever says raising a teen can be fun, or that there are tender times that can take your breath away.
There are super sweet and special moments tucked within these difficult years. There will be times in which you will be begging for time to slow down or stop altogether. Times in which the flashbacks will have your heart sad and proud all at the same time. Times where you will watch them run off and become these independent human beings, knowing you helped shape them! Times in which you will be praying for God to protect them more than ever before because there is something brutal, yet genuine when it comes to a parent that prays over their teen.
So, remind your weary heart to savor the unexpected hugs and sweet texts. Be grateful when they seek your advice or flash a smile that says, “thanks.” Take it as a sign of love when all their friends come over and raid the pantry. You’re doing good, I promise. Nobody ever tells you that, so I am reminding you today. Just hang in there (“note to self”) and choose to see the truly amazing (and beautiful) side of raising teens.
While it may not be as easy to connect with them as it was when they were six, let me remind you that there are still times when they put the “6” in “16.” In other words, they still need you! They still want you to be a part of their life. They may not tell you as much, but they want to connect with you, just as much as you want to connect with them.
It may look a little different, but here are a few ways to speak to your teen’s heart:
1. Use Tech to Reach Them
Sometimes the best conversations I have with my teens are done through a text. I know, weird, right? But, just hear me out. Our teens live in a world consumed by technology and communicate and respond to it on a daily basis. When we strive to get on their “communication level,” it really does help them know we want to connect with them. While eye-to-eye contact and communication are extremely important, when we are apart, a simple or sweet text can go a long way.
Here are a few ways to do that:
-Send a Bible verse.
-Send a note of encouragement.
-Just let them know you are thinking of them.
2. Feed Their Passions
Do you know the little things that make your teen tick? Maybe it is binge-watching a favorite show or going to a local park to run. Tap into their interest and be a part of it. Doing something together that they enjoy lets them know you care about what they care about. It will not only allow you to connect with your teen, but you’ll create some special memories as well.
3. Give Them Space
This may sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes your teen just needs space. Often, we as parents can tend to be a little overbearing. I speak from experience here. But as they enter those teen years of growing into adulthood, they are undergoing so many massive changes that can affect their physical, mental, and emotional health that all they want is to be left alone for a bit. So, give them that space. Allow them to sleep in or sit in their room without interruptions.
You may be asking, “how does that help you connect with your teen?” Well, it doesn’t at first, but in giving a teen space, you recognize their need for this and offer them a safe place to do so. After they have had some time, then you reach out. Let them know you are ready whenever they are to go get a Starbucks drink or ice cream. Tell them you would love to do that TikTok dance or cook their favorite meal together. Tell them to invite some friends over, and you’ll order a bunch of pizzas. With teens, I have discovered that sometimes absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
4. Love Their Friends - All of Them!
We’re told it takes a village to raise a family, and I would absolutely agree with that. Your kids may bring all different types of friends over. If you want to connect deeply with your teen, love on their friends!
The last two summers, we have hosted a teen Bible study in our home, and several of the teens that came over did not know Jesus. They asked questions about our faith, and it was a pleasure and honor to get to love on them and tell them about Jesus! We really never know what seeds we could be planting.
The truth of the matter is that your teen's friends are their current lifeline, so love on them, and you’ll discover how it draws you two closer. And when the time comes (because it will), you may have other parents speak love and life into your teen. What a sweet blessing that is! God is just so good like that! So, love all the teens that you can. Trust me, the reward is great!
5. Listen Intently
I am not always the best listener, but I have noticed it’s exactly what my teen needs from me. That said, I am learning to shut my mouth and give her my full attention. Many times, she just wants to be heard and understood.
We must also pick up on those non-verbal cues. If your teen is overly quiet or reacts in a different or unusual way, be aware and seek to understand what’s going on with a subtle and gentle approach. We must pay attention to what they are telling us both with words and actions.
When we listen to them and let them know we want to help and support them, trust forms, and with that comes a connection we both deeply crave.
6. Let Them Mess Up
Failure is an option, but defeat doesn’t have to be. We say this often in our home. Your teen will fail and mess up. Most likely, they will do something or say things that will break your heart. It’s easy to grow discouraged on this journey of raising teenagers. But, hold on to this truth – they are learning, even from mistakes.
Remember that you’ve set the foundation. You’ve opened their hearts to Jesus. You’ve laid out the consequences. Now is the time to step back a bit and let them choose. If they fall and fail, let them learn a lesson. While it may be heartbreaking and difficult to witness, this can also be when God shows up the most in their lives! So, bring out your greatest weapon – prayer. Pray and ask God to reveal to their heart how to learn from their actions and make better choices and to remind them that you deeply love them.
In the end, they just want to know you are their safety net and that when they fall, you are always there to help them back up. When you are there, no matter what happens, they learn to lean on you and connect with you in some pretty special ways.
A Prayer for You
Loving Father, thank you for our teens and for the ways in which they chisel and shape us. We feel honored by this role as a parent, but it can often be draining and discouraging. Lord, help us find ways that will help us connect more deeply with our teens and foster healthy and beautiful relationships. We long to raise children that will grow up to honor and glorify You, Lord. Amen.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Galina Zhigalova
Alicia Searl is a devotional author, blogger, and speaker that is passionate about pouring out her heart and pointing ladies of all ages back to Jesus. She has an education background and master’s in literacy. Her favorite people call her Mom, which is why much of her time is spent cheering them on at a softball game or dance class. She is married to her heartthrob (a tall, spiky-haired blond) who can whip up a mean latte. She sips that goodness while writing her heart on a page while her puppy licks her feet. Visit her website at aliciasearl.com and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.