I’ll be honest, this whole parenting a teenager thing is not my forte. Give me a bunch of preschoolers and that’s right up my alley! I’m just not that good at letting go. I have control issues that I am very aware of.
As the years have trickled by, I find that parenting has become harder in a whole new way. I don’t have sleepless nights anymore, I don’t have to pack a diaper bag and I don’t have to be a slave to my kids’ napping schedule. But alas, with these growing beings, comes a hardship that I never knew; the “letting go” and trusting. The whole emotional welfare of my children is such a daunting responsibility. The answers to hard questions, the morals that need to be deep-rooted; all of it is so draining at times.
So how do we parent these prepubescent children of ours?
I don’t have the answers but I do try to seek them from reliable friends, authors and speakers. However, most importantly, I pray and ask God to guide my husband and I down the right path in doing the best for our children. Our ultimate goal is to raise, joyful, responsible and generous adults.
One of my go-to authors on all things parenting is Doctor Gordon Neufeld. His book Hold onto Your Kids is what catapulted me into homeschooling. His whole approach on parent attachment is the core to all parenting issues. He encourages parents to always keep their children’s hearts soft and not let them harden.
So how do we do this? I think first of all, we need to have expectations of our children. We can’t always think the worst of them. They are capable of so much more than we give credit to them for. I am totally guilty of this. I always want to do for them. I don’t want them to fail. Giving responsibility to our teenagers only shows them that we trust them. Whether it’s cooking in the kitchen or proving that they can go out with a couple of friends alone. Choosing to trust them and prove their capabilities only strengthens our relationship with them.
Take an interest in what they like, whether it be their music, their friends or their hobbies. Showing a genuine interest in them, will only fortify your bond. Teens are very ego-centric, much like toddlers, and so their world is very important to them. Our only way to enter their world may be to find out what they’re into. Perhaps sit down and listen to some music they like…or watch a tv show or YouTube channel they enjoy. Usually car rides are great times to converse and find out what’s going on in your teen’s life. I think most parents think this is the time in your child’s life that you should back off and give them space but I believe the opposite is true, we must become more involved and in constant contact with our teens.
Create special time together. If you have multiple children, perhaps scheduling time alone with your teen once a week or every two weeks is something that can improve your relationship. Talking about current events or stuff going on in their lives is a good place to start. You’ll be amazed at what they want to talk about. I find that right before bed when all my other children have gone to sleep, is a good time to chat with my teen. He is more receptive and relaxed, the conversations just flows.
Overall, keeping the lines of communication open is key to developing a strong attachment with your teen. Allowing them to feel comfortable coming to you with their ideas, problems, insights and concerns without feeling judged is important. They need to feel like you’re on their side and that you are their “best bet” as Dr. Neufeld always says!
Remember to be honest with your teen. Tell them that you don’t have all the answers and that you’re learning along the way as well. Share instances and stories from when you were a kid. This helps them to relate better with you and realize that you too have been through what they are going through.
I think this can be such an amazing time in our parenting journey. We just have to take it slowly, listen and be mindful in all that we do with these treasures. I know, I need to take my own advice!
Do you have any special ways you keep the relationship and attachment strong with your teens?