6 Ways to Nurture Relationships With Your Teens

The following 6 ways to nurture relationships with your teens is a good reminder to me, and hopefully you. We can know the principles, but living them out in the day to day can be hard! I currently have–count ’em–5 teenagers living in my house, in addition to another adult and 3 young boys. It. is. a. party. For those of you raising teens, you know it’s a very different ballgame.

For me, one difficulty has been identifying where the transition takes place between parenting younger children, and beginning the process of letting them grow in independence as I become more of a voice of counsel, rather than authority. There is certainly not a definite period of time this happens, and even each child is different in his maturity and discernment.

If you feel like there are days you’re just winging it–you are NOT alone! Every stage of parenting has brought new and different requirements and when you mix in differences of personality, it feels like you’re starting over each stage, no matter how many children you have.

We all know that keeping lines of communication open is key to helping your teens grow to maturity and wisdom. But knowing how to do that isn’t always easy. We also know it can be quite a challenge precisely because they are in a stage of gaining their independence, weaning away from us in a sense. So it’s a tricky balance.

1. Be Present

Now more than ever, we have to be deliberate about being present. Having that phone in our hands or pockets or right beside us has created a new and problematic challenge in all our lives. We struggle with this as I’m sure most families do, but it’s a good reminder to put that phone down when you are with your teens (or spouse, or younger children) and give them the gift of your attention, which is only proven when you give them your face. (My friend’s book, Present, is such an inspiration for this!)

2. Hug Them Anyway

Some of my girls are naturally affectionate, some not as much, and my teenage boy, the one who once begged to sit in my lap while I read to him, is least of all. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want us to show our physical affection. People need touch, and while some naturally may not as much as others, take time to hug your teens. If they don’t appreciate it now, they most certainly will later.

3. Eat Dinner as a Family

This one is difficult if your kids play sports like mine do, BUT we still make a point to gather around the table with the ones who are here, and we take every chance we can when everyone is here. I expounded in another post on the power of gathering around the table, because it is such an important thing for shaping us and knitting hearts together.

4. Exchange Letters With Them.

This one was really big when I had an especially difficult teen that was not very open to face to face conversation. I bought him and his 2 sisters a notepad, each inscribed with the words, “To (child’s name), Love, Mom.” We would exchange this notebook back and forth, writing letters to each other. It was a beautiful way to hear their hearts–things they would be less inclined to tell me in person. And it’s such a treasure to us now! (Personalized notebook at Amazon.)

5. Enter Into Their World

They are changing, they may be insecure, they may feel sad or angry or anything hormones can make us feel. Try to remember that and gift them grace on bad days. And though they may not seem like they want you “in their world” they do. Ask them questions. If they spend a lot of time in their rooms, that’s a normal part of the pulling away process. A friend shared this podcast by Dr. John Cox, Parenting Teens, that helped me understand that better, and relax more about it. You want to go listen to that podcast!) Join them sometimes. Lay across their bed and just listen to them. Smile, be in their world and let them know that what matters to them matters to you.

6. Don’t Overreact.

This one’s tough for me. I’m just a reactor. But I’m slowly learning this is not a good strategy with teens. We need to be a stable presence in their lives. A safe place where they feel comfortable coming to us, even with their mistakes. This is hard. But so worth the effort.

Teens can be such a joy, and an enigma all at once. But take heart! God has chosen you specifically to parent your teens, and He promises to equip us! Also, there is grace. Grace for us to give them, and grace for our mistakes. God is using all our efforts–successes and failures–for His glory and purposes!

 

5 Responses to “6 Ways to Nurture Relationships With Your Teens”

  1. Caryn Gilbert says:

    Thank you so much Kelly for your encouragement and being real! I am in the thick of it with 4 teens and 6 that are 12 and under…with one on the way. I have honestly lost heart several times along the way when i look at my children’s sins and struggles. When i first became a mother, i just knew that if i followed God’s word then my children would never go through troublesome teen issues. Now i realize that God’s word is our lifeline because we ARE all sinners. Teen years are troubling for parents and teens because it is usually the season they are wrestling with spiritual truth and making their own personal decision to follow God wholeheartedly. As I’ve been reading Genesis recently, I suddenly saw how God revealed Himself to Isaac and then Jacob and renewed the promises He made with Abraham. They had to make an individual decision to follow “the God of their father(s)”. Jacob had to literally wrestle with God before he became “Israel” (governed by God). I am learning to trust God with the process of letting my teens wrestle with God themselves. He is able to show them His faithfulness just as He has shown their father and me.
    One question: my oldest daughter is not into physical displays of affection and gets upset if I try to hug her. She is like this with her dad and grandparents too. She and i have discussed this and she is not totally sure,but just doesn’t like the feeling of being hugged or touched/ sitting too close to someone. She gets snappy if a younger sibling leans up against her too much (looking over her shoulder at a drawing during family time, etc). I think it’s a bit sensory related. Several of my children have mild sensory issues ( either they like more or less sensory input). Also,though,i have apologized to her for being harsher with her in her younger years than i should have been. My expectations were kind of ridiculous for my firstborn. She definitely notes that I’m a different mom with her younger siblings than i was when she was little. I agree! God grows us as parents. We are still growing in our relationship and our personalities are so different that we regularly clash. God is showing me that i need to die to self,but i do it imperfectly and inconsistently. Anyhow,my question is do you believe that i should keep offering hugs or follow her lead and let that be for now (which is what I’ve been doing)? She claims that her love language is words of affirmation. I have to work on this bc it’s not mine. Mine is quality time. I’m afraid if i don’t help her get over her issue of no hugging than she will struggle to show physical displays of affection to her own spouse and children someday. I’m sorry this is so long!!
    Your blog has been such a source of inspiration to me. Thank you again for your godly wisdom.
    Caryn

    • Kelly says:

      Caryn,

      I apologize for just getting back to you! And “ditto” everything you said. It’s sure is a learning/growing process and we all struggle with sin and that is most certainly going to influence our parenting. You DEFINITELY need to listen to that podcast I linked to. He says THE most encouraging thing about how our sin can actually create opportunities for our children to grow.

      As to your question, I would still offer some physical affection, even if not in the form of a hug, a tender pat on her back, just affectionate touching of her arm as you walk by, etc. A physical expression that lets her know you love her. Perhaps as she matures, she’ll be more open to showing/receiving affection.

      Thank you for your words of encouragement. Keep going mama!

  2. D. says:

    Thanks Kelly. All good reminders. I honestly have not enjoyed the teen years and find it hard when I hear other parents joyfully exclaim that they loved every bit of it! Sure, there are good aspects, but there are just so many emotions and conversations to navigate that it is EXHAUSTING. I find these difficult years drive me to prayer and lots of learning and asking for forgiveness. I too am a reactive person and the thought of grace is often far from my mind in the heat of the moment. I really desire to learn how to remain calm (yet firm) and also extend grace while allowing natural consequences. The longer I parent the less I feel I know and the more I see my sin. Thank Jesus for His shed blood!

    • Kelly says:

      “The longer I parent the less I feel I know and the more I see my sin.”

      100%! I’m just scratching the surface of learning gratitude for God’s grace in my life and the lives of my children.

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