When I was a teen my parents, joked that they were my chauffeur. They drove me from event to event, practice to practice, and consistently attended every concert, show, and competition. In the bustle of every-day life, and with the ever increasing expectations of high-school students (have a job, get good grades, keep an active social life, extracurricular activities, etc.), it can feel more like you are watching your teenager grow up rather than actively molding and shaping them.
You have probably heard the stereotype that all teen-parent relationships go through a period of distance while they are in high school. People say that it is inevitable that your teenager will come home from school and then disappear into his or her room for the rest of the night.
That does not have to be a part of your story! Of course, all relationships go through seasons, and the relationship between pre-teens and teenagers and their parents is no exception. However, this does not mean you have to accept a season of distance and miss out on an important, vibrant part of your child’s life!
Teenagers are just learning how to implement all the things you have been trying to teach them since they were babies. They are testing their own limits and seeing what they are willing to do, what they are willing to believe, and how they are willing to respond. And while independence is important to them, many teenagers still want to know that you--their parents--are proud of them, that you trust them to make good decisions, and that you will be there for them no matter what happens.
Parenting, especially with teens is a balancing act. It involves learning how to balance independence with guidance, discipline with grace, and love with respect.
That being said, as a parent, you have the authority and the responsibility to make your relationship with your child the best it can be! Whether that means scheduling time to take them out shopping, share a meal one-on-one, or turning off the TV and enjoying a cup of cocoa and some conversation, make the effort!
You may say, "I wish I had a better relationship with my child." The only way this wish will become a reality is through work and intentionality. If something needs to be repaired, repair it! If something needs to change, change it!
Much of our relationship with our teens is conversation driven. Some questions invite a detailed response, and others don’t. For example, if you asked “How was your day?” you’re not likely to get much of a response from your teen. Ask that same question to your spouse and they are likely to give you the same answer: “Fine.”
Questions are more than just information-gathering. Questions provide opportunities for intimacy. Questions provide opportunities to communicate that you care and that your child is important to you.
Not that you need to interrogate them daily, but, by asking questions that require extra thought, you show your child that you are interested in the details of their day and that your inquiries are more than just so you can check a box on the parenting checklist. “What was something that made you laugh today?” “What are some of the challenges your friends are facing?” “What subject is captivating your interest in school?”
Depending on your relationship, you can ask deeper questions, too, such as “What has recently made you feel proud of yourself?” or “What is something about yourself you want to work on?”
And this doesn’t have to be a sit-down grill session. You can ask these questions in the car, while doing chores, shopping, or any place at all. The important thing is to make conversation something that is mutually beneficial and trust building.
Trust is also built by consistency in your actions! You thought your toddler kept track of everything you said and did? Your teenager will do it even more thoroughly. So what do you do? You keep modeling it. For teens, actions speak way louder than words.
If you are telling them they have to go to church, but they don’t see you putting God first in your life, they’ll wonder if it’s really that important. If you are telling them to choose their friends wisely, but they see you gossiping about your own friends, they’ll see negative friendships as a normal occurrence.
Your ability to lead will be largely determined by the example you set in the way you treat others and in the way you treat your child. Remember that your responsibility is to lead your child, and theirs is to obey.
“Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.” Colossians 3:20-21
Obedience will lead to maturity, and maturity to independence. When parenting, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom, knowing that He will give freely to all who ask Him (James 1:5)!
Receive today a fresh grace for parenting and see what God can do through you!