Connecting with a teenager is not always easy. In fact it can often be down right difficult!
Our oldest is only 14, well, 14.5 as he likes to point out. I know we have several more teenage years to get through as well as 5 other children coming down the teenager pike. Oh my!
One thing I know for certain is that parenting never stays the same. We constantly have to adjust and recalibrate. For our oldest, 12 & 13 seemed to be very challenging years. 14 was a turning pointÂ for him. A little bit of maturity on his part and a whole lot of faith and patience on our part helped!
Understanding Our Teenagers
I know I’m good at forgetting how hard it can be to be a teenager. The push and pull for independence is strong. Often our expectations are pretty high, particularly for our oldest. They tend to be the guinea pig for everything!
Also, I think it’s easy to wrap too much of ourselves into our children – particularly for homeschooling moms. We want to “prove” to the world that we have done a good job and haven’t screwed them up. I have heard it said as parents we “take too much credit for the good our children do and too much grief for the dumb stuff they do as well”.
Our goals is to raise competent adults – and sometimes that means we need to back off and let them soar AND let them fail. Oh is that hard! We love them so fiercely we want life to always be smooth sailing for them. However, we do our children a huge disservice if we make life too cushy.
Ways to Connect with Your Teenager
Meet Them Where They Are At – This is pretty simple and probably something most of us have been doing for a long time, but be interested in what they are interested in! My oldest is obsessed, I mean obsessed with golf. For me watching golf on tv is like watching paint dry – I can think of a million things I would rather do. Since moving to Florida golf has become a true love for him. He plays regularly now on the high school golf team and in area tournaments. This isn’t a passing fancy, so I knew I needed to educate myself on the golf terms and some of the more well known players. I didn’t want to constantly be asking “now what’s a bogey again?”. No one wants to talk to someone who is always clueless! I don’t love golf, but I do love my son so I can expend a bit of energy to learn a bit about something he is so passionate about.
Don’t Lower Expectations – Our society doesn’t set the bar too high for teenagers anymore. It’s become acceptable that as parents we have to tolerate the eye rolling, laziness, self-absorbption and general apathy of teenagers. While it’s a proven fact that teenagers need more sleep during these years and that our early birds suddenly turn into night owls, back-talk and general disrespect does not have to come with the package. As they are seeking more independence, it’s natural to reject some of our ideas and of course challenge our rules. However, they can learn their way in this world without being complete jerks to the people that love them the most. Good manners, being kind and being respectful are always important.
Teens and Social Media – This topic could be an entire blog post on its own! We all know the hazards of social media (and not just for our teenagers either!), so I will touch on how we use it as a way to stay connected. My son likes to jokingly refer to me as “stalker mom” because I follow and regularly check in on his social media activity. As my husband likes to say “trust but verify”. It also doesn’t hurt to have Grandma as one of your Instagram followers 😉 Anyway, we often tag each other on different Instagram photos. For me, I’m tagging him on quotes, scripture or other items I find inspiring, for him he’s usually tagging me on a golf photo he thinks I will like. It’s another simple way to connect. Social media is here to stay so we may as well be teaching/modeling appropriate ways to use it.
Favorite Recipes – It’s no secret that teenagers love to eat. Their bodies are growing and changing rapidly so if it seems their heads are always stuck in the fridge or the cupboard it’s for a good reason! Making family meal times a priority continues to be important through the teen years, perhaps even more important than ever.
Macaroni and Cheese is my son’s favorite food. He will stop whatever he is doing to come and eat this dish. It isn’t the healthiest recipe so I don’t make it often, but making a favorite recipe is a simple way to show a little love. Also, bringing home a favorite snack from the grocery store can express the same sentiment.
Finally, and most importantly,
Keep Instilling the FaithÂ – Our teenagers need our prayers more than ever! Also, they need to be surrounded with godly friends. As they grow it can be helpful to share our own faith journey. It’s also helpful to for our teenagers to have mentors, other adults that can model and help them on their faith journey. The teenage years are the time when they really start to own their relationship with Jesus.
(Jacob with Ms. Nancy. She is in charge of the Altar servers at our parish and she nominated him for Altar Server of the Year last year. This is at the mass with the Bishop of our diocese)
What are some ways that you stay connected to your teen?
Family Encouragement Pinterest Board
Let Your Kids Know You Love Them