Your teen needs you to be a safe place in the crazy world they are navigating.
In today’s world, it can be super difficult to connect with our teenage children. Busy schedules, smartphones, and social media keep us distracted and disconnected. It might seem like we never have the time and/or energy to have meaningful connections with our kids.
I am beyond lucky to have a friend that checks in on me weekly, asking how I am doing, and if I am in need of prayer. We don’t have the luxury of seeing each other often, just a sweet wave here and there as we go from place to place taxiing our kiddos from one activity to another.
One particular week, when I asked how she was doing she responded…”I am good. In the throws of parenting…I know it’s not gonna get easier though, so I’m working on patience.”
She has littles…like 3 under the age of 1, little.
My friend is right there in the thick of it all. What she is doing now matters. The discipline, the correction, the connection, the eye contact. It ALL matters. When we are parenting little ones it may seem daunting and exhausting, and sometimes downright meaningless.
Do I correct every little thing? Do I sweat the small stuff? Do I see a need in my child, stop whatever it is I am doing, no matter how pressing my task at hand might be, and show my child they matter?
YES, YES, YES.
The younger years will build a foundation of trust, rapport, and respect. When our relationship with our children is strong in the younger years it makes the transition into the teenage years a smoother one.
Don’t get me wrong, just because we are intentional when they are young doesn’t mean our teenagers will always love us, never disobey us, or never give us the occasional eye roll. I cannot guarantee that. But I can guarantee that when our children feel safe, loved, and valued while in our care, we become a safe place in the uncertain world they are currently navigating.
Maybe you find yourself navigating the teenage years and you feel as though your child has completely shut you out. What do you do then?
I’d like to share some tips for connecting with teen boys and girls, respectively…
For the moms parenting teen boys…
It’s my hope and prayer that you, mama, are his first love (other than Jesus). Boys are extremely loyal to their moms. Perhaps your son has spread his wings and is flying out into this world and his social life, school work, or sports comes before you. How do you make time to connect with him when he seems disinterested in connecting with you?
- Go to his room and sit. Just sit with him. Don’t say a word. Just be with him.
I know this sounds weird and perhaps awkward, however, I have done this with my oldest boy. He’s an introvert by nature. He likes his social time, but he also likes to recluse. If I want to spend time with him, I have to seek him out. Most times, I sit next to him and pray over him while he does his homework or reads. No words need to be said, he knows I am making an effort to be with him, I have sought him out, and I care.
- Ask to play a video game with them (if they are the gaming type).
My second oldest son is 15. He loves retro video games which are exactly my speed. The OG Mario Brothers, Tetris, Techmo Bowl, Double Dribble, Burgertime…I might have just dated myself. 9 times out of 10, he beats the pants off of me. For me, it’s not about winning. It’s about spending time with him. You would be surprised at the conversations we have and the details of his days that he is willing to share with me. Now, he asks me just about every other night if I want to play. I have told myself that my answer always has to be yes when he asks. It doesn’t matter what I am doing, it can wait. He won’t always want to play video games with his mom.
- Family game night
Put the phones away…all of them…even yours and your spouse’s. Decide in advance who gets to choose the game you will play for the night. Now, if your family is anything like mine, family game night is entertaining and challenging…too many competitive people in one room.
- Leave them sticky notes
There’s nothing like a little note of encouragement, a prayer, or scripture that makes you feel seen and loved. Every now and then, I like to leave my children little sticky notes of encouragement. I love to see how they pick them up and put them in places they will see often.
- Schedule a date night
My second oldest son jokes that he only gets to spend time with me when he’s injured and has a doctor’s appointment. All kidding aside, my kids love when they get one on one time with me. They get to choose where we eat, shop and go to have fun. I have four kids, their interests are all different. They enjoy being the center of attention no matter how old they might be.
For the moms raising teen girls…
This world is competing for her attention…can I get an amen? It’s my prayer, sweet mama, that your daughter knows who she is, confident in her identity in Christ. That when the world comes at her, she remains steadfast and courageous. I also pray that your relationship with her is the most important relationship she has outside of the one she has with Jesus. Here are some tips on how to keep that relationship thriving and surviving:
- Forehead kisses
Is that weird? I don’t know about you but forehead kisses help me feel safe and loved. Such a small gesture but so very meaningful.
- Tell her she is beautiful
Again, a small gesture but something she needs to hear often. Perhaps every day. The world will tell her what it thinks she is. It’s important that she hears that she is perfectly created in God’s image before the world has a claim on her.
- Worship with her
There is nothing, no nothing, more beautiful than my daughter sitting beside me worshiping her little heart out to the Lord. Dance parties to worship songs are fun too…can you say, “Church Clap” by KB?
- Coffee or ice cream dates
Leave the phones in the car and go to her favorite coffee shop or ice cream store. Uninterrupted, intentional, eye contact matters. Listen and hear what is on her heart and mind.
- Pray with her
Prayer is powerful. I want to invite you to stop and pray anytime her heart is heavy or she might be experiencing something difficult. Model for her that prayer is our go-to in times of uncertainty.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) states,
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,
not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one
another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
Our schedules and busyness might get in the way of spending time with our family, the people that matter most. Let’s not miss this. Let’s spur on our children by letting them know that there’s nothing that will stand in the way of us meeting with them.
Friend, this mommin’ journey is hard. I think we can all agree that we are navigating new territory in the lives of our teenagers with smartphones and social media. The distractions of this world will keep our family from real, meaningful connection if we aren’t super intentional.
The foundation of our relationships with our children begins when our children are small, but it doesn’t end there. I want to encourage that weary heart of yours, no matter what stage of parenting you are in, the work you are doing matters. It is my hope that God gives you margin in your schedule to seek out opportunities to nurture and grow in these relationships.
We’ve got Kingdom work to do, mama.
God girl. Wife. Mom of 4. Author of Reclaim Her Heart: Empowering Moms to Raise Teen Daughters with Kingdom Identity in a World of Conformity. Host of the Kingdom Mamas podcast. Speaker. On mission to cultivate authentic faith in the next generation.