No one ever said that being a parent was easy. Sometimes we get so busy that our children fall to the wayside. Other times, we get so frustrated that we just want to strangle them! My point is, sometimes we just forget to let our kids know just how much they mean to us.
If you haven’t been very expressive to your teen, or you are experiencing a distance, these activities may help bring your teen closer to you. Keep in mind, though, if your teen isn’t accustomed to this type of treatment, they may be apprehensive at first. Don’t give up.
Now, here are some ideas of things we can do. Commit to giving your teen:
1. An Unexpected Card
I do this for my kids when they least expect it. I will leave a card on their pillow or on their computer or even on the fridge. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a simple “I love you,” “I’m proud of you” or “YOU ROCK!” Notes are also good. I just learned that my kids have kept all of the cards and letters that I have given them over the years.
2. A Hug
Hugs are the greatest. Psychologists say that a 30 second hug is actually healing. It elevates the mood and strengthens the bond between people. Reach out and give your teen a hug. There doesn’t have to be a particular reason or a special occasion, just do it to let them know that you are there for them and that you love them.
Too many times we forget to praise our kids – but we are often quick to criticize them. I praise my daughter and son for doing their chores without my asking them. I thank them for the things that they do (even if I have had to get on to them to get it done). Kids are people too and acknowledgment of the things they do right is very important. If all they ever hear is what they do wrong, they will be less inclined to do anything at all.
4. Individual Time
Take some time each day to spend with each child individually. Go for a walk, go to dinner, go to a movie, or watch a movie together at home. My son usually winds up in my room or I go sit in his room and we talk about his music, dreams he had the night before, his friends, basically anything that interests him. I don’t use this time to “preach” to him, I mostly just listen and we talk as friends. My daughter and I walk the dog together, walk to the store together or play board games together. Sometimes we watch movies and sometimes we turn off the radio, computer and television and just talk. She tells all her friends that I am her best friend.
It is important that your teen know that you support them in what they do. You may not always understand (or like) everything they do or enjoy (I mean, really, how can anyone tell what the vocalists are saying in metalcore music – without getting a copy of the lyrics?) but if it is important to them, you need to give them your support (buy earplugs – they work). My son is a musician and I go to his shows which sometimes feature music that is so far removed from what I consider music it isn’t funny (now I know how my parents felt). But I go, I listen and when we are at home, I ask him about the songs he is writing or composing.
6. Inclusion in Your Activities
When you are cooking, ask your teen to help. When you garden, work on the car, clean, anything, ask your teen to work with you or talk to you while you do it. If you are working on the car, let them help, even if it is just holding tools or handing you things you need. In our family, cooking dinner is a family affair. We all pile into our little kitchen and talk while I cook (sometimes my daughter cooks and sometimes we all get in on the action). My kids have told me that this is one of their favorite times.
7. Correction without Criticism
As a parent, it is your job to correct your child when they do something they shouldn’t. However, try to avoid harsh criticism. Definitely don’t tell them that they are stupid, worthless or anything of that nature. My favorite approach is the “sandwich effect.” I begin by telling them something positive, then give them the correction, and end with something else positive. This works wonders. For instance, sometimes my daughter doesn’t keep her cat’s litterbox as clean as I would like. The last conversation we had went something like this:
Positive: You know, I really appreciate that you do your chores without my having to ask you. That helps me so much. Thank you.
Correction: However, I noticed that you don’t keep your cat’s letter box as clean as it should. This can cause your cat to have some pretty serious health problems. It will also begin to make the house smell. Could you please do better at keeping it clean?
Positive: Thanks, I knew I could count on you. You do so much to help me around here, I
don’t know what I would do without. I love you, girl.
I always call her “girl” it is sort of a nick name. The point here is that it worked. She does a much better job of keeping the litter box clean now.
8. Your Attention
Let your teen know that you are listening to them, really listening. This is one thing that so many young people say that they wish their parents would do for them. Listen without judgment, without “preaching” and don’t interrupt. You can ask questions to better understand what they are saying, but just have a regular conversation with your teen. Go ahead, try it. It is a great experience.
9. Your Time
Giving yourself is probably the hardest thing to do. Give your teen your time to show them that you love them. This means making time for them in your busy schedule. When you take the time to just be with your child, you are letting them know that you love them and that you care. One important thing to remember, though. When you give your child your time, do so cheerfully. Don’t make them feel guilty by telling them all the things you could be doing or what you feel you should be doing at the time. Just be with them.
10. Your Words
This may seem like such a simple gesture, but so many parents forget it. Just tell your child that you love them. Saying “I love you” means a lot, especially when you do it sincerely. If you haven’t said it in a while, maybe it’s time you did.
Stephanie Partridge: I am a mom, not just to my three terrific teenagers, but to the entire neighborhood! On any given weekend we may have as many as 9 or more kids (not including my three) staying over at our house – and they all call me Mom. LOL
I am also blessed with a wonderful husband who married us all and moved into the dad role with an ease that is awe inspiring. We live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with our three pit bulls, Chihuahua (who rules the house) and two cats. I am currently pursuing a psychology degree so that I can counsel young people and incorporate therapy dogs into my practice.
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