Many of us have them. Some of us were them. And few of us know how to handle them. They are never home. Or they are always home but locked in their room. They are rude and sarcastic. They are disrespectful and distrustful. They are grumpy and moody and unpredictable. Some of them are even angry and violent. You could just suffer through until they grow up and are out of the house. But, what kind of destruction can an emotionally disconnected teen wreak on you, your marriage, or their younger siblings in those few short years between now and then?
What follows is a list of 4 things you can do NOW to reconnect with your teen and to help him reconnect with the rest of the family.
- Give him someone he can trust.
Nothing will drive your teen away faster than broken promises and abused trust. And nothing will bring you back into your teen's good graces than keeping your word. If you say you are going to be at his ball game - be at his ball game. If you promise to help with a homework assignment - set up a time to do it and then do it.
If you can't do something, don't say you can. I know you want to look supportive. I know you have good intentions. I know you hate to say no. But, it's better to tell them no now than to tell them yes and make yourself a liar in their eyes when you choose not to follow through.
- Give him boundaries and responsibilities.
Very few kids ever tell a parent they wish they had more rules. But every troubled teen I have ever talked to has said just that. Oh, maybe they don't use those words. What they do say?
* My parents don't care what I do.
* My parents don't need me.
* My parents don't trust me.
What follows every one of those statements? "I wish they did."
You want show your teen that you care? Ask questions! Listen to the answers! Be VERY slow to criticize! Learn about what's going on in their life.
You want to show your teen that he is needed? Give your child household responsibilities. Ask for a favor once in a while. Share a problem of yours and ask for his advice.
You want to show your teen that you trust him? Set boundaries. Expect him to abide by a few reasonable rules. Teach him that there are consequences to his choices. And then follow through on those consequences.
- Give him your time.
Pick a family night. Put it on the calendar. Make sure everyone knows they are to be there . And then make sure you are there.
On this one night, every week, Mom and Dad are home from work, the children don't have lessons or dates or practices, and everyone has dinner together. Each week a different family member chooses an activity for your time together. One week everyone helps Dad in the garden. The next week everyone goes to the park and then out for ice cream because that's what your 6 year old wants. The next week your teen shows the family how he got to level 17 on his latest video game.
Your teen may hate pulling weeds. You may hate video games and that odd stench in his room. Everyone but the 6 year old may think that playing on the swings is lame. But, you will learn about being a family. Everyone feels important as everyone else participates in an activity they have chosen. And, your teen will start to understand that he is part of something bigger than himself.
- Give him a family.
A family may be a group of people living together under one roof but a group of people living together under one roof aren't necessarily a family. Families have history and heritage. Families are made up of imperfect people who love each other and are trying to learn and grow together. Families fight and forgive and try again.
Sometimes it's difficult for your teen to see that - or to care. But there are some things you can do to help him see:
- When it's your turn for family night, share a story or two about when you were growing up. And don't just tell the good ones. Sometimes teens keep making poor choices because they don't think they can change. Show them by example that a few poor choices can teach life lessons that propel us to greater things.
- Send him to his grandparents for a few weeks in the summer by himself. Ask them to share family stories with him while he's there. Seeing you through their eyes might change his perspective.
- Give him a framed family tree to hang on his wall - one that lists his name, the names of his parents, his grandparents, his great-grandparents, maybe even his great-great-grandparents. Explain that the lives lived by those 30 people went into making his life what it is today. Nothing helps you feel like part of something larger than yourself than coming to know a little bit about those who came before you.
Your teenager is bombarded all day, every day with attitudes, confusion, misinformation, peer pressure. Give him someone he can trust. Give him boundaries and responsibilities. Give him time. And give him a family connection that grounds him and provides him with vision and stability for his future. And what parent doesn't want that for their child.
Sparks: How Parents Can Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers
Price: $16.47 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25.
You Save: $8.48 (34%)