We love them with all of our hearts and yet they can constantly keep us guessing. Teenagers. It seems at times that every new day presents some different challenge that can come between us and a strong relationship with our teens. At this stage of the game, the greatest gift we can give our kids is our trust. By now, we've spent more than a decade modeling, instilling and refining the values we want for them. It's time to let the rubber meet the road.
I'm certainly not suggesting that this is easy. Simultaneously, our teens are testing their boundaries, striving with everything in them for independence, and frequently trying to shake off the parents who can be such a cramp in their style. Still, if we are to survive this ultimate transition into adulthood, it will best serve our relationship with our teens by loosening the reigns.
The good news is that by being consistent and patient, we can still easily reach our teens where they still need us. The following tips may be helpful as you begin to allow yourself to trust your teen out in the big wide world.
Yep, there it is. Just like every other stage in your child's development, it's critical to lead by example. Keep your promises. Show up for your children. Live in a way that allows you to be candid and open with them about your life, just as you expect it from them. When we begin to treat our teens with the same respect we offer other adults, they can sense that we honor their thought processes and decision making.
Any time you find your teen willing to talk with you about her life is a priceless opportunity. Thank her for her openness. Try not to talk too much. Ask your teen if she wants your input, and if she does, keep it brief. A lot of times teens don't hear much after the first few sentences anyway. Don't reward your teen's willingness to be honest with you with a lecture. Make dialogue a pleasant experience for her, and she'll be more likely to come to you when she needs help.
Trust is built one brick at a time. Whether you're setting out to give your teen new freedoms or recovering and rebuilding from broken trust, it is parents that have to take the lead. Try a new curfew. Give your teen a twenty and ask him to bring you back the change. Give him a clear idea of what your expectation is in as few words as possible, and let him know that you are giving them the gift of your trust. Again, now is not the time to lecture him, but rather to allow him to know that the trust is not a question for you. Choose to give it as a gift.
Let them make mistakes
Teens are just adults in the making. How do we learn best? Personally, I have learned the most profound lessons of my life by making mistakes. I'm grateful for the grace to move past those mistakes and get another opportunity to get it right. Allow your teens the natural consequences of their mistakes, but be there to support them in getting a fresh start. Encourage them that there is always another chance to rebuild trust in your relationship. Encourage yourself by remembering that the teen years are all about trial and error. Eventually, your teen will find his way.
Spend time together
This tip can be more and more challenging as our teens develop their own social lives and priorities. Make certain you set aside time to simply "be" together. A great way to stay connected with your teen and build trust is to take an interest in the things they like to do - even if it's really not your bag. I've been known to spend an hour playing video games with my son, which is totally not my thing, but I love having him take the time to show me how to do something he really enjoys. This time is fertile ground for excellent conversation, and it doesn't have to be too heavy.
These simple suggestions can be the beginnings of an easier road through the teen years. Loving our kids as much as we do, we can often go to one extreme or another and risk becoming too loose or too controlling. Fortunately, the best guides for what our children need are our children themselves. Take time to listen to what your teen is really saying to you about what they need.