Guess what? It’s true there are some ways to love your teen … today … without having them smirk, shirk or excessively roll their eyes.
Pardon, you say? Impossible!
Yes, I know that most parents have experienced the teen who turns their head from a kiss on the cheek … reluctantly accepts an embrace with arms hanging limply by their side or who bristles and snarls at the mere suggestion of adoration. Yep, it’s indeed common and, to varying degrees, completely normal.
Logically, the way then you love your teen is different to the way you love your newborn or infant. No less, of course, but different.
Cuddles on your lap, tickles after bath time and holding hands at the shops are delights long gone. And, look, face it … some days your teen’s behaviour may not be in the least bit likeable, but are they still loved? You bet they are.
Despite the quest for independence, bravado and front, do teens want to be loved … and shown this … any less by their parents?
No, I don’t think so. Indeed I think adolescents fiercely crave their parents’ love and approval … but … shhhhh it’s not so cool for them to admit it. Mmmmm, it’s lame even.
So, without smothering or fusspotting, how can parents communicate a love message to their teen?
You’ll know by now I’m an avid reader and much of my reading time is dedicated to interesting snippets related to family behaviour. On a cruise around the inter-webs recently, I encountered a site called Parenting with Dignity and loved their philosophy on exclaiming love to your kids. I think this sums up beautifully the importance of communicating our love to kids, especially in their teen years…
The time they most need to hear it, is most likely the time you feel least able to say it …
This site proposes a number of ways for parents to be sending a “constant and continual message of love” to their children. The ideas are great and it was easy for me to adapt them specifically for parents of adolescents.
The result? My spin on how you can show love to your teen, today, and here are 10 ways …
1. Just say it. Those three words: “I love you” But the aha here is to say them at an appropriate time. Tell them you love them quietly, not in front of their friends and do it at unexpected moments. This can be a very powerful strategy when used in the middle of an argument or robust discussion.
2. How about writing it? Committing the love to words is mighty and it conveys the message that you thought about them, even when not with them. A skywriting plane could be considered over the top, how about a discreet post-it note left on their dresser or even a gift card.
3. Making it. Making things for or with your kids is an act of service and demonstrates much love and care. In the teen years, this can be done simply by preparing their favourite meal or sweet treat. Bonus points if you are able to coerce them into the kitchen to make it alongside you! If you are a clever crafty type, you could even make them a cushion for their room … or something similarly beyond me … knowing they will understand your efforts come with love.
4. Never too old to play it. It may no longer be Lego on the floor, but many teens still enjoy some playfulness – cards, X-box if you’re game or even something more energetic involving sports equipment. The love you show is in the time you spend connecting with them in a fun activity. Let your hair down, enjoy it and I bet they appreciate it more than they may tell you.
5. The eyes have it. It’s simple, and discreet, to communicate love for your teen through eye contact. Let them catch you watching their activity and then with a quick wink and smile they’ll understand your presence.
6. Shhh and listen. We’re all busy in our non-stop lifestyles, but momentarily stopping your activity and listening to what your adolescent has to say is one of the easiest ways to love your teen. It’s all about mindfulness, being in the moment and connecting with them. Hearing what it is they are really saying. Try not to interrupt and using prompters such as “wow, really?” … “tell me more” … will reinforce caring communication.
7. Touch is still ok. So, while your adolescent may no longer want hand holding or snuggles, there are different types of touch that they may respond well to. A quick pat on the back, a ruffle of the hair or arm over the shoulder are all ways of demonstrating your love. Nothing too demonstrative, avoid overwhelming them with too much touchy-touchy-huggy and make it appear effortless and natural.
8. Haters have no place. Demonstrate your love and care by shooting down hate in flames. Challenge negativity where you see and hear it – think TV programs, advertising and opinion pieces – and offer supportive and caring alternative points of view. Importantly defend and support your teen should they ever be the target of bullies or other forms of unwarranted hurt.
9. Control your own emotions and behaviours. Remember that your teen’s emotions will most likely fluctuate wildly … often beyond their own control, let alone yours. Modelling kindness in how you interact with others … including them, of course … is a very practical way of loving them.
10. Teach them about love. Find appropriate times and situations to share and discuss this list with them.
The above is by no means a definitive list or how-to manual. But each of these strategies makes so much sense to me. What would you add to this list? What do you do to show love to your teen?