When you first cuddle your newborn baby, you know the powerful feeling of a parent’s love. That curious toddler who climbs into your lap for a story and spontaneously hugs your neck so tightly or a school-aged child who sits close to you in church and still wants to hold your hand walking through the store make it easy to continue showing love through your words and actions.
But it sometimes takes a little more effort to show love to that child who’s now as tall as you are, who acts so independent, and stays up later at night than you do!
Yet through these teen years, I think our kids desperately need to know that our love is still there. When so much about themselves and their world is changing, mom’s and dad’s love can be a constant, positive force in their lives.
Since I have girls, it was easy for me to come up with this list of ways I try to show love to my teen daughters. I’m thinking that with slight variations, these would work for boys, too!
1. Listen to her. As in really listen. Make eye contact. Ask follow-up questions that are thoughtful, but not probing. Unless she asks for a solution to a problem, just empathize with her view of the situation and allow her to pour out her feelings.
2. Pray aloud for her. My dad still does this for me sometimes, just when we’re on the phone together. There is something powerful about hearing your name brought to God in prayer. I used to make our bedtime prayer ritual about general topics – health of family and friends, safety and blessing for our missionaries, etc. – but lately I’ve purposely made that prayer time about my daughters and what each of them are facing in the next several days.
3. Communicate her way. How does she like to communicate? Does she like to sit and talk over coffee drinks or does texting back and forth work for her? Maybe she really appreciates you writing her notes or trading a journal back and forth. I actually try to do some of each of these with my girls, but I would say one speaks a texting love language and the other one appreciates handwritten notes.
4. Celebrate her. Yes, this includes her accomplishments in school, sports, fine arts, or other activities. But sometimes just find a silly holiday so you have an excuse to celebrate! For example, Friday, October 7 is Frappe Day; Tuesday, October 18th is Chocolate Cupcake Day; and Friday, October 28th is Plush Animal Lover’s Day. There really is a day for everything!
5. Do something to make her life easier. Do a chore for your daughter. Make her bed, pack her lunch, clean up her room while she’s out of the house, or pick up a book or movie at the library for her to enjoy over the weekend. Think of what she would be relieved to have taken off her plate and do that for her.
6. Give her space. This one is hard for me. I want to charge in and know all about everything that’s going on in her life. Yet I’ve come to understand that sometimes she needs time to digest things herself before she talks about them. There are certainly times a parent needs to step in, but, if possible, allow her some time to process her own thoughts before you initiate the conversation.
7. Extend grace. Some days I just need to sit back and remember what it was like to be a teenager myself. Would I want to go back there? No thank you. Emotions are going to run high, disappointments are going to sting a bit more, self confidence is going to ebb and flow. And while there are some lines you don’t cross in our home (defiance, disrespect, etc.), there are still ample opportunities for me to give grace in some of the little things. My daughters are a work in progress, just like their parents.
In what other ways do you show love to your teenager?