God places every single one of us in families because He knows we desire connection, a sense of belonging, and people with whom we can journey through life. How do we as parents communicate to our teens that ultimately, family is of utmost importance, no matter what happens?
Build strong relationships
Ideally, establishing a close-knit relationship with our children starts from their childhood days. Being an involved parent during their growing years builds trust and support, and paves the way for better communication during a teenager’s relatively tumultuous years. However, even if you have not had that close relationship with your children in their younger days, now is not too late to start investing time and effort into their lives.
This can be done with three ‘A’s in mind – acceptance, affirmation and affection. Firstly, make sure your teenagers know that you love them unconditionally, no matter what. Accept them for who they are, not how they perform. Next, look for ways to affirm them. Catch them doing the right thing and publicly acknowledge and praise them. Lastly, do not be afraid to show your teenagers affection even though they are no longer little children. Ask “How are you doing today? What’s going on in your world?” and then listen. Kind words, a pat on the back and even gifts are ways to make your teenagers feel valued in the family.
Make family time the norm
As children reach the teenage years, the desire to hang out with the family dwindles while their desire to be with their friends increases. It almost seems like all of a sudden, the parents, who were once their heroes or best friends, now become outdated and “uncool” to be seen around with. This is part of normal adolescent development.
Including family time in your weekly schedule might help keep things going. Be clear that all family members, including your teenagers, are to set aside that particular time of the week for the family to gather. Even something as simple as a family dinner would be a good time to catch up on each other’s lives. You can also discover what your teenagers enjoy doing, be it watching movies or even rock climbing, and get the whole family together to have a fun and relaxing time.
You may have heard of the phrase, “A family that prays together, stays together.” Indeed, family devotions can be a very helpful vehicle for spiritual growth in a family, and for family bonding. Set aside time regularly to read a Bible passage together, ask questions based on the readings, and pray for each other. If your teenagers are not completely comfortable or keen on it, keep these sessions short and gently encourage them as they go along.
Your teenagers are in an exciting stage of discovery and growth, constantly learning new skills and being exposed to new challenges and opportunities. Hopefully, through the many changes they will face in the years to come, family will continue to be dear to their hearts, and a refuge they can run to anytime.
Used by permission of Focus on the Family Singapore (www. family.org.sg), a local charity dedicated to helping families thrive through differentiated programmes, trusted resources and family counselling.
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