For many families the teenage years of their children are more than just a challenge. Many families find that their children suddenly change into people they don’t even know and become frustrated and angry with the “new” people who are now living with the family. About two million kids between the ages of 13-17 run away from home each year. So, how to effectively deal with a teenager in the family is not a problem that is yours alone, even though it may feel like it.Families spend a lot of their time trying to figure out ways to communicate with their teens and return their lives to normal. But, this can be very difficult and easily turns into a verbal debate with a teen that has made up their mind about an issue. One of the most important things to remember when you are entering the dark teenage years with your child is that “Love is a verb”.Before a child hits their teen years they spend a lot of time showing parents how much they love them. From the time a child is a toddler they want to be with their parents, hug them, sit on their laps, be a part of their lives. Children spend a lot of time “doing” love. When children become teenagers it is time for parents to become the “doers” in showing their love. While many teens do not appreciate physical displays of affection very often, and do not want to be “embarrassed” in front of their peers by a parent who tells them they are loved, there are other ways to make love a verb in your life with a teenager. Here are a few easy ways to turn love into a verb with your teen.
Plan on some one on one time with your teen. It is important to remember that most teens do not want to be seen with their parents. Remember, this is not personal. Teens want to be grown-ups and part of that means that their parents aren’t hanging around with them in front of their friends. Spending one on one time with your teen is going to take effort and planning. Take a day trip to a neutral place where there is little or no chance that your child’s friends will be there. It doesn’t have to be an expensive outing, just a day at the beach or hiking. Yes, your teen will complain about going, complain about what they are missing, complain about the weather, and anything else that may make you give up. But, once you are at the location and just hanging out with your teen you will find that kids will open up and talk about their fears, dreams, and hopes. You may find that the first few times you do this you and your teen will spend several hours just sitting. That is okay, the idea is to spend one on one time together and besides showing that you love them enough to want to hang out with them, eventually there will be communication.
It is very difficult for a parent to listen without giving advice or having an opinion. As parents and as people we have lived long enough that we have an opinion about just about everything. But, opinions and independent ideas are new to your teen. The action of love is listening and responding with interest to their ideas and opinions. Not giving advice, saying something like, “Absolutely no way!” or, ignoring them. Many times a parent is the person that teens test their opinions and ideas on, you are their sounding board and they aren’t saying something because they believe it, but because they want to hear what it sounds like out loud and see what the reaction to that belief will be by others. Letting a teen talk through their opinion or idea to it’s inevitable conclusion empowers them and helps them to grow into adults that will think things through. Listening and responding without judging is one of the action verbs of love.
Focusing on the positive everyday with a teen is an action verb. A friend had a daughter with long, flowing, beautiful hair that she loved. One day her daughter came home from school with her hair dyed purple. While it was hard not to react negatively, she told her daughter how much she loved the haircut that she had gotten and didn’t react at all to the purple hair. When her daughter asked her what she thought about the color her response was, “Well, the color is different but if you like it, it’s your choice.” The next day her daughter had dyed her hair back to it’s natural color. By focusing on the positive instead of the negative there was no argument about how awful the hair looked or how her daughter was old enough to make her own decisions. This was not easy for the mom, but it was the “action” of love. And, the teen was not placed in a position of asserting her independence through a fight that would have ended badly.
There are many ways to make love an action verb in a family. It is important to take time to think about how, as parents, we react to a teens efforts to become an independent adult and include making “love an action verb” as daily part of our family life.