By Christine Carter
Parents of teens have an arsenal of things we tell our kids multiple times a day. And often, they are questions, demands, and reprimands.
Dealing with Teenagers
“Pick up your room!”
“Get off your phone!”
“What stinks in here?”
“What in the world are you doing?”
“You’re going to be late!”
And this is parenting.
But what our teens actually need to hear, we may forget to say. It could be we are so focused on teaching them the importance of responsibility and accountability that we forget about the most significant things we need to convey to them.
Parents need to say the following six things to our teens, because they secretly long to know we love and believe in them, despite their teen ways.
Six Things You Need to Say
1. “I hear what you’re saying.” Our kids need to know we are listening to what they have to say. Often, we are too busy telling them what to do and how to do it that we don’t take the time to stop and acknowledge their side. We need to validate their words and confirm that we are listening. We need to stop interrupting, dismissing, or worse, getting distracted while they are trying to tell us something they feel is important. Our teens need to feel heard and understood more than anything.
2. “ I understand how you’re feeling.” When our teens are expressing their emotions, we need to affirm those feelings they are sharing with validating words. It doesn’t matter if you think they are acting too dramatic or ridiculous. The feelings they are experiencing are real to them, and if we brush them off or dismiss them, we are sending the message that we don’t care how they feel. If that continues to occur, they will simply stop sharing their feelings with us. Make sure you pay close attention to your teen when he or she is offering you a glimpse into their emotional side.
3. “I see so many gifts in you.” Adolescence can be full of doubts, confusion, and insecurity for many teens. Our kids are constantly scrutinizing their performance, their potential, and their limitations. They compare every detail of themselves to others, and this often leads them to poor self-esteem. They may not think they have many talents, strengths, or skills, so we need to help them identify their gifts. Make sure you point out all those wonderful things about your kid and do it often. They need constant encouragement and affirmation, and recognizing what makes them unique is critical to their self-worth.
4. “I believe in you.” Teens need a cheerleader. They need assurance that we have confidence in their potential. Remind them of this often. Adolescence is a season where our teens are trying new things, exploring new interests, and developing new skills, but are still fragile and vulnerable to the harsh conditional world that influences them with competition and judgment. Make sure you empower them with validation, praise, and an earnest belief in all they can be and do.
5. “I love you no matter what.” This might be the hardest thing to voice at times because our teens can say and do things that are foolish, unsafe, and even mean-spirited. But being a parent means we love our kids unconditionally. We might not like some of the things they do, but we will always love them. Our teens will make mistakes, and they will falter and fail. There will undoubtedly be accountability and consequences to their behavior, but our teens need to be reassured that our love will never change, that our love is a constant in a world full of inconsistencies. There’s nothing more comforting to a teen than knowing that their parents love them no matter what.
6. “I’m always here for you.” You’d do anything for your child, and you want them to come to you with any problems, right? The key to building open communication with our teens is telling them you are there for them, no matter what. And here’s the thing: You need to mean it and keep your word. Our teens hesitate to share much of their lives with us, and their growing autonomy is normal and even healthy, but we still want them to know that we are available when needed. We want to give them an open invitation to reach out for our help, our guidance, and our support.
Even if our kids seem distracted and dismissive when we say these things, keep telling them over and over again. Believe it or not, our kids secretly want our approval, our support, and our love. And when we give it freely, unconditionally, and regularly, it does them a world of good.
Christine Carter writes at TheMomCafe.com, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration, and faith. She is the author of “Help and Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness.” Find her on Facebook or on Twitter@TheMomCafe.