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Friday, January 24, 2014

.5 Little Ways to Connect With your Teen Right Now.

Years ago this used to be a typical mommy blog with photos and recipes and cute little anecdotes about my children. But then it morphed as I morphed into something not altogether different, but different enough that it began to take a new shape, and is now not at all a typical mommy blog. Throughout the changes in my life, which are mirrored here in this little space, I have not lost my passion for being a mom. It is something that I absolutely love. I love it so much, that God has had to do a big work in my heart to show me ways where I was loving it a little too much. There were times when I was wrapping my identity in this parenting gig, and where my tight hold on my children could be considered control. I have had to surrender, and allow God to painfully show me areas where I have tried to increase my role in my kids life and be God for them instead of Mommy. That has been a hard lesson to learn, because I fiercely love these four babies given to me. I desire so much for their lives. But so does God, and He loves them perfectly, and infinitely more and better than I ever could. So while there are things that I have had to release in parenting, there are other things that still remain. One big thing is intentionality.

I simply cannot mother well without being intentional about it. I strive for that, and I miss the mark often allowing exhaustion, frustration, and my own humanness to get in the way. But it is something I pray for and work towards with Jesus working in me. Since becoming a mom to a teenager, I have learned that the intentionality with him has to be kicked up a notch more than even with my littles. I have to make a conscious, daily effort to connect with him in meaningful ways. Teens are a completely different breed than babies, toddlers, and school-aged kiddos. Most of them won't just plop in our lap spilling the content of their day, life, and heart freely out for us. We have to work for that - we have to be intentional. It takes hard work and thought to connect with these kids on the brink of adulthood and the great big world open to them. Relationship building isn't easy, and it is sometimes messy, but it is so necessary. Even though our teens are growing up, maturing, and stretching their wings, they still need us in so many ways. Our job is not finished yet.

I am admittedly new at this, and some of you may have already successfully navigated the teen years with your child. You are a goldmine for us in the trenches, and I would love to hear from you in the comments. But for right now, in my 18 short months of being a mom to a teenager, this is what is working for me.

5 Little Ways to Connect With your Teen Right Now:

1. Say I Love You (and mean it) every single day. When our children are adorable little, chubby babies, it is easy to smother them with hugs, kisses, and multiple daily doses of I love yous. But as they grow and change into a teenager who sometimes snarks, who stands taller than you, and makes you reevaluate everything you thought you knew about parenting, the daily affection and the words I love you may come slower. But I think they are still needed. I believe that this is one of the most beautiful messages that we can give our teens every day, before we send them out the door into a world that sometimes isn't pretty. Let them know that they are loved, cherished, and valuable to their family, to this world, and to God who lovingly placed that value onto them. Before school send them out with an I love you, write it on their facebook wall, send it to them in a text, put a note on his bed or in her lunch, and before you hang up the phone say I love you. Don't miss an opportunity to be intentional about saying these important words. They will make a difference, and they will be noticed.

2. Take time to listen before bed. For some reason I have found that those moments when my son has crawled into bed and is ready for sleep becomes the best time for him to talk. Perhaps it is simply his ploy to stay up a few minutes later, but regardless I will snatch onto them! This time has become invaluable for our relationship, but it takes real intentionality on my part. Sitting on his bed at 10 or 11:00 at night and listening well to his heart, is a little different than sitting on my daughter's bed at 7:00 at night. I am usually exhausted and ready to crawl into my own bed, but those moments of time have become sweet and well-worth the effort. Teens, just like adults, want someone who will listen to them, hear what they are saying, and value their words. If they do not find that in us, they will find it someone else. I am also learning to quiet my own voice during this time and let him talk. Sometimes that is really all he wants - not my opinions, my preaching, my remedies, just my empathy and listening ear.

3. Use Social Media as a Tool to Connect. We live in a day and age that is driven by technology. While we have boundaries set up in our home, and with our teen, we have chosen not to altogether escape it. So instead, I use it to build our relationship. I follow and friend my son wherever he is on social media (I think this is just plain good practice anyway), and I intentionally interact with him in those places. If you are friends with my son on facebook, you will see that his timeline is filled up with his mama. And I am okay with that (and he is too). My teen also happens to be a words of affirmation kid. He craves this and it is one of the ways he feels the most loved, which works well for me in that my best tool is writing. But even if you are not a writer, touching base throughout the day over social media can be a very easy and powerful tool to building your relationship with your teen. It doesn't all have to be serious either, Habi and I have a lot of fun teasing each other on instagram. And that brings me to my next point....

4. Have FUN together. I love having a teenager, because life is just more fun. My littles are amazing and silly, but the humor is so much different with a teen. We laugh and tease one another and have inside jokes with each other, and it all builds into the relationship.We go on coffee dates together or find something to play together. All families are different, and of course, your family will have to set the tone and decide what kind of teasing is appropriate. Perhaps what we find fun, you may find disrespectful and visa versa. Do what works for you, and find the balance that you need, but don't neglect the richness of laughter, joking and having fun with your teen. Maximize those moments and allow spontaneous fun to happen in your home.

5. Focus on the Positive. I know that raising a teen can be so stressful and hard. Believe me I have solidarity with you in yearning to reach my child's heart and see him mature and grow into a beautiful adult. I know that there are many days where I focus so much on the changes and maturing that needs to occur, but when I step back and look at the whole of my son, I can see some incredible positives. Affirm those positives in your teen - even the little ones. Positive affirmation and calling out the great character traits in our teens is huge and will make a big difference in our relationship. Let compliments generously roll off your tongue - look for ways to build your child up. With my boy, when I can do this in front of people, he just beams and swells with appreciation. So I take every opportunity to loudly recognize the positives that I see in him.

These are just a few simple ways that I am connecting with my teen right now. I am sure that there are countless other ways that I may not yet practice. I would love to interact with you in the comments about what works for you. This is definitely not a exhaustive list, but one that may get us started in being intentional with our teens.


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