Parenting Tweens and Teens — Part 1: The Foundation of Love
“Get ready to live! You think you have been living life until now, but when you become a parent a whole new part of you opens up that you didn’t even know existed.”
I still remember my mother’s counsel as I sat holding our first baby in the hospital room. It made a tremendous impact on me and over the years I’ve learned that parenting is really about shifting away from our self-centered nature and putting the needs of our children first.
As a parent, one of the most beautiful parts of raising a young child is forming a unique bond as they experience life — birthdays and holidays, family vacations, the wonders of learning, and more. It’s wonderful but often doesn’t last as the tween and teen years approach.
A Solid Foundation
As parents, we share a common goal to have a good relationship with our teens. As we navigate this time period, we all want to be good parents. We want to help our kids be good people and ideally maintain a good connection with them. And we would all love to know the formula for how to make that happen. While there are some very useful techniques and strategies that often help, there is a foundational principle that everything rests on and that hasn’t changed. Love. Everything builds on and flows from that. Love is what kids want, and a loving relationship with kids is what parents want.
Think of your parenting as you would building a house. You need a solid foundation and if you don’t have that you don’t have much. All of your finish work and designs can be beautiful but if your foundation is off you will have trouble throughout the house, and truly the rest won’t matter much. And the same with your relationship with your tween and teen. You need a solid foundation built on love and genuine care for your growing child.
Drawing Closer Together
While love is the foundation, the daily realities of life make it easy to get distracted with tasks, challenges, frustrations, mistakes, negative moods, etc. — and it is normal for all of us to get out of sync and out of touch. This is part of being human. Our kids have weaknesses and so do we. The beauty of this is that sharing our inadequacies and vulnerabilities with each other is often the very thing that draws us to our children and them to us.
Shifting To Compassion
The more we understand and have compassion for our tweens and teens, the more likely we are to have a meaningful, loving relationship with them. Part of the trick in doing this is to shift our focus to what it is like for them to go through changing, growing, and challenging experiences in their unique and individual ways.
Focusing on Your Love for Them
For a meaningful exercise, take the time to think and write about all the things you love about your tween or teen. Put the list somewhere it can be read and reread. Focus more on who they are, rather than what they do or achieve.
What do you love about them?
How are they unique?
What are some of the best moments you’ve had together?
How are they different from you and what strengths do they have that you admire?
What have they taught you?
What do you love about their sense of humor?
The counsel my mom gave me 16 years ago is timeless and has held true! Being a parent opens us up to so many amazing experiences as well as difficult challenges. In this journey, feeling inadequate at times, especially with our tweens and teens, is not only okay but normal. The key is to always build our relationships with our kids and base our parenting on love.
Next week, check out Part 2 where I focus on how to build a real connection with your tweens and teens.