Encourage Proper Identity. Teens experience pressure to succeed at an early age. As a result, they can grow discouraged or feel like they cant' measure up to our hopes or their own goals. Encourage your teen to base her self-worth on who she is in Christ, not what she does. Let her relationship with Christ be her chief identifier.
Listen As parents, we often talk "at" our teens rather than taking the time to listen to them. Cultivate the art of listening. Avoid formulating a mental comeback while your teen is speaking, but really listen to discern fears and emotions behind his words. Let your teen know you are available any time he wants to talk.
Validate Feelings and Opinions. It is really hard to live in a house where opinions are not valued and where you are not allowed to express emotion. Teens get frustrated after hearing "That's life--just get over it--get used to it--it only gets worse as you get older, better prepare now", over and over again.
Consider having family forums--times of discussion that involve all the members of the family. The topic can be as simple as where to go on a family vacation or as complicated as politics. Whatever you choose, let each family member have a voice. Family dinner time is an excellent time for the family "to come together as one", enjoy a meal and conversation together. It is important however, that each child has an opportunity to speak to their parent's one on one, on their own time and about a specific topic, if need be.
Console and Comfort. Your teen may be having some emotional battles at school or in relationships. Each teen faces these challenges differently. Some rebound quickly; others hurt deeply. Wherever your teen lands on that spectrum, comfort her. Remember that what seems insignificant to you could be a crisis to her. Also, never forget you were once a teen as well. Revisit those feelings you felt as a teen to get a perspective on how your teen may be feeling. Even though each child is different, and your teen may be different in expressing her feelings as you were when you were her age, it is a good thing to keep those feelings in check. However, don't make it a habit of saying "I was a teen once, too." That statement can be a double edged sword. Your teen could take it as if you are not interested in their feelings, but handled the correct way, it could be an opening to the conversation that allows your teen to see you in a different light and open up to you.
Bless With Touch. As children grow, we tend to stop touching them. This creates distance and they wonder if they still matter. Just because your teen is older does not mean she no longer needs your touch. In fact, some people are literally "leaners." The gain a sense of comfort from leaning against you or standing close while you give a back rub or a hug.
I have made a morning routine to "high five" my daughters while in the drop off line at school in the morning, just before they exit the car. We also greet each other in the afternoon, at pick up, with another "high five". They are at an age that they feel a kiss from mom is "embarrassing". I decided to not let it get to me. I get my kisses at home and high fives in the car. Either way, it is skin on skin, and they know that it is a simple gesture of great love between us.
Say "I Love You" Often--And Mean It. Let every greeting and every parting include an "I love you", even when you are angry with your teen. Remember, regardless of the current circumstances, these precious young people are our heritage and a gift from God. Those "high-fives" mentioned above, I still get an "I love you, Mom", after the high five. Those are the sweetest three words I look forward to hearing, and saying, each and every day.
To appreciate means to "raise in value". Catch your teen doing something right and praise them for it. Be specific:
- "I appreciate you because....."
- "I was pleased to see you......"
- "Thank you for ......"
- "You blessed me when....."
Your verbal praise will raise your teens sense of self-worth.