Most days I take all 3 of my boys (16, 14 and 9) to school. Some days they are awake and ready to go. Other days they are walking out the door with bedhead, bad breath, shoes in hand and grabbing a protein shake for their breakfast (if we have any). The rides to school are mostly quiet. Everyone is probably thinking about their day… at least I know I am. Some days a song will come on and it brightens the mood a little. However, most days it’s super quiet. This used to drive me crazy. I’d try to spark a conversation, crack a joke, pray with them… basically anything to engage them in a conversation.
Back when I was 25 years old, a young Youth Pastor and wet behind my ears I can remember vividly a ride with my Pastor to our weekly lunch. He was very emotional as he shared with me that he felt like he was losing his daughter. “She just doesn’t talk to me about anything anymore”, he said. “It’s like she thinks I’m a nerd or that I’m not cool enough to speak to and share her life with her”. I assured him this wasn’t the issue… other than nerd thing (I’m pretty sure all pre-teens and teens think mom & dad are from planet nerd). As a young Youth Pastor I just said to him what I remember was important to me. I said “You don’t have to say anything, just spend time with her. Enjoy the silence, be available and be consistent. Maybe ask a open ended question from time to time. Like What was the best part of your day?… and you aren’t allowed to say lunch or study hall!” Most of us have had this convo right?
Parent: How was School?
Parent: What did you do today?
Parent: Do you have any homework?
As a parent it is vital that you be available to your Child. That they know when they share something with you that it will be in confidence, that they won’t be put down or made fun of, that YOU (the Parent), will listen… Actively. Find ways to open the conversation. Even if it’s “Low Key” (Teen lingo for Down Low or not super important). Teens have a desire (whether they admit or not) to connect with their parents. Teens desire consistency, structure and to be connected to mom & dad. They like it when mom & dad are “There”. It’s a big deal!
So what’s the advice I have for you parents? Nothing huge or earth shattering. It’s simple. Just be there for your child. Be ready for a low key conversation. Be your child’s biggest fan and be there to cheer them on in their sports, performances, presentations, recitals, etc. Show them they are important with your time and your ears. Focus on the positive things they are doing in life and tell them. Own your mistakes and ask for forgiveness from them if you’ve made a mistake or hurt them. Praise, Praise, Praise them. Be fair, consistent, firm, and loving in your discipline. If you make a threat you better be ready to follow through with it (“I’ll call the police. We’ll send you to boarding school, etc”) If you are still together with your spouse or even separated do your best to work as a Parent TEAM! Offer grace from time to time. Listen to them and be present. Even if it’s in the silence!