Parenting is never easy. It has its joys and struggles at every age and every stage.
I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world though.
Our little ones aren’t so little anymore. In fact, each one of them is as tall as me or a bit taller.
They’re in their teen years at 13, 15, and 16 now at the height of all that awkwardness and teenage angst.
Also at the height of their need for connection and acceptance at a time where it can be a challenge given their sometimes disagreeable teenage disposition.
Nature does this to all of us out of perfect design. It helps prepare them to go out into the world on their own by separating from us, their parents, and helps prepare us by creating a bit of distance necessitating us to let go enough to let them go into the world yet still survive and eventually thrive yet again.
When our kids are little it’s so easy to find ways to connect with them. There’s so much physical contact and affection exchanged between parents and young children. There are fun activities and lots of laughter. Our little ones are so open to it. As they get older this gets trickier. Finding ways to connect with them becomes more of a challenge.
I think many parents don’t enjoy their older kids as much as they could because older kids can be so tough. If you feel this way you’re only normal.
However, I think there are definitely ways to connect with them and once you figure out how you can have that same sense of joy as when they were little.
They want to be connected with you. They want to feel loved by you and want you to understand them.
This might not be as easy as it sounds because every kid is so different and every parent is so different.
I do promise you that through some adjustment of some of the following tips you can find a way to connect to them and enjoy them yet again.
Don’t ridicule or criticize. Help them navigate through their struggles, their stresses and maybe even bad choices. Sympathize with what they’re struggling with. To them, the hard things are REALLY hard for them, even though it might not seem so bad to you.
You’ve got to like them I mean really like them. Of course, they know you love them but they need to know you like them. All kids have positive traits. All kids are likable. You just need to focus on the positive and put the negative behind you. Focus on the traits you like.
Put your phone away and make yourself available to them. Turn off the TV and put down whatever it is you’re doing. They need to know they are important to you. You’d be amazed at how they respond to you when you show them this. You’re making time for them and they’ll make time for you.
Show interest. Ask them questions. How was their day? What’s their favorite class? Who do they consider their best friend? If they’re showing signs of stress or anxiety, ask them what’s going on. At the end of the day in our house usually at dinner, we ask the kids what was one good thing that happened during their day and one bad thing. This is an excellent time to gauge where they’re at and to connect with them.
Out of nowhere build them up. Say “I love you.”, “I’m so proud of you.”, “I’m so glad you’re mine.” Say these things when there’s no reason to say them- no obvious reason like good performance or completion of a task or something like that. It means so much to them when we say these things for no reason because it must mean we really recognize their worth and greatness.
Laugh together. Don’t always be so serious.
Do fun surprises for them. Unexpectedly take them out of school and take them to lunch, after school take them out for a special treat, buy their favorite ice cream, let them pick out a movie to watch, take them shopping, leave love notes around their room. It doesn’t have to be big things, just something simple that lets them know you care.
Reward them with special privileges like helping them with a chore when they are overloaded with homework or just letting them stay up late once in a while. Speaking about chores, you’d be amazed at how easy you connect with your kids when you do them with them instead of assigning them to do the chore. It can be fun. You can laugh and talk and dance while listening to music.
Most of all let them know that you love them no matter what. They’re going to make their choices but love them no matter what. They need to hear that often. Don’t hold their mistakes against them. Forgive them. And forgive them often. Always take the opportunity to encourage them to better themselves and to learn from their mistakes. None of us are perfect…especially our older kids!
Listen to them. You don’t have to solve everything. You don’t even have to agree with them. But, you do need to listen. Listen to hear them…not to lecture or correct them. Let them talk it out. You can’t fix everything. You can’t fix their mistakes. You can’t fix their weaknesses, their insecurities or their fears. But you can teach, guide, support, and love them.
Allow them to make mistakes…because they are going to make them. Try your hardest to be patient as they figure things out. Try not to judge, but understand that this is part of the process of being a teenager.
And lastly, enjoy them. Really enjoy them. Older kids are really incredible. Think about all their strengths and positive qualities. Think about how they make you a better person. Think about how very lucky you are to have them. Their lives are full of potential and promise. They have great things in store for them, and when they have the love and support of parents behind them, there’s nothing they can’t do.
Enjoy these years for they go by in a blink of an eye!