Every child needs at least one very supportive adult in their life. More than one is even better. They need someone to listen, give wise advice, love them no matter what, be slow to anger, take the time to explain things, help them to find a purpose, set boundaries and probably most important of all is to share your human side.
Kids today need a lot. Sometimes it seems impossible to provide. In a time where there is so much controversy, many changes in our culture, absent parents, and defeating choices waiting around the corner for kids, we must be even more aware of what our kids need to thrive so they can live life to the fullest. Keeping them on the right “track” and away from making poor decisions, choosing the wrong crowd to hang with, choosing to experiment with drugs and alcohol etc. can feel futile in our efforts. What do kids need to succeed?
Listening takes practice and sometimes simply saying, “Tell me more.” Or asking “What else?” is all that needs to be said to keep the conversation going. Too many times we adults do all the talking, but to gain the respect of our youth, we adults must stop and think….”It’s not about me; it’s about them.” Listen more without being critical and you will find that youth are more willing to share their events of the day with you. Also remember to ask specific questions about what they tell you or how they feel and using eye contact is a must. Literally say, “What do you think?” or “How do you feel?” “What could you have done differently?” etc.
Hopefully, we as adults have lived long enough to have learned from our mistakes and have gained some wisdom. Share your mistakes with your youth and hopefully they can see where you went wrong and learn from it. Tell them what the word wise means: (marked by deep understanding, a capacity for sound judgment; possessing inside information; and aware of or informed about a particular matter) Also teach them that wisdom usually comes from experience in life. But remember, no matter how much wisdom we pass on, they will still fall down and have to learn from their own mistakes. Just be there to pick them up and encourage them to learn and get it right the next time!
Loving a teen no matter what can seem at times very hard. Or at least showing it. How can love be shown? Be there for them through thick and thin even when they mess up. Tell them “You’ll get it right the next time.” Tell them you love them: daily. Set boundaries and abide by them. Make the consequences stick: good and bad. Take time to listen. Ask questions besides “How was your day?” For example: “What did someone do for you today that was kind?” “What did you do today that was kind for someone else?” “Did you struggle with any of your lessons today?” “Who did you eat lunch with?” ETC.
Being quick to anger or being unpredictable with a response to various events is detrimental to a teen’s self-esteem. If a child lives with anger he/she may learn to respond with anger him/her self. Kids have enough to deal with already, but going through life angry is unhealthy. If you are angry one time but not another for the same reason a teen never knows how you may react to certain situations or what to expect. This may cause the teen undue stress and fear. So being slow to anger is best. Take a deep breath and count to ten inside before you react in anger. Take the time to investigate all situations in a calm, peaceful manner.
Instead of saying, “Because I said so that’s why!” Take the time to explain your reasoning to your teen. That will help them understand you better and may be just the thing they need to hear. Explaining things takes more time, but will pay off in the long run.
Decide on boundaries and the consequences ahead of time. Know what you expect (the rules) and the consequences that will happen if your expectations are not met. Make sure your teen knows the boundaries and the consequences too. Stick to this system. If a teen breaks a rule be consistent. Avoid yelling and calmly remind them of the rule and the consequences and carry them out.
Sharing your human side means that you share some of your innermost feelings and thoughts with your kids. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. For example, tell them what school was like for you. If you were bullied, tell them about it. Tell them about your first crush. Tell them about a break up that broke your heart and how you got through it. Tell them what it was like growing up in your family. Apologize to your kids when you are wrong. Admit when something hurt your feelings. Don’t be afraid to cry in front of them. Let them see that you are human too and have gone through many of the same things that they do.
Last but not least, teens need a purpose. This can come through any extra curricular activity such as school sports, school clubs or organizations, Bible club, yearbook staff, band, dance lessons, karate lessons, youth group at church, learning woodworking, working on cars, a job, etc. A kid with a purpose is less likely to make poor decisions and get hooked on drugs and alcohol. Keep them busy with their purpose.
There are many more things that kids need to thrive, but the ones in this blog touch upon some of the most important ones. Raising a teen is not easy. So, it is crucial that you work to build a good relationship with your child. When teens know you love them, understand them, care about their needs, and respect them, they will work harder to please you. Investing time and effort in your teen pays off down the road. Putting kids first takes a conscious effort.