5 Practical Ways to Communicate Love to Your Teens — Even When It’s Difficult
We love our teens. But, if we’re not intentional in how we communicate love to our teens, those relationships can strain. A parent’s love is never-ending. Sometimes, though, our teens test our patience, our wills and our limits. Our call as Christian parents is to love our teens even, and maybe especially, when they’re hard to love. Here are five practical and important ways to communicate love to your teens.
1. Communicate Love by Fighting Fair
If you’ve been parenting a teenager for awhile now, you know there will be conflict. But, says Jessi Minassian, writing for Focus on the Family, “Conflict isn’t the problem; knowing how to resolve it peaceably is.”
Some parents swing the pendulum between passive avoidance of conflict to active aggression toward their teens. Pretending like conflict doesn’t happen can create despair — followed by a giving-in — to its inevitability. One key way to communicate love to your teens is through demonstrating healthy conflict resolution.
Minassian writes, “In our home, we call healthy conflict resolution ‘fighting fair.’ The goal is to reach a compromise or truce with a greater understanding of each other, rather than wounding each other with dagger-like words or cold indifference. When we stick to the rules of a good, clean fight, the resolution is always better.”
For Christians, healthy communication is Christ-like communication. Communicating love to your teens means modeling healthy communication and creating space for them to put that same communication in practice with you.
Take Minassian’s advice: “If you want your teens to engage in a meaningful discussion devoid of name-calling, low blows, running away, eye rolling and dismissive speech, show them how. This means you:
- Listen in order to understand.
- Don’t criticize things the other can’t change, such as learning ability, physical agility and appearance.
- Don’t use physical violence or coercion.
- Stick to one issue at a time.
- Believe the best until guilt is proven.
- Reserve your veto power for the biggest issues.
- Concede when you’re wrong.
- Ask forgiveness when necessary (even when your disrespect was instigated by his or hers).”
2. Communicate Love with a Change of Scenery
Sean McDowell encourages changing up the routine. For parents and educators, he suggests breaking away from the everyday. Why? A change of scenery can open up a kid stuck in their routine. Sean writes, “It’s amazing how open students’ hearts often are when they just slow down and step outside their normal environment.” So, be intentional to get one-on-one time with your teen, and take them out somewhere new:
- a fun restaurant
- a national park
- to a movie they want to see
- a museum or play
- or maybe even on a road trip
And know that time on the way is still time with your teen. McDowell reflects, “Some of my best conversations with students have been on car rides to sporting events, at barbeques, on mission trips, and over coffee.” Conversations in ordinary moments bring memories that last a lifetime. And, most importantly, these moments reinforce that you love your teen.
What can you do to break out of the routine with your teen this month?
3. Communicate Love by Emphasizing the Yes
Communicating love to your teens doesn’t mean avoiding any talk of right vs. wrong. Brett Kunkle — speaker, author and founder of apologetics ministry Maven — highlights that when communicating truth and morality to our teens in love, we must emphasize the yes of God’s Word. He emphasizes,
“Particularly in the teen years, we want them to see that the law of God is something to delight in … it’s not simply about God taking away fun options for us but that actually when you follow His path, when you follow righteousness, it leads to the best kind of life possible. It leads to flourishing.”
Watch his quick, five minute video on Inspiring Kids to Choose Biblical Morality, from the Stand to Reason blog.
4. Remember: Pain is Not (Always) a Problem
John Stonestreet, who authored A Practical Guide To Culture: Helping The Next Generation Navigate Today’s World with Brett Kunkle, suggests that safety is an idol in America that threatens to thwart the call of faithfulness. Our parenting is not immune. He writes, “Kids who have been protected from all struggle may lose their faith not as a matter of intellect or emotion, but of will — the inability to do the right thing when it needs to be done, despite the social cost.” Christian parenting is not about keeping our kids from all pain, but helping our children thrive. And sometimes, that means allowing them to experience short-term “pain” — setbacks, failures, consequences of their actions — in order for them to grow and know they can overcome in the Lord’s strength.
5. Finally, Don’t Fight God’s Design
June Hetzel, Dean of Biola University School of Education, advises parents to approach their adolescents with trust, not control. Sometimes teens act in ways that we cannot comprehend. It’s in these moments that we should remember that the all-knowing God comprehends them just fine. Look for patterns in their actions, and prayerfully ask what God holds in store for your son or daughter with how they are wired. It’s tempting to try to control — hem-in, moderate, even stifle — this behavior. And, certainly, there are times when strong boundaries must be set. However, as our teenagers develop into emerging adults, there may be aspects of their personality that drive us crazy from time to time, but that we will never change.
When you notice this, Hetzel writes, “Then, I encourage you, rather than fighting against this wiring, start praying and asking God how you can nurture the design of your child(ren) and pray like crazy that God will use that wiring for His perfect ministry plan in the Kingdom.”
One way to communicate love to our teens — even when they might drive us crazy — is to honor their God-given individuality, and nurture how God designed them, trusting God to continue to lead.
Reflect on these questions with the Lord in prayer:
- Do I approach my teens with trust, not control?
- Have I modeled healthy communication in our disagreements?
- Am I prone to idolize safety over faithfulness?
- Do I actively look to emphasize the “Yes” of God’s will?
Good Father, you are the only perfect parent. Help me to communicate love — Your love — to my teen. Highlight to me the places where I’m not trusting you, the ways I’ve fallen short in my desire to model your way, and the spaces of unhealthy control I’ve created that keep me from faithfulness. Break me from my routine, oh Lord. So that I may be a better parent, and a better disciple. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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