Q: I work and can’t be with my teens much of the time. In the evening they want to watch TV or do things with their friends, or they have homework to do. I’m usually pretty busy, as well as exhausted. As a result, I feel we have drifted apart. I want to get closer to them again and spend more time with them, but how can I, and where do I begin? How do I get them to feel close and loved and special to me?
Editor’s note: This is a difficult situation that many of us face. We who have teenage children are concerned about them, yet uncertain how to help them. One woman, in answer to these concerns, received the following guidance from God.
Show visible expressions of love
One of the most important things you can give your children is love-an attitude of love, an assurance of your love. This is especially true of teens. Your teens need to know that you love them. They need to feel and see your love expressed towards them.
They see it expressed in the care that you give them in providing housing and food, but they often take these things for granted. They don’t see the sacrifices, or understand how you have structured your life in order to care for their physical needs. Therefore, they need to see spiritual love, emotional love, personal love. This is what will create a bond of love and trust. You ask, “How do I do this? How do I create this bond with them?”
Fill your teens’ needs by filling yours too
The first step in establishing a more loving bond with your children and helping them feel close and special, is for you to feel close and loved and special to Me. I want you to feel that way. I want you to feel My love. For you are My child, and as a father with his child, I wish to show this love to you.
I wish to show you that I love and accept you just as you are, and I want to bring you close to Me. And when you are close to Me, I will give you the accept-ance, the unconditional love, the security and the reassurance that you need. Then, when you know and feel My great, all-encompassing, overwhelming, reaching-to-the-ends-of-the-universe love for you, you will have more love to give. Your children will feel it. Your spouse will feel it. Others will feel it.
Create opportunities for closeness
Let Me give you a deeper love for your children-a love that overcomes barriers, that will not be stopped-a love that you can express, and they can experience.
A love of this type longs for expression. It longs for an opportunity. When you have this attitude of deeper love in your heart towards your children, they will see it, and opportunities for closeness will present themselves. Your children will say, “Dad, would you play this game with me?” “Mom, let me show you what I did at school today.” “Mom, what do you think I should wear to this party?” “Dad, can you help me fix this?”
Look for opportunities. They may not be as you anticipate. You may have to make changes in your schedule. As your kids see and understand that you wish to be more a part of their lives, they will be happy that you are there for them, as a friend wanting to help.
It may begin as simply as watching TV with them, but don’t let it stop there. Provide opportunities for discussion. For example, go places where they like to go, and then talk with them about it. Find out what they liked about it and what their impression was. Their views may be different from your own, but don’t try to push yours on them.
Be there when they need you
Look at the way things are now, the time that you spend in the evenings, the time that they spend in the evenings, the time that you or they spend on the weekends. Are there more ways your lives can touch? Could adjustments be made so that they cross more often? Look at where you may have points in common, activities you can share.
Be there for them, in love. This is not a “being there” in a way that makes them think that you are looking for an opportunity to snoop, lecture them or condemn what they are doing-or to give them more rules or more instruction. It’s simply being there as a friend, as a sounding board, someone they can turn to, someone who will support them.
Is there a sport your son is interested in? Is there a craft your daughter is interested in? Can you be a part of these in some way? Look at the ways your teens are reaching out, and see what interests and experiences you can share together.
Learn parental architecture
You can be the architect of situations that pull you and your teens together-going places together where they would like to go and doing things that will be fun for them.
Perhaps they would rather not do certain things with you because they feel they will be criticized by their friends for doing things with their parents. If this is the case, perhaps you could just be their chauffeur sometimes and take them and their friends on outings. That way, at least you’re there. Perhaps they can invite a bunch of friends over for an evening, or to spend the night, and again, you will be there.
The problem of communicating with the younger generation would be less complicated if parents knew a little more about what was going on. One way to find out, I have discovered, is to act as chauffeur for a group of teenagers. Keep your mouth shut, and within minutes of starting out, you will be forgotten and conversation will go on as though you were an automatic pilot. I don’t know if this is considered an invasion of privacy, but it works.-Advice from a mother of teens
Look for ways that you can merge your lives. This may mean both sides making changes. But as you try, I will show you ways that you can connect. You can connect through having a joint project you work on together: a carpentry project, a sewing or cooking project, a pet, or a garden.
Discover the art of listening
Listening to your kids is one of the main ways you can help them. Learn to really listen. When you ask, “How was school?” stop and listen to how their day went. When problems are presented to you, you don’t always have to comment on the spot. Rather than pass judgment, take time to think about it, or pray for a solution. The main thing is to be a listener; provide a listening ear, as well as love and encouragement and support.
Some teens were asked, “How do you know when your parents aren’t listening to you?” They came up with the following answers: “If they’re not looking at me.” “If they’re reading the newspaper while I’m talking.” “If they keep vacuuming or cooking and say, `Go ahead, I can hear you.’”
Then the teens were asked, “How do you know when your parents are listening to you?” Most of them said, “If they stop what they’re doing when I’m talking to them.”
Tap into heavenly guidance
When you are confronted with a problem and then pray, I will help you, and I will be there for you as your parent. You don’t have to go to a special place, or get down on your hands and knees. Talking your problems over with Me can take place anywhere. It takes place within you, in your heart and mind, right where you are, any time of day, in any situation. Just turn your heart to Me, the One who loves you the most and who listens to your inner call for help. Anytime, any place, anywhere, I am always there to answer. I will lead, guide and instruct you, step by step. Just ask Me, and believe the answers that come into your mind are from Me.
Many situations arise with teens that require deep understanding. You can close the door on communication by harsh judgment or self-righteous condemnation, when their motives may be sincere. Ask Me about the situations which you are not sure of, and I will show you what is behind your teenager’s actions.
Ask Me, and when you ask Me, then stop and wait, and let My thoughts come into your mind. When you ask Me, I will answer you. I will put thoughts and answers in your mind that will be a comfort and a help to you.
When you look at your teen, judge with My wisdom, not according to hard and fast rules and standards. One of the greatest barriers to communication with young people is harsh judgment on the part of the parents. Too often parents apply the harsh standards that they learned to their children. But each age is different and each time is different, and the children of each generation must test and try their wings and express themselves according to their own personalities. That doesn’t mean total permissiveness with no limits, rules or responsibilities. But the key to changing bad behavior is changing the heart-not forcing your children to keep the rules.
Ask Me to reveal to you what is inside the hearts of your children, so you can look beyond appearances. It’s better to address the concerns of their hearts than outward appearances. Minister to the heart, listen to the heart, love the heart.
The ultimate safety net
Many children simply need a firm footing of love and acceptance by their parents. This foundation of love provides a cushion of protection and security around them that will help keep them from danger and bad influences, such as drugs or alcohol, or even the pain of rejection by their friends. Your love and acceptance will provide a safety net of protection at such times. If they know that you will not reject them, even for their mistakes or foolish actions, they will come to you and there will be the bond that you desire.
We adults are used to talking, to giving orders, but when it comes to living with teens, we need to listen with both ears as well as with our hearts.
And I, too, desire to place this bond between each parent and child, so that each child has someone whom he or she can fall back on. As your parent, I am always there for you. I never cast you off, even if you have made terrible mistakes or done very wrong things. I am still there for you and I still love you and support you, and I am still always willing to hold you in My arms.
It is very important that you present this same attitude to your children. They need to know that you will always love them no matter what they do, that nothing will ever take your love away. They must know that they can always talk to you; that even though you may not agree, you may not see eye to eye, you may even think that they’ve done something that is very wrong or harmful, still you are always their parent. You will always love them and they can always come to you. Even if all hell would break loose, your child would know that they will always have your love. And in this way, the children will learn about Me and My love.
There is no better way to improve our quality time with others than to spend quality time with our own Parent, God Himself.