Although my little ladies are not teenagers yet, I teach 140 of them daily. And I listen, intently, to what they are saying on the side, particularly about their parents. And I take notes. Because when my girls are in high school, I want to be prepared. I want to be there in the way that is not just what I think is best for them but in the ways they feel are important, too. Too often, our teens really need us but we misinterpret their angsty attitudes. We forget what it was like to be hormonal and sixteen and on the verge of what we thought was greatness. We forget that before them, we were them. Navigating this world – some with better supervision than others – and cursing our parents under our breath. We forget that we have become who we, at one time, swore we would not.
Our teens need us in ways that we can imagine. We only need to think back to who we were. My eavesdropping has rendered some interesting information. And I share it with you, now, Moms, in hopes that you may gain some insight or it may help you conjure up your forgotten fifteen-year-old self. I share, too, in hopes that in a decade, this written advice will remind me of what I need to do to maintain my relationship with my teenage girls.
1. Treat my friends like they are your own. They really like it when you allow their friends to come over and feel at home. When you welcome them. Cook for them. Take an interest in them. They want their house to be the cool house. And not because they feel like they can have a party or go out of control. It’s the exact opposite. They want the boundaries and clear expectations – they don’t want you to over-exaggerate your hospitality. They just want you to be gracious and welcoming so that their friends feel comfortable and want to come back.
2. Come to my events. One of the biggest honors and saddest moments of my teaching career is when one of the Senior Football Players asked me to walk with him for the Senior Night Recognitions because his parents couldn’t make it. I was honored to walk with him but sad that no one was there to cheer him on. We need to be there for everything – no matter how big or small – because in order for them to feel connected, they must feel supported. And all they really want is for their parents to love and support them, outwardly, for the world to see. Nothing says I’m proud of you than seeing you in the stands watching them score the winning basket or sing in the choir. They may tell you it’s no big deal. They are lying.
3. Spend time with just me. Siblings are great. And family time is important. But maintaining individual relationships with each child where you spend time doing something just they like or you both have in common helps them know that they are not just a part of the sum total of the family. It tells them that you value their individual strengths and contributions and that you love them for who they are. It helps to ensure their individuality and gives them the confidence to believe in and love themselves. Because you believe in them. And love them.