Parenting Teenagers: When to Be There and When to Stay Away

When our children first come into the world, we can’t get enough of them! We want to hold them, cuddle and cradle them, keep them safe from the evil of the outside world. They’re perfect—and we want to keep them that way.

Of course, this “perfect period” only lasts a few days, or maybe a couple of weeks, tops. (Then, they start developing verbal and motor skills, prompting many parents to wonder what it was about these “miracles” that charmed them so not that long ago.)

As your kids move through toddlerhood into adolescence, one constant remains – they regard your presence as a sign of caring and connectedness. I like to call this phenomenon “the power of being there.”

I realize this may sound overly simple, but don’t underestimate the positive message you are giving your kids by watching all those baseball or soccer games, driving them across country on a long family vacation, or the hundreds of other ways you are present in their lives.

Now, a funny thing happens to children once they reach the teenage years: They don’t seem to want their parents around all that much. Sure, they need to have your presence in their lives. They just don’t want to be reminded of that fact.

This comes as anywhere from a mild surprise to a major shock to parents who are watching their fun-loving 12-year-old become a sullen, more serious 13-year-old seemingly overnight. So, here are a few helpful ways you can still be a part of your teenager’s life without pushing him or her away in the process.

1. Remember that just because a teenager doesn’t say, “I love you”as much as they used to doesn’t mean he or she don’t love his or her parents anymore. They just don’t want to say it at school, in front of their peers, or to shout it out the car window as their bus pulls away for church camp.

2. Keep in mind that, one day, when your kids are grown up with families of their own, it’s likely you will have a loving friendship with them. Until then, Mom and Dad – resist the temptation to be one of their peers. Yes, peers are a primary influence right now—and you may want to be a part of your teen’s “inner-circle.” You definitely need to know who these “friends” are. But you can’t be one of them…no matter how much you try…so don’t try.

3. Don’t forget that your job as a parent is a calling – so treat your kids like the gifts from God that they are. This one will help you through on the long, lonely days when it seems like your teenager really doesn’t care about you anymore. The fact is, she or he quite possibly will feel that way at times—but she or he will get over it. Remember what it was like to be 13? 14? 17? Keep this in mind and give your child a healthy amount of “space” when appropriate.

4. The power of “being there” means you always will—even when it might seem impossible. Young children who grow up believing and knowing that their parents will always be there for them can face anything. Being there for your kids when they’re young gives them the sense that you’ll still “be there” for them when they’re older… in their hearts, at least – but not when you are hugging them goodbye in front of the movie theater.

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Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord, which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, Closer, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; three sons-in-law, Steve and Matt, and Andy; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte and Huxley.

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