You guys are going to love my guest today! As the mom of a tween girl and boy and the previous crisis counselor for a large school district, I can’t tell you how important the advice that Leticia shares below is in empowering your kids. Also, I so love this recommended resource. It’s a great gift for yourself or a mom who needs a little encouragement. I carried it around in my purse for about a month because it was the perfect size!
Got teens? How far ahead are you looking?
One of the primary tasks of parenting teens is to establish a bond of closeness that
can be drawn on for the long journey ahead. Hard as it is to believe, most of the years spent with our child in our lifetime will be in an adult-adult relationship that will outlast these exciting, fun-filled and often challenging years.
If you are reaching for help, Letitia Suk’s new book, “100 Need-to-Know Tips for Moms of Tweens & Teens” is a grab and go guide to read along the way. Each short, stand-alone tip provides an immediate opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your teen for both now and for the decades ahead.
Here is a sample of some of the tips you can try right now:
1. Keep Texts Friendly.
Chances are your teen prefers texting to most other forms of communication. Choosing to use this tool in a friendly way is a great way to stay in touch. Tell them you love them and are praying for their test. Ask them if they need anything from Target or send fun tidbits of information. TM can also be used to ask questions like when will the car be back? Will you be home for dinner? Could you please pick up a gallon of milk?
Decide that you will only use this creative tool for positive thoughts or simple questions. This is not the vehicle to complain (the kitchen is a wreck), criticize (you never leave gas in the car), or accuse (you were out too late last night). Keep it upbeat and they’ll want to keep opening their inbox.
2. Sit Down to Dinner.
If your dinner menu includes frozen pizza, Chinese take-out, or bowls of cereal, you’re not alone. Somewhere back in the 80’s, family dinners began to include TV’s and fast food and the “family” part of the description often meant you were all eating in the car together on the way to another soccer game.
Reviving the sit-down-at-the-table-and-talk dinner as many evenings as possible is one of the best ways to stay in touch with your teen. Look at the meal as a family bonding opportunity, not just food. Setting the table long before dinner is ready announces that this is an event, even if it is just dinner on a Tuesday night. Posting menus for the week on the side of the fridge has worked wonders for attendance if favorite meals are included.
3. Be the Expert.
Experts on teens, even in faith communities, take different sides on lots of topics. Homework, curfews, behavior contracts to name a few. Each one’s opinion seems so right!
One expert’s advice will work wonders on one teen and fall flat on another. Some advice is very consistent with your value system, some is opposed. As the parent, YOU are the expert on your kid. You generally know what will be effective and what won’t. Find the fit for your family. If one specialist’s technique doesn’t appeal to you, keep looking. Like with shoes, the style can be attractive, it’s the fit that counts.
4. Support Sports and all the Other Extracurriculars.
“A child needs to find a niche, or a niche will find them,” a wise teacher once told us. This may be even more relevant for parents of teens. While parents are concerned about intense time commitments, sports can keep kids busy, focused and often too tired for much mischief. In our family, grades were often the best during the season as they learned to study more efficiently between practices. The same can be said of music, theater, debate, dance or whatever attracts your teen.
Feeding their interest by following through with lessons, encouraging try-outs, attending events, helps your teen take ownership of their niche and shape their sense of self around something positive. As an added perk, you might enjoy the relationships you make with the other parents on the bleachers.
5. Avoid Micro-Managing Your Teen’s Faith.
It has been said that “God has no grandchildren” meaning we each have our own faith experience separate from our parents. In our spiritually aware culture, most teens are searching for something/someone to believe in. Your teen’s faith journey might parallel yours, lag behind, or leap ahead. Most likely, it will not be identical just as your faith experience is not the same as your parents.
Your role as a parent is to provide spiritual training but not to force their faith development. In these teen years, you can nurture your teen’s faith by your prayers, your example, your encouragement, and trust God to work out the big picture. Keep in mind, his timing is rarely the same as ours.
6. Find the Connection.
Most strong relationships start with a solid connecting point. You read the same authors, vote similarly, share faith journeys, enjoy the same TV show. For a strong relationship with your teen, connecting points need to be there as well. What are those bonds you share with your teen? A penchant for Thai food? A love of British films? Thrifting? Following college basketball? Reality TV shows? Trying new recipes? Tracking the Stones?
Even if your interest is a bit on the wan, if your teen is a fan of your common thread this a great chance to rev it up and feed that connection. Somedays it will be your strongest link.
7. Bless their Friends, Even the Ones You Don’t Like.
You won’t like all your teens’ friends. Usually announcing that you don’t like a friend quickly elevates this person into sainthood in your teen’s life. The secret is not to let your feelings be known unless your teen is in danger or serious risk from a “friend.”
Find something, anything to comment on positively about the friend. “I like the way ____ is passionate about causes, knows a lot about music, isn’t afraid to be different.” then you might say something casually like, “I am a little concerned about his/her ____(driving?, ditching school? lying? poor relationship with parents, etc.” (choose only one) then follow with, “What do you think about that?” Listen and don’t comment. Very hard tactic to follow but so worth it. Wait it out and see if your impression was wrong or your teen recognizes it’s not a healthy relationship. It almost always happens.
8. Ditch the Dread.
“Wait till they’re teenagers!” was the foreboding warning that awaited me on almost every turn of the stroller. “Wait till they start mouthing off” or “Wait till they get to high school” or “Wait till they get their driver’s license” have been part of the mom to mom network from the playground to the boardroom. It was never clear what the wait was for, it didn’t have the same hopeful note as waiting to go on vacation.
Instead of expecting the worst, start the day with a hope and a prayer that your teen is going to be OK. Talk back to your inner critic and tell her you’re doing just fine as a mom. Don’t let moments of doubt turn into dread-fests. Be the voice of the yay-sayer instead of the naysayer to other moms. Expect the best and wait for it to come!
Interested in reading more? 92 more tips available in “100 Need-to-Know Tips for Moms of Tweens & Teens” (Ellie Claire/Hachette, 2019.) Beautifully designed with inspirational quotes on motherhood interspersed throughout, this book makes an excellent Mother’s Day gift for yourself or a friend. Available HERE.
Letitia Suk invites women to chase the intentional life. She writes and speaks of renewal and restoration offering platters of hope to women in each season of life. Her blend of humor, stories & grace propels audiences towards a fresh experience of God.
Tish is also a retreat guide & life coach in the Chicago area. She loves to walk by Lake Michigan, browse resale shops & make up new family traditions.
Tish is the author of 100 Tips for Moms of Tweens and Teens, Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat & Rhythms of Renewal. She and her husband, Tom, live in the Chicago area and are parents of four grown children. Letitiasuk.com.
She also sends out an occasional prayer letter including her latest information on faith, parenting and mental health as well as speaking engagement locations and topics. Please subscribe here for that information
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