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How Can I Relationally Invest in My Teenager as They Grow Older?

Life with kids in the home can often move faster than we would like. One day they are babies you are making giggles at the sound of jingling keys and it seems like the next they are taking those keys and driving on their own. The routines of daily life can make us feel like we are always trying to catch a few moments here and there to connect with our families. This challenge is compounded by the fact that the teen years are filled with constant change. As our tweens turn to teens, they learn new attitudes and behaviors while parents constantly wonder about their spiritual, physical, emotional, and social health. Many parents assume that their teen will relationally disconnect as they get older. This becomes a tragic self fulfilling prophecy when parents begin to disengage from their teens at a time they need that relationship the most. The challenges of the teen years do not have to mean relational disengagement. We simply must be intentional in how we go about keeping our heart connections strong. We want to give you a few tips to help you guide your teen’s growth and development while still deepening your relationship with them.

Leverage meals as time to engage and connect
Many teens struggle immensely to have conversations and this is a setting where you can turn off the phones and TV for some conversation time at each meal. Block several meals off and think ahead of time about questions or conversation starters. Mealtime conversation is a lost art in this digital age, but your investment will not only help them stay connected with your family, but will develop in them needed skills for social interaction.

Show the value of volunteering.
Few things help teens learn how to manage relationships like a job or a serious volunteer role. When a teen steps into responsibility they get a chance to problem solve, deal with differences, respect others, and follow through with their commitments. Look for opportunities to serve in volunteer roles with your teen and then encourage them to find ways to volunteer as they get older. Engaging in volunteer service will bring you closer together, set a good example for them, and give them opportunities to flourish as their own person. Allow your teen to experience these opportunities by leading them to take on responsibility through service to others

Set aside time to do fun things together.
When you take time to have fun with them they are more likely to talk to you when things get serious. Set aside time on the calendar to spend one on one with your teen and simply enjoy being together. This time will mean more if you avoid having an agenda of things they need to start or stop doing. Let them know that the goal of this time is to simply be with them. Find what they are passionate about and chase that with them. These moments will no doubt strengthen your heart connection as well as build their sense of self worth and identity.

Help your teen find other trusted adult influences.
This idea centers around the power of partnership with your church and then other areas where adults influence your teenager. Helping your teen engage their church and student ministry provides other voices speaking consistently on faith in their life.  It makes such a difference for parents to know other adults are affirming their relationship and message to their kids. As they get older, teens will need other trustworthy adult voices and you can help guide them by guiding them to the right kind of influencers

Allow them to use you as an “out”.
There are going to be conversations, places, and situations that your teen finds themselves in that they want to get out of without getting a lecture. Teens need to be able to say no to friends and use you as an out at times. Sometimes you can simply be there for them and let them know you are proud of them for doing the right thing.

We hope these ideas will help you to invest in your teen as they navigate these challenging years. These times may not last, but your relationship with them can remain stronger than ever.