Teens are notorious for acting embarrassed by parental demonstrations of affection – in public, at least. The fact is, however, that they’re going through tremendous emotional, physical, and hormonal changes and they need to know how much they are loved. So, what are some non-embarrassing ways to show your teens you love them?
1. Listen. Listen to them when they talk to you – really listen, don’t just nod along. Sometimes it’s just as important to hear what they aren’t saying as it is to hear the actual words.
2. Look at them. I am guilty of doing other things while listening to my kids, which means I’m not giving them my undivided attention. Sometimes, our kids need us to look at them when they talk so they know that they are the most important thing to us in that moment.
3. Talk. Spend time talking with your teens. Tell them about your day, about what life was like when you were their ages, what you’re struggling with.
4. Say yes. Sometimes it’s easy to say no without really thinking about the request. Give your teens some freedom, let them take (reasonable) risks, and give them a chance to make their own choices.
5. Say no. They may be teens and they may be morphing into adults, but teens still need boundaries. Provide them, with love.
6. Respect their struggles. Sometimes those things our teens are struggling with seem so insignificant in comparison to our adult struggles, but it’s all a matter of perspective. Their struggles are very real and very important to them. Respect what they’re going through.
7. Spend time with them. I have been amazed at how much my teens (well, two teens and one almost-teen) have enjoyed our one-on-one breakfast dates. They love spending time with me without distractions – and a good breakfast probably doesn’t hurt! Of course, breakfast is only one of many ways to spend time with your teenager.
8. Give them space. Sometimes teens just need some space – some quiet time alone to think, read, play music, whatever. Make sure they’ve got somewhere they can go to be alone when they need to be. If you have kids who share a bedroom, you may need to put some ground rules in place for siblings.
9. Remember that they’re still kids. They may look like adults, be facing adult decisions, and, at least part of the time, act like adults, but they aren’t adults yet. Keep that in mind when they make foolish decisions, act immature, or just need your reassurance.
10. Encourage their interests. Give your teens a chance to explore their interests. Whenever possible, let them take classes or get involved in their church and community. The teen years are a time of figuring out their gifts and talents and how those are going to factor into their future. Help them to make the most of that exploration.
11. Give them responsibilities. We do our kids a disservice when we don’t give them responsibilities. I can be guilty of this. However, kids really need to feel like they have something worthwhile to contribute to their family’s well-being.
12. Prepare them for adulthood. One way to show love for our teens is to prepare them for life outside of our homes. Teach them the skills they’ll need to manage their own homes, such as cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and balancing a checkbook.
13. Hug them. Teens still need physical affection, too. Just maybe not in front of their friends.
14. Take part in their hobbies. My son is a musician and so is my husband. They often “jam” together. Do you have an artist? Maybe you can draw together. A photographer? Take photos together or volunteer as a model. An author? Read her book…with permission, of course!
15. Cheer them on. Go to their sporting events or performances. Before you do, though, read this wonderful article about the 6 words your kid needs to hear you say. It’s good stuff.
16. Let them suffer the consequences. Sometimes kids make poor choices and it’s hard, as a parent, to watch them suffer the consequences. However, sometimes suffering those consequences is a very important part of learning and growing into an adult. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re a terrible parent if you don’t bail your kid out every time he makes a mistake.
17. Don’t give them everything. We want to make our kids happy, but giving them everything doesn’t make them happy. It only creates a sense of entitlement – something that is far too prevalent in today’s culture.
18. Get to know their friends. One of the most loving things you can do for your kids is getting to know their friends. As our kids get older, their friends often hold much more influence over them than we do. Make sure you know who they’re hanging out with.
19. Serve them. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus called us to serve others. That should include our kids. I’m not talking about becoming their maid or a short-order cook. I’m talking about showing them love through acts of service from time to time. Maybe your older teen has been working a lot of hours at his part-time job, so you do some of his chores to lighten the load. If taking out the trash or walking the dog is a job your teen usually does, do it for her every now and then. Little gestures can speak volumes.
20. Show them. Let your actions show your teen you love her. Leave her notes telling her how amazing you think she is. Ruffle his hair or pat his shoulder as you walk by. Make their favorite meals.
21. Tell them. Our teens still need to hear the words, “I love you.” Nobody ever outgrows that.
22. Don’t always be their reality check. You know that relative who always feels the need to be the voice of reason? Don’t be that person. Let your kids dream big. You never know what God has called them to do. Don’t squash their God-sized dreams even when they seem impossible to you.
23. Pray for them. Kids face a lot of stuff we can’t imagine. Pray for them daily.
24. Pray with them. Don’t just pray for them in the privacy of your own space. Pray with them. Out loud. Pray for their struggles, their hurts, their dreams, their friends, their future spouses.
25. Respect their privacy. Teens can become very self-conscious creatures. Don’t post their photos on Facebook or your blog without asking first. Knock on their door. Don’t expect them to tell you everything.
If you need more ideas or want to figure out the way your teens perceive love, I highly recommend the book, The Five Love Languages of Teenagers. (affiliate link)
I’m sure I’ve forgotten some pretty obvious ways to show love to your teens. What would you add to the list?
This post is also linked to Finishing Strong: Homeschooling the Middle and High School Years.