20 ways to be present in your teen’s life

Present, overbearing or abandonment? I know my job as a mom is to prepare my children for adulthood, marriage and parenthood; but I find myself more in my mind at times than where I need to be sort-of-speak. I am constantly asking myself “Am I involved enough in their life? Should I lend a hand (in ____ situation) or let them fall? Did I allow them the right amount of independence they need? Am I overstepping my boundaries? The list. Is. Endless.

I want them to know how to survive in this world without feeling overwhelmed, I want them to understand that with every decision they make there is a consequence whether good or bad that they can learn from. I want them to flourish but honestly, finding the right balance is a challenge and this new venture in parenting teenagers has really taken me for a loop. I’ve prayed about it, talked about it with my husband and have read lots of parenting books. In the end I came to realize that it’s about being present. Here are the 20 ways I am learning to be present in my teenagers lives:

1. eye contact – nothing says you have my undivided attention like looking into my child’s eyes while they speak. {Stop whatever it is you’re doing!}

2. listen not just to respond – sometimes I want to give advice or, as my children like to say, a lecture but holding back and knowing they just need a listening ear can speak volumes.

3. build their trust and allow them to trust you – “Direct your children onto the right path and when they are older, they will not leave it.” Proverbs 22:6.

4. let them vent because it’s not my battle anyway – too many times I find myself getting hot-headed just listening to them speak in anger or with disappointment and I let my emotions get the best of me (it’s hard seeing your child hurt and not reacting) I’ll admit this one I am working on daily.

5. help them build on their independence – give them a healthy amount of space and remember that it’s okay to let them fall, but always be there to pick them up

6. be there for them no matter what – they need to know that regardless of our differences, I have their back, ALWAYS!

7. ask them their opinions and actually consider it – my children are individuals with different opinions, personalities and wants…. but when we include them in decision-making it really makes them feel like an important part of the family

8. build their confidence – it is so easy to point out what my child is doing wrong so I always try to make a conscious effort to notice the positives.

9. complement them – this world is full of critics but a kind word can change the world, one person at a time.

10. encourage them – we all need positive encouragement in our lives and who better to hear it from then their parents.

11. pray for them – This for me is the most important! Let go and let God. Every morning while the kids walk to the bus stop I sit on the front porch and pray, thanking God for my children and asking him to guide them and watch over them throughout the day.

12. give proper consequence for given action – sometimes our frustrations cause us to overreact and therefore set punishments that can never be fulfilled “That’s it, I’ve had enough; you’ll never set foot out of this house again!” Well, we all know that punishment can not be enforced, but yet we still say them. I try to take a deep breath before I speak so that I remember to make sure the crime fits the punishment.

13. don’t invade their privacy – this one can be tough, we want to check on them, make sure they are “safe” and it’s hard sometimes to not cross the line but I made sure to set theses rules from the beginning: As a person, I will respect your privacy but as your parent I WILL cross the line if I feel you need me but won’t speak up. (we actually had quite an in-depth conversation about this, but I think this sums it up)

14. get involved at school – it was so natural to be involved with my children in grammar school. As they get older, my first instinct is to pull away and give them space but I feel that now is the time to truly be involved.

15. car pool or offer to drive them and their friends– what better way to meet your child’s friends and get a glimpse into who your child is when around their peers. I love to listen to them interact with their friends.

16. cook their favorite meal or better yet cook it together – meal planning can be exhausting especially when you have to hear “I don’t like [said meal]” or “chicken again?!” I like to let them decide and or help at least one of the days and it’s always a win, win!

17. have dessert –  silly I know but this one speaks for itself…. everyone loves dessert, right?!! I am quite surprised how easily they begin to open up and share their thoughts with me while we are enjoying our desserts

18.play a game – we love family game nights in our house and have them often, the kids look forward to it!

19. let them make the decision where to go to get take-out or what we will do for family day – although they don’t always agree… when my children help make the plans we all seem to enjoy each others company

20. respect – it goes both ways, plain and simple.

What would you add to this list? Do you have any advice you’d like to share or some words of wisdom to pass along? I am continually looking for ways to grow as a mom so I’d love to hear your feedback and/or experiences. I know there are no real answers in parenting; there will be days that flow so smoothly and parenting is a joy; and there will be days that not even an ice cream sundae is going to cut it!

Blessings~ Danielle

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