When Should I Be My Teenager’s Friend?
One of the greatest myths we could ever buy into is that high schoolers don’t need or want adults.
Sure, they love their friends. And they probably (okay, definitely) would rather hang out with their friends on Friday night instead of of staying home for family movie night. But remember that just because they prefer to be with other kids, they still need you to be their parent.
Parenting in this phase looks a lot different than it did during the elementary years. While your children are transitioning from being dependent to independent, you are transitioning as a parent from having authority to leveraging your influence.
Every parent starts out with almost complete control in their child’s life. But by the time a child leaves home for college or the marketplace, all a parent is left with is influence.
So, how do you leverage your influence? Investing in relational time with them. Here are a few things to remember that might help you make the time you spend with your teenager more meaningful:
Make sure there is no agenda.
Think about the relationships you enjoy the most. How much do you like spending time with people who are always trying to teach you something? More than likely, over time you will start avoiding relationships with people who usually have an agenda.
Keep it outside the house.
You probably already spend most of your time together in your home. It can be full of duties, responsibilities, and distractions, so get out and do something that is a contrast to your normal routine.
Put it on the schedule (but probably not on a Friday).
Be sensitive to how a teenager wants to organize his or her life. Discover the rhythm that exists in their schedule and agree with them on the best times to hang out.
Stay flexible (and be willing to reschedule frequently).
A teenager’s world is always changing. They could feel trapped if you are rigid about your scheduled time with them. Don’t let your time with them become a competition with their other interests and priorities. Avoid making them choose between you and something else they really want to do.
Remember your goal is not to change them.
Avoid getting into conversations where you are trying to correct or improve a behavior. Save those conversations for another time. You can shut down a positive experience if you try to leverage it to fix something.
Keep fighting for your relationship so your son or daughter will always know that they were and always will be a priority to you. Especially during this uncertain season, they need a positive relationship with you more than you or they may realize.