Loving Your Teen—Even When It’s HardMost parents genuinely love their teens. But between physical changes, struggles at school, and trying to find their place in the world, let’s face it: Teens are not always easy to love. And unfortunately, parents can resort to shame-based parenting when their teenagers become challenging to live with. As an alternative to shame-based parenting, there are many ways a parent can love their teen, even when it’s not easy.

First, parents should start by putting relational deposits in their teen’s emotional bank account. These deposits can make teens feel loved and accepted even amid complex discipline issues. A parent can make deposits by hugging them, telling them “I love you,” speaking with a gentle voice, and hanging out together.

At the same time, parents should avoid making relational withdrawals from their teen’s emotional bank account. Relational withdrawals teach kids that nothing is ever good enough for mom or dad, resulting in kids giving up or acting out. Here are some things to avoid: nagging, belittling, criticizing, and screaming.

Second, parents should affirm their teen whenever possible. What’s the reason some children make it and others don’t? Usually, it’s having at least one caring adult who affirms them. Even if a parent struggles with their teen, they should still believe in them. Parents can make an enormous difference in their teen’s life by affirming them, praising them, and believing in the person they can become.

Third, parents can create a home environment of warmth and affection. Let’s say a parent has some behavior issues to discuss with their teenager when they get home from school. Instead of yelling or screaming, a parent can take their child out for their favorite food. Spend time talking. Keep the conversation warm and friendly. Lovingly address a couple of the core issues. Then, hug and thank them for their time together.

Will a parent still struggle with their teen? From time to time, yes. Are boundaries still necessary? Yes. But after hang-out time with their teen, a parent has a better rapport and will be more likely to connect with their teen on challenging behavior issues. If this sounds overwhelming, see a licensed counselor in the New Life Counselor Network for help.

No matter what, a parent must not withhold emotional support from their teen. They need to keep telling their teen that they love them—even if it’s hard. A parent can challenge their teen to become all that God has created them to be. But loving a teen is more than expressing feelings or words; it has much to do with action. Teens are looking to their parents for encouragement and affirmation through their words and actions.

1 John 3:18 (NLT) says, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”

Finally, the most important thing to do is pray! God is faithful and will never stop working in a teen’s life; His timing is perfect. Never give up on a teen or stop loving them—instead, pray for opportunities to love them as Christ does.

by Jim Burns

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