I think most mothers would agree that it takes a little more work to show love for their teenagers than their younger children. Why? Well, let’s see . . adorable, soft and squooshy toddler who swoons for your attention all day with a darling little lisp versus awkward, pimply, sometimes smelly, slightly rebellious, aloof teenager who hides in his/her room whenever possible. Hmmm . . .
We all know that our teenagers need love and attention as much as our little ones do, but the asking, giving and receiving doesn’t come quite as naturally. I think the reason is twofold. One I already eluded to: a gangly teenager in braces hiding behind a cell phone just doesn’t scream “LOVE ME” like an adoring preschooler who wants to cuddle up in your lap with a picture book.
The other reason (in my mind) is because teenagers can’t ask for love as overtly as younger children. For lack of a better word, it’s just not “cool” to ask mommy for a hug when you’re sad, or to demand attention for a job well done by incessantly chanting, “look, look, look mommy, look!” (Which works, right?)
So if we know that they really need it, but the “cute and cuddly” style we use for younger children doesn’t work for them, how do we show love in a way they can receive?
I think part of the answer is in recognizing that, unlike younger children who often just need a hug and some time with you, teenagers are often looking for a bit more.
Teenagers want to be listened to and have their ideas and opinions validated. They want someone to understand what they are feeling and going through. Things in the “real world” that adults have long since taken for granted are all new to them, and their feelings and opinions about all of it really matters to them, so they want it to matter to you. (Can’t you remember feeling that way?)
If younger children crave praise and attention, teenagers crave to be understood and appreciated. And that’s one big way to show love for your teenager: ask and listen.
When I asked my own teenager what made her feel loved, I had no idea what she would say. I frequently hug her, compliment her, make her special treats, tell her verbally that I love her–but do you know what she said? “When you take my opinions seriously.” That’s it.
So here’s bullet point #1(and I think this is the biggie):
Talk to them. Scratch that. Listen to them. Talking is HUGE for teenagers. (Ever heard of Facebook or texting?) That being said, teenagers are notorious for being tight lipped with their parents. Why? Because they only want to talk if you’re going to actually listen and not launch into a lecture-a-thon. One of our readers shared a great idea with us in this article about how she connected with her teenagers after school. Another great place to listen? In the car while driving them to and fro. And even though it’s as annoying as all get out, teenagers love to talk late at night. When you want to sleep. Now if that isn’t a show of love, I don’t know what is!
Some other ideas:
-Play their video games, read their books, listen to their music–and then talk about it!
-Attend their games, recitals, concerts, plays, and other important events and give specific praise after.
-Practice the 5-to-1 rule: five positive comments for every negative one.
-Give them thoughtful gifts on their birthdays and Christmas that show you really know what’s important to them. (That “being understood” thing again!)
-Entrust them with important responsibilities and show confidence in their ability to do the job.
-This last one is something my sister does with her children ages 10-17: during the month of their birthday, display pictures of them at different stages in their life on a shelf, table, or fireplace mantle.
Many of the ideas in my article about how to show love to your younger children are also universally accepted as “love currency”. Once again, please, please, pretty please take a minute to share your own fabulous ideas in the comments section below. “Certain” mothers could really use your insights!
QUESTION: How do you tell your teenager “I Love You”?
CHALLENGE: Write down three ways you would have liked to receive love as a teenager, and try to do that for you own teenager.
* Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.
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Originally published on February 6, 2014.