“I can’t talk to my mom; we always fight.” “Dad would kill me if he knew.” “Mom and I used to be close, but not since she remarried.” “I can’t talk to my parents about this.” These are all things teens have said or written to me in the last year. To be honest, my own children have had occasions when they felt they could not talk to me or their dad honestly about some significant struggle they were facing. As an adult who seems pretty approachable (at least to other people’s kids), I’ve had conversations with young people who are floundering, wondering how to answer the major questions of life that they are facing, struggling with how to handle the feelings of hurt and devastation that come in the course of human relationships. These teens too often feel unequipped and unsupported, left to navigate adult worries and stresses alone. How can we as adults come alongside our own teens, and the friends of our teens that come into our homes and our lives? First, we have to understand their inner world.
I read a book a while back that I recommend to parents, educators, and youth leaders, called “Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers.” It really opened my eyes to the sense of abandonment that many teens have. Adults are often too busy with their own jobs, concerns, and relationships to really make time to listen with an open heart and mind to teens.
I am guessing that parents reading this blog care deeply about their kids, and want to have a close relationship with them. Maybe the cares of life have indeed robbed you that all-important building block of relationship: TIME with them. It happens without us realizing it. Or maybe you, like me, have been through periods where you are shut out by your teen. That doesn’t remove their need for mentors and role models. In short, they need to know that they matter in this stressful, driven, achievement-oriented world. Keep loving, caring, and listening. Don’t give up. Try to understand their world. And consider being that caring adult to someone else’s child. Maybe an adult will be that person in your child’s life: a respected teacher, caring neighbor, the mom or dad of a friend, a youth leader.