Raising children is a job that’s constantly changing. Just when you think you get one phase figured out, they grow into something new. As our children become teenagers, they seem to need us less than they did when they were younger. The truth is, they still need us. Their needs are just different now. Although an exhaustive list is not really feasible, here are 10 things your teen needs from you.
1 – Vision
When you’re young, it’s hard to see too far into the future. Help him catch a vision for what God’s purpose for his life may be. Show her how to look further down the road to see where today’s decisions will lead her tomorrow.
2 – Instruction
There’s a lot to learn in order to function as a mature adult. Equip her with the life skills she needs for success. Don’t make the mistake of doing too much for him.
Demonstrate, teach, and expect your teen to do laundry, meal preparation, car maintenance, banking, and correspond in a professional manner via phone, letter, or email. Think in terms of stretching, rather than holding back.
3 – Quality Time
The key to spending quality time with your teen is doing something together that your teen enjoys. Keep in mind; it may not be the same activity you enjoy. The definition of quality time depends on the personality of the teen. The specific activity is not as important as the fact that you do it together and your teen sees it as a pleasurable event to look forward to.
It could be chess, video games, playing sports, watching sports, watching movies, running, shopping, going out for dinner or to eat ice cream, camping, hiking, canoeing, or a million other things. Sorry, but lectures don’t count. You’ve got to be more creative than that!
4 – Hugs
Make sure your teen gets plenty of healthy physical affection. Not only is it an important and sometimes neglected way of expressing your love, it is also an effective precaution against teens seeking unhealthy fulfillment of this basic human need for loving physical contact.
Everybody needs hugs. He may pretend he’s too big, but he isn’t. She may act like she's too cool, but she's not. Hug them anyway. A pat on the back, a high-five or a fist bump are all also ways to communicate your love and support nonverbally.
5 – An Open Door
Be available, even if it’s late. Teens are semi-nocturnal and seem to be ready to open up the most when parents are sleepiest. They are worth staying up for. Open channels of communication are vital. Make sure she knows she can come to you anytime. Tell him you will always be there for him, no matter what.
6 – A Listening Ear
Put down what you’re doing, sit down, and ask how she’s really doing. Find out what’s on his mind. Listen with your whole self. Let her know you care about the things she cares about (no matter how insignificant or boring you may be tempted to think they are).
He needs to know you care enough about his problems and joys that he can bring them to you. You may care a lot, but if you are not deliberate about letting your teen know, she may feel otherwise.
7 – Personal Space
Privacy is important, even if they share a room with a sibling. Respect his boundaries. Knock on her door instead of barging in. Let your teen know what you are monitoring. Don’t snoop or spy unless you have a good reason.
You don’t have to read every single text, email, or social media posts to be an involved or responsible parent. You’re a concerned parent, not a stalker.
8 – Encouragement
Your teen may not say it, but she needs your support. Maturing into adulthood is hard work. Let him know you’ve got his back. Focus on all she’s doing right. It’s easy to get caught up in all the things you want to “fix” about him before he leaves home. That’s defeating.
Don’t keep bringing up her past mistakes. Tell them him proud you are of his effort and accomplishments, even when it doesn’t turn out as expected. Let her know how much you enjoy her as a person.
9 – Connections
Teenagers need connections outside of the family. This is especially important for homeschooled teens who don’t have a ton of connections through school. As with many things in life, quality is more important than quantity.
Enable her to connect in meaningful ways with others through church, homeschool groups, extracurricular activities, or even simply hanging out with friends. Educate him on the wisdom of choosing associates and friends carefully. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Or, in other words, you can’t soar with the eagles if you’re hanging out with the turkeys.
10 – A Role Model Worth Emulating
Ideally, a teen’s first and best role model will be you, the parent. Earn his respect through your own behavior. Demonstrate the life of integrity you want her to live.
It’s also important for your teen to interact with other godly adults besides you and your spouse. Seek out adults who speak words of wisdom and encouragement into your teen’s life. Point out and discuss excellent and poor examples of role models you find in movies, sports figures, celebrities, or the news.
As I said, this list is not complete, nor is it even the top ten needs your teen has. Some needs that could have made this list are worthy of a post all their own. But I have outlined 10 important needs we as parents should not overlook. I hope it served to get the juices flowing in your own brain about how you can best serve and love your teenager.
What other ideas do you have for ministering to your children in the teen years?