Guest Post: By Belinda Letchford

I would like to welcome Belinda Letchford, an amazing parenting blogger, podcaster, and mom of four adult children, as she gives us some helpful tips on building relationships with our teens.  For more information on Belinda and her wonderful resources, check out her bio at the bottom of this post.

I loved parenting in our teen years.  I loved the conversations we had, the laughs, and the things we were able to do together.  It is during this time that we started to see the fruit of the things we taught when they were young.  They were caring, interesting, and involved young people – and it made it easy to live with them.  Not to say there wasn’t conflict – because there was, not to say that I didn’t spend time on my knees praying – because I did!

Other than the training we did when they were young I think there are two main keys that are so important when you have teenagers in your family.

  1.  You change how you parent.  You have to grow with your kids – they need different things as a teenager and so your parenting has to change its focus.
  2. Your underlying principle has to be relationship, relationship, relationship.  Any influence we have on our teen’s heart comes only when we have a relationship with them.

Here are ten parenting tips that keep our relationship in mind:

1–Be involved in their life –

Be involved in their life; know their friends, be involved on social media, go to their games, at least be aware (and not critical) of their music and movie preferences. When they talk about their life – be interested.

2–Listen to their woes, their gripes, their bad days –

Listen to their woes, their gripes, their bad days and ask if you can help them, don’t presume they want your help. On the flip side, rejoice with them on their highs even if you don’t understand why it’s such a big deal.  Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who grieve.

3–Don’t take their choices personally –

Don’t take their choices personally; it is their choices that reflect their heart, not yours. When we take their choices as an attack on us personally it weakens our ability to give them unconditional love.

4–Communicate Responsibilities & Expectations –

Communication is key to maintaining harmony in relationships.  As life changes for the teen you will have to communicate what your expectations are especially in terms of responsibilities around the home. Discuss with them why it is important for them to have these responsibilities, any deadlines when they have to be done, and what the natural consequences would be if they didn’t do what they needed to.  This conversation is to help them understand what responsibilities look like in older years – it isn’t a threatening conversation and consequences need to be fairly obvious because it isn’t a punishment but rather the natural happening when tasks don’t happen as they should.

5–Continue to teach life skills –

Continue to teach life skills.  Our teens need to know different things for this phase of their life – and we need to be available to teach them. Money and time management, being a friend, filling out forms, understanding taxes, voting, etc.  Their world is expanding and they need to keep learning life skills to do well in their bigger world.

6–Remind them of the heart issues at hand –

Don’t hold back from reminding them of the heart issues that need dealing with.  Give them time and space to think about it and to deal with whatever they need to deal with. A simple reminder that things are not as they should be (at a heart level) and then walking away is all it takes to prompt them without nagging.  Don’t nag.  This is why it is important to teach when they are young.  If they don’t know how to do what you are asking them, then they need to be taught, not nagged. 

7–Hug them when they hurt –

Hug them when they hurt.  Don’t use the situation to teach – just hug.  There’ll be plenty of time to help them, but for now, they need to know our unconditional love and acceptance.

8–Deal with moods –

Deal with moods: moods happen, but they do not need to affect everyone else in the house. When my kids/teens were moody I asked them to leave the family activities/space and go and find time alone until they had their attitude right.  Moods happen, but they do not need to affect everyone in the family.  Our teens need to learn to understand their moods and know how to manage them.

9–Spend time together –

As our teen’s life gets busier it is hard to find time to spend together, but we have to make it happen.  Our teens want relationship with us as much as we want with them.  It is often the way we relate to them and all that is changing for them, that pushes them away.  So prioritize time together.  There are two aspects to this – finding time as a whole family, as well as finding time to be just with your teen one-to-one.  

10–Expect respect and responsibility but not obedience –

When our kids are young we expect respectful obedience.  As they become self-governing that shifts to expecting respectful responsibility. At some stage, our teens need to make their own choices and when they are ready for that, it diminishes the need for instruction and obedience.  Instead, other responses take place:  respect and responsibility.  If your teen is able to be responsible for a sphere of their life – then give them that responsibility.  If they have to learn how to be responsible in a sphere of their life, then expect that they treat you with respect as you teach them.  Just because they are teenagers, does not mean they can live a selfish, self-centered life.

It’s Your Choice

One thing I said to my kids often when they were young, “It’s your choice, you can’t control the other person – what are you going to do?”  And the same is for us as parents.  It is our choice how we relate to our teens.  We can’t control them.  We can set the stage for them to do family life, and their teen years well – but we can’t control their choices.  But we can control ours. 

A Bible verse that was a constant in my heart during the years we had teenagers and young adults living in our house – Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Being a parent, teaching, training, helping our children to grow into mature, self-governing adults who love God and love other people will always stretch and challenge us to be loving, kind, consistent, true, and respectful – and never more so than when we have teens in our home. But it is our choice.

I believe with all my heart that parenting teens can be a joy, and that you can have relationship with your teens as they grow into mature adults. 

Belinda Letchford

Belinda is a parent educator and coach.  She has a weekly podcast – Heart-focused Parenting and a weekly email – Heart Boosters Weekly which gives extra support for the topics discussed on the podcast.

As part of the Heart Boosters Weekly Belinda is sharing a poster that helps parents remember to run to God when things get hard and overwhelming.  Check that out here.

In all Belinda shares, she encourages parents to be intentional, relational, and heart-focused as they raise their kids, establish their family culture and build strong family connections. Belinda is married to Peter, lives in Australia, and raised (and homeschooled) their four kids who have all moved 1000’s km away from their hometown as they live their adult lives. As a family, they connect often via technology and the occasional visit with each other.