“They may push you away, but deep down your kids still need to know you love them. So don’t get hurt — get closer by learning these teen-friendly ways to show you care.”
When your kids are little, parenthood is pretty much a contact sport — a nonstop marathon of smooching and snuggling. Fast-forward to their teen years, and it’s an entirely different story. Take my 14-year-old, for example. I used to put his sweet little baby toes in my mouth just to make him giggle. Now he not only has a pair of huge hairy man feet, but all of our tender moments — including those times he rests his chin on the top of my head, just to show how tall he is-happen entirely on his terms. And what about his 16-year-old sister? Sure, she’ll occasionally play footsie with me while we watch House. But if I hug her uninvited, she turns into a human surfboard.
Experts say we shouldn’t let those cold shoulders fool us. Kids not only want us to reach out to them, but also need constant reminders that we care…
When your kid starts insisting you keep your distance — in my house, that involves eye rolling, mock gagging or the ultra-offensive “eww, get away from me!” — relax. You can show your teens you love them while still giving them space.
1. Find affection alternatives. Kashurba suggests parents, especially dads, modify the ways they show affection to their teens. Hugging daughters can become embarrassing. Chances are you’ve already figured out that rumpling her hair is out of the question, so experiment. Try an occasional back scratch while she’s at the computer. Games — whether it’s touch football or flicking each other with wet dishrags — offer parents a chance to stay physical with both boys and girls.
2. Chill their way. Flop down on the couch next to your teen, even if it means you have to endure MTV’s “The Hills”. You might not be able to hug it out, but sitting shoulder-to-shoulder and sharing a laugh can be the next best thing.
3. Pick your moments. Your teen may brush off most of your overtures, but there are always unexpected times when she feels especially vulnerable — overwhelmed by calculus, for example, or after a fight with her best friend. Seize the moment. She might not ask for it, but she’d really love a reassuring arm around the shoulder.
4. Remember, showing up matters most. When raising teens, “being actively engaged in their daily lives trumps everything,” says Cauffman. That means rooting from the bleachers at basketball games, eating dinner together most nights, and really listening — on their terms, not yours — without judgment.
5. Get your sense of humour back and share lots of giggles. In “He’ll be OK: Growing gorgeous boys into good men” Celia Lashlie noted that a common theme of the conversations she had with many of the students was their lack of what they considered a real relationship with their dads. “What’s the one thing about your dad you would change if you could?’ she asked the students.
“Time and again the answer came: ‘He’d get his sense of humour back.’
Not “He’d get a sense of humour’ but ‘He’d get his sense of humour back‘. … You’re great with your little fellows: you roll around on the floor, you fight, you have a lot of fun. And then the moment comes when a wee switch goes down in the back of the male brain, and you say to yourselves, ‘OK, I need to be a proper father now.’
So you stand up ready and willing to be a proper father and meanwhile your teen is looking around thinking, ‘I wonder where my dad went, because this grumpy old bastard sure isn’t him.’…”