Written by Nathan Kocurek, Associate Pastor Student Ministries at Stonebriar Community Church
The weird thing about teenagers… Let me start over—one of the weird things about teenagers is how self-contradictory they are. For example…
- Non-conformity conformity
- Knowing everything without knowing anything
- Never making food but always hungry
- Loving their dog while ignoring their dog
- Tons of clothes but nothing to wear
Another way teenagers contradict themselves is in their desire/lack of desire to connect with their parents. Believe it or not, teenagers still very much want their parents involved in their lives, but of course it has to be on their terms. That’s okay, we can work with that! Summer break offers wonderful opportunities for connecting with your teenager, although I wouldn’t try it before noon unless by “connecting” you mean angry groaning, sour attitudes, whining, complaining, self-pity, and harsh words resulting in corporal punishment. There’s a better way of connecting that could enhance your relationship with your teenager this summer. Here are some tips to get you started.
According to Focus on the Family, during the teen years, affirmation and approval are crucial. It is natural that your teen seeks approval from peers, but you are actually your child’s most important cheerleader. They need and look for your “way to go” and “I’m so proud of you” more than you know. More than that, they need your affirmation of who they are, not what they have accomplished and not how they behave.
Be Intentional About Spending Time with Them
When your schedule and their schedule are busy, it can be hard to squeeze in time to be “intentional.” In fact, it can seem like one more thing on a long to-do list. “Spend time with son, check.” Connecting with teens can happen at any time and any place. Time spent can be the big stuff, such as attending their star performance in a play, or it can be the little stuff like hanging out at the snow cone shack on a hot afternoon. It’s important to show interest in their lives through our words and our actions.
Do the Unexpected
Most of us are more comfortable when we are in a structured routine and we know what to expect. But what is comfortable to you is probably restraining to your teen. I’m not suggesting throwing all the rules out the door, but a midnight taco run, 2:00 a.m. pancakes, or an all-night Netflix marathon can be just different enough to shake up the routine and get your teen talking.
Here are Some Additional Ideas
- Go on a downtown adventure—rent a scooter and see the town!
- Binge watch season one of “Chef’s Table” and make something together!
- Volunteer together! Children’s hospitals, animal shelters, or at church!
- Family road trip! (Caution: road trips may have the reverse intended effect!)
- Toilet paper grandma’s house! (Caution: grandma may shoot you, this is Texas!)
- Outdoor concert at White Rock Lake!
When Your Teen Doesn’t Want to Connect*
Pray. Even when you feel disconnected, pray that God will be very present in your teen’s life.
Be available. Remember these powerful parenting words: “When you’re ready to talk, I’m here.”
Learn your teen’s interests. Try to figure out what will help your kid look forward to spending time with you.
Don’t take it personally. Teens are figuring things out, too.
Wait. Connection doesn’t happen overnight. Maturity is a gradual process that can take years.
Emerging from the depths of the late 1970s, Nathan Kocurek spent his formative years under the influence of Hall & Oates, Duran Duran, and other notables while listening to KRBE in Houston on the clock radio beside his bed. Nathan was influenced to love Jesus by the example of his young single mom, and he grew up with a love for God but an incomplete understanding of discipleship. As a result, as a teenager, he indulged in a relentless and, at times, reckless pursuit of social and athletic achievements, seeking to assuage an innermost feeling of emptiness that he could not escape. Finally, by God’s grace, the Spirit of the Lord made it clear to him that none but Jesus could satisfy what he was lacking. The answer had been there all along. Later, Nathan married the girl of his dreams and they ran off to California, had two sons, and returned to Texas where they adopted their sweet daughter. Having served as a Student Minister at two previous churches over the past 18 years, Nathan and his wife, Marie, are now thrilled to follow the calling of Christ at Stonebriar Community Church.