Janna, age 17, had been dating Tom for nearly two years. Like many teen couples, they spent most of their waking hours together. They enjoyed laughing, listening to music and exploring side roads off the interstate. Everything inside Janna told her they'd probably spend the rest of their lives together.
But then he broke up with her.
n her room, Janna sobbed until her chest hurt and her throat was raw. She wondered whether she could talk to her parents: Don't adults consider teen romances as merely "puppy love," infatuation and foolishness?
Janna pulled herself together and went downstairs, trying hard to pretend everything was OK. Her mother called her over and patted the cushion next to her on the sofa. Janna sat, looking at her hands folded in her lap.
"It must be very hard," her mother said softly. "I know how much you loved him."
Janna couldn't believe her ears. Her mother understood!
Janna's mom made a crucial choice that day. She chose to build a bridge to her daughter. As a result, Janna was more willing to accept her mom's guidance. Instead of thinking of her mom as the enemy, Janna was able to confide in and connect with her.
As the parent of a teenager, you can make that choice as well. You can cultivate a friendship with your teen that will last into adulthood.
Without a strong, healthy relationship with your teen, you have little chance of making a positive impact on her. "But I have rules to pass along to my teenager," some impatient parents might say, "values and behaviors I want her to adopt. There isn't time for that touchy-feely stuff."
But rules without relationship lead to rebellion. When your teen knows you love her beyond all measure, when she knows you enjoy being with her, she'll be more willing to believe that your guidance is motivated by caring. She'll be more likely to accept the idea that the rules and values you want to pass along are in her best interest.
No parent interacts perfectly with his or her teen. But a solid relationship must be genuine, caring and reciprocating. That kind of bond doesn't come with the birth certificate. It requires effort. It's earned.
—Adapted from Help! My Teen Thinks I'm the Enemy. Copyright © 2007 by Focus on the Family. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
What does healthy interaction look like? To envision it, think about your favorite relationships. With whom do you like to spend time? Most of us prefer to be around people who
- love us
- see our strengths and compliment us on them
- listen to us and respect our opinions even if they don’t agree with us
- are affectionate verbally and physically
- respect our boundaries
- are fun to be with
- honestly share themselves and their stories
- are interested in developing a genuine relationship with us
- would not ridicule us
- forgive us
- embrace all of who we are — good and bad, struggles and successes
That’s the kind of relationship you need to develop with your teen.