Being Available For Your Teen

Dad and son sit on a small rickety bridge over a creek in an open nature area

Do you spend too much time away from home? When you're there, are you available physically and emotionally? Or are you wrapped up in television, moonlighting or restoring an old Corvette?

If you're there when the kids get home from school, do they have a listening, caring parent to talk with? Or do they have to stand in the kitchen, shifting from foot to foot, hoping you'll get off the phone?

If you get home later, do you push aside attempts at closeness, your face and body language like an electrified fence? Do you mumble a hello to your kids and demand they give a respectful, clear response? If your teen has a concert at school, do you beg off because you're too tired?

If so, it's not surprising. Parenting a teen — not to mention keep­ing up with the bills — is exhausting work. Just when you thought your kids would need less from you, you find they need more.

And time is what they need most. Quality and quantity time.

Parents Who Come Home

Coming home can be hard. It requires sacrifice.

I have a friend who's a major-league surgeon. He came to me after realizing he was losing touch with his teens. He could see them frozen in the distance, almost like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.

I suggested he come home. He looked at me, his face etched with despair. "But I can't." I knew what he meant. His skills were in constant demand at all hours of the day and night.

So I challenged him with what I hoped would be a reasonable goal. "Try to give 10 percent of each day to your kids. Just 10 percent."

He did. To his astonishment, his teens began to respond. What he thought he'd lost forever, he regained — when he gave only 10 percent of his time.

I'd tried this principle at home, too. After pouring myself into

my job every day and coming home with a chip on my shoulder and looking for a soft place to lie down, I'd had nothing left to give my kids. One day I'd slithered home, anxious to do nothing, when a thought floated into my head: Save 10 percent.

That sounded reasonable, doable. So I set myself a goal of reserving 10 percent of my energy for my children. My new top calling was to be a dad.

I used that 10 percent with my teens — shooting hoops, running pass patterns, and listening to a squawking saxophone. In their hearts they knew I thought they were special, that I valued them.

A Time to Mend

I'm not the only one who thinks it's worth it to sacrifice your time during the few years your teen has left at home. Listen to this girl's story:

"My mom drove us to and from school every day. That meant at least an hour a day in the car. It was so great because, being the incredibly wise woman that she is, my mom would listen to what was going on. Then she would offer her best advice for a problem. This way, we all learned to trust my mom, and we weren't ever afraid to tell her about something that had happened. My mom has always encouraged us to talk to her because she knows that we're not perfect and we're going to screw up sometimes. She's extremely good at waiting until we're ready to tell her what's on our minds, and she just listens and then gives us advice or takes action if it's needed."

It takes time to be that kind of mentor to your teen. Here's how one parent put it: "Whenever there was a choice between being with the kids and doing something else, the best choice was being with them."

Want to see a change in your teen's behavior? Make the first move by coming home.

Taken from Sticking With Your Teen, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2006 by Joe White. All rights reserved.

Next in this Series: Tools for Listening to Your Teen

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