Expressing love to my children when they were little was so uncomplicated. Love was shown in the form of a hug, a kiss, or “I love you,” followed by an immediate “I love you too!” We would cuddle at night and my son would fall asleep, holding my hand. Love was easily given and easily received. Expressing love to a teenager is a whole other matter.
Hugs are meant to be pulled away from.
Kisses are wiped off the face with an exasperated sigh.
The phrase “I love you” falls upon deaf ears when your kids are already jumping out the car before you even reach the school gate.
Nighttime cuddles are replaced with a “don’t stay up too late!” as your teen sits hunched over a mound of books, coffee in hand and AirPods in their ears.
As my kids morphed into sullen, moody and stressed-out teenagers, I learned that they still needed some TLC to show that they were loved. That expression of love, however, simply took a different form.
This is an ordinary habit. We do this all the time, even when the kids are young. Don’t stop this habit when your kids become tweens and teens. Whether they’re in the middle of a Zoom session, gaming, or studying late into the night, your kid will always appreciate a bowl of fruit cut up just for them, even if that response comes in the form of a grunt or a half-smile.
Throw them a lifeline : #xplan
Teenagers can be very unpredictable. You might drop them in one location and find out later that they ended up in another. They might not have planned it that way, but unfortunately, teenagers have more influence over one another than we do. So what happens when your teen ends up in a sticky situation and they don’t know how to get out of it? Enter the X-plan.
Developed by Bert Fulks, the #xplan is a family commitment that helps kids know that they can escape an uncomfortable situation without parental judgment. Here’s how it works:
- Teen texts an “X” to a parent or older sibling.
- Receiver of the “X” calls the teen and uses an agreed-upon script (e.g. something happened and he has to leave).
- Teen has an “out” by telling his friends that something happened at home and he is leaving.
- Parents pass no judgments and ask no questions unless someone is unsafe.
My inner desi mom was cringing when my friend Yasmin told me about this. Like many moms, my first reaction to picking up my kid in the middle of the night from some random location would be along the lines of “What do you think you were doing!!??” Over time, however, I realized that teenagers have the tendency to NOT think through a situation and sometimes, they need a non-judgmental way out. (At least until the next day)
Be nice to (all of) their friends
Isn’t it ironic that we spend so much time arranging playdates with certain kids, only for them to become choose friends who are the exact opposite? Over the course of their teen years, your kid may become friends with peers whose habits you find…mildly offensive. Being nice and making them feel welcome in your home is a powerful expression of love. It shows your kid that even if you don’t always approve of their choice of friends, you respect their decision to keep that company.
This post is part of a collaboration about expressing love to our children.
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