What Matters Most:
Building A Bridge To Your Teen’s Heart
As a parent, there are many important topics that you likely want to address and find necessary to talk to your teen about. Friendships, dating, getting good grades, not drinking or taking drugs, driving safely, being a young man/woman of your word, working hard at whatever you do…but that is not what I’m talking about.
It’s not the instructional “listen up you need to know this stuff” that I’m talking about. It’s the building a bridge to their heart stuff. Not a chain or rope to have a stranglehold, but rather a genuine relationship with your child where they want to share their life, the funny things about what happened at school or in youth group or on Facebook. What may seem trivial to you but is important to them. Where they want to engage in a friendship relationship with you not just as the rule setter, car key holder & consequence maker.
I have found that most of those types of relationship building conversations happen after 10pm at night when I am so ready to call it a night. It seems as though their guard is let down and they are more open to shooting the breeze with me. Usually with my kids, they want watch a few hilarious, gross or crazy, “don’t try that at home” YouTube videos or play a few rounds of Angry Birds or some other mindless game.
We laugh and watch a few more videos or play a few more rounds and oftentimes, this is where the magic happens. They open up and share or ask a really deep question about life; your life or their life or something they’ve observed and they’re trying to work through what they think about it all.
By this time I’m truly dog tired and barely have the reasoning capacity of a door knob and they want to dig deeper. I have the choice to send them to bed so that I can get some sleep before the early rising younger children that mercilessly wake before the dawn or I can join them in building that bridge. It is as if they lay down a brick and see if I want to lay one down on my side as well. As a tired Mama, sometimes it is easy to miss that brick offering.
Another way I have seen this happen is sometimes when they are sick they’re more willing to let you in to build the bridge to their heart. A couple weeks ago, one of my younger teens was really sick. This is probably a “not very nice Mom thing to share” but he is so nice to be around when he is sick. Isn’t that horrible thing to say? But it is true. One night he was coughing and just feeling too miserable to sleep and he came and woke me. It is one of the rare times when he admittedly wanted his Mom. I knew this was a moment in time to draw him in and love on him instead of just giving him some medicine and sending him back to bed so that I could go back to bed.
I chose to lay the first brick by offering to make some tea for us both. We sat and sipped on our tea and chatted until it was almost 3am. The house was house was quiet, his heart was open, and we just talked. This child is one of my hardest kids and yet in the middle of the night, sick and miserable, he was open to building a bit of that bridge with me. I was a very tired Mama that next day but being able to build that bridge with him does not happen often and that night was a priceless moment.
These bridges to our teens hearts will look different with each of our children. Some are strong and beautifully built early on, others are more weak and unstable and will take years to build . . . but don’t lose heart or give up just because it is slow going, especially when they seem to destroy their side of the bridge.
Parenting truly is not for the faint of heart.
Dear tired Mama, as a Mom of many children, I encourage you to look for and be open to those times to build that bridge with your teen. Keep looking for those times when you can offer to lay a brick or when they open up and quietly lay a small brick to see if you will notice and join them. I promise you, it likely will not be at a convenient time for you but parenting is so much about yielding, giving and building up our kids so that one day when they are ready to go out on their own…they will always know the way back home across that bridge.
Have you found this to be the case with your teens that they open up late at night? What else do you do to build that relationship bridge to your teen’s heart?