Teenage girls can be a mystery; one minute they love you, the next minute you have ruined their life.
If you’re wondering how to build a relationship with your teenage daughter then you are likely in this battle, but you are not alone! As a mentor for teenagers in our Y-ministry, I’ve seen many parents confused and perplexed about how to connect with their daughters. The Bible teaches that honesty is what makes us close (1 John 1:7), but as a parent how do you get your teen to talk to you?
Read below for 5 tips that have helped many parents in the Y-ministry transform their relationships with their daughters:
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.Psalm 37:8
This may surprise you, but teenagers often tell me the biggest thing that bothers them at home is anxiety; they often already feel anxiety themselves, and don’t want to feel any more from their parents. The Bible teaches that fretting leads to evil – we are way more likely to overreact, blame, and shut down other people when we are afraid.
Find a healthy outlet for your fear and anxiety, like prayer or letting down with friends who can give you faith and support. When you are relaxed, you’ll find that your teen will be much more relaxed too!
2. Play a game
Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.1 Thessalonians 2:8
One family I know has a rule – dinner times have to be fun. So when we eat with them we play 20 Questions, Mad Libs, or some other trivia game to help everyone slow down and relax. Small as it may seem, these dinner games teach me that no matter what is going on in life, home should be the place where you can de-stress and be yourself. I think that’s what God intends with this scripture; loving someone means much more than just teaching them to act right, it means sharing and enjoying life with them even when life is not going right. Teenagers need to know that no matter how they act, their parents love them and just enjoy just being with them.
Decide to do something fun with your family regularly to build positive memories. Make it unique to your family – what works for other families might not work for you and that’s okay. Have friends over, play games, or go GeoCaching – just don’t stress over trying to have fun!
3. Become the party planner
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.Proverbs 13:20
I think one of the best things a mom can do for her teenage daughter is help her have great healthy friendships with other teenagers. Ultimately, you’re her parent – you shouldn’t be her best and only friend. But you can help her be friends with the right people, and as the scripture says if she walks with the wise she will become wise too.
Think of the friends your daughter has who are good influences on her, and help her hang out with them. Offer to be the driver, take them to the mall, or plan a movie night at your house. “I don’t really like driving a minivan full of teens to Santa Cruz for the beach trips,” one mom told me recently, “but if it helps my daughter connect with her friends, then in the van we go!”
The more you help facilitate and encourage healthy friendships for your teen, the better off she’ll be as her friends help her let down and be herself.
4. Be vulnerable yourself
The godly are directed by honesty; the wicked fall beneath their load of sin.Proverbs 11:5
If you want your teen to be vulnerable with you, then set the example by being vulnerable yourself. When was the last time you let down with another parent about how afraid you are for your kids, or how angry you are with your kids, and asked for help or advice? From what I’ve seen, every parent feels these things at some point. The difference is that some parents talk about it and other parents won’t. Those who are honest find direction and clarity about what they should do next, while those who hold everything inside feel crushed by the pressure.
Grab coffee with another parent of a teenager this week, and let down about how you are really doing. Your teenager is also much more likely to let down and be real when they see you doing it yourself.
5. Praise honesty, not perfection
But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.Psalm 51:6
God desires honesty, not perfection. In my opinion, that’s one of the things that makes Him attractive – we can be completely ourselves and full of mistakes, failures, and guilt and still be loved.
I think teenagers need this same heart from their parents, too. I’ve never met a teen who didn’t feel afraid of disappointing their parents in some way- by not being smart enough, athletic enough, spiritual enough, or maybe courageous enough. They can think you are disappointed in them even when you’ve never given them a reason to think that.
One way to beat this is to express over and over again how happy you are when your teenager is real with you and how proud you are of them, because you know it’s not easy. The more you reassure them that you are okay with them even when they are not perfect, the more they will let down with you.