Is your teen or preteen normal and happy, or do they seem depressed? I am not a medical professional or a licensed therapist, and if you’re up against something that you can’t wrap your head around it can definitely be helpful for you, your child, or both of you to have a qualified neutral third party who also knows and loves Jesus and will advise biblically to talk things through with and figure out. But, may I ask–how’s your relationship with your child?
“…urge the younger women to love their…children,” (Titus 2:4 NIV)
You wouldn’t think you need to encourage a parent to love their child, but here it is; God tells older women to urge the younger ones to love their children (they’re urged to love their husbands too, but I’m going to focus on the part about children today). And while there may be other things going on in your child’s life, examining your relationship with him or her with painful honesty is an important first step.
Why? Because a child’s relationship with his parents is typically the first and most important of all other relationships in their life–so important, in fact, that many of the issues we struggle with later on in adulthood can be traced back to our relationship with our mother or father.
Of course, most parents will insist vehemently they they love their children–and most do love them. But what we, as parents, feel in our hearts is not enough–we have to be successful in getting our feelings of love across to them in ways they will understand, because it’s not a given that if we love our child they know and feel and experience that love.
Think about it. Depending on your personality and theirs, you may feel you’re showing them love by going to work each day to support them, but they might not think you care much because they’ve never actually heard you say, “I love you” to them. Or you may feel you’re showing your love by giving them all the things you didn’t have growing up, but they might feel absolutely insignificant to you because you’re not actually around enough to spend time with them. Or you might love them but be too tired to spend time with them because you work outside the home. Or you might feel you are being a good parent by having very high expectations of them or being very strict, but all they see is an impossible-to-please adult who has no idea who they really are and is never happy with anything they do. There are so many ways the love a parent feels and the love the child actually experiences can be a disconnect because of the personalities involved and the realities of life. So how do we do this? How do we actually show our children we love them?
Well, I suggest that the first and foremost step is to make a conscious effort to build your relationship with them. Don’t take them, or their relationship with you, for granted–because that’s what we tend to do with little children. We need to take care of them, and sometimes they can get the feeling that we’re just putting up with them–just tolerating them rather than really caring about them as individuals!
No; rather than thinking of him or her as just “your kid,” cultivate your relationship with them as you would with someone important or valuable or special whom you really want to be friends with! Because, of course–aren’t they important to you? Precious and of great value? Incredibly special?? Absolutely so!
So make the effort! Do things for them, take them places they’d enjoy, buy them little gifts, think about them–get into their world; be sensitive to what’s important to them. Most importantly, especially as they enter the teen years, be there for them. Not a scary person who stresses and yells about everything or a preach-y person who moralizes every chance they get, but just be there, and listen–really listen; because as they get older they’re going to need that more and more. Be a parent, yes, but also their friend, their most trusted and loyal confidante!
And pray daily that you represent rightly the love of Jesus to them–because it’s so hard in practice! So instead of considering your needs first, meet theirs–in essence, lay down your life for them because Jesus said “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for…[someone]” (John 15:12-13 NKJV)
And what you will get is a relationship with your children–and maybe, just maybe, you’ll shine a bit of His light–“hope and a future”--into their life!
Dear Lord Jesus,
Help me love my children; help me build a relationship with them; help me reflect your love rightly to them! Amen.