One of the happiest days for most families is when they bring a new baby home from the hospital. There is so much love and joy to give. Especially for the first child everything has to be just perfect. There is unconditional love. It doesn’t matter whether the baby vomits on you or keeps you up all night, that precious bundle of joy can do no wrong. And then the baby starts talking and walking and every new day brings along a new pleasure to behold. Those are some of the best years of a parent’s life. And then the teenage years roll around and that precious bundle of joy becomes an unrecognizable living, breathing being. For some parents, it is like “what happened to my baby?” How can parents continue to show unconditional love to that teen.
1. Maintain communication
The most important way to stay involved in your teen’s life is to maintain communication. Parents should realize that keeping their teenagers engaged starts way before the teen years. You have to take the time to get to know your child and learn their method of communication. Every child is different and what worked for your first child may not work for your second. Some kids just love to talk and it’s easy to get along with them. Others may speak in monosyllables and you need to extrapolate and gauge what they mean. Others communicate through what they do or how they show you affection. The interesting thing is just when you think you’ve figured them out your teens change on you. You have to stay involved and grow with them. If you give up on communicating with your teens they start listening to other voices who may not be telling them the truth and who could lead them astray. So take the time to learn what method of communication works best for your teen, and stay involved.
2. Discipline and love.
Does showing unconditional love to our teens mean that we don’t discipline them? The bible says, “Discipline your children while there is hope, otherwise you will ruin their lives.” Proverbs 19:18. A lot of parents are afraid to discipline their children because the child will get upset or they think it will impact their relationship with the child. On the contrary, teens thrive with discipline. Just think about how well teens do in school when they are told upfront the consequences for their actions. They obey the teacher and when they go wrong, they know what to expect. They may get upset at the teacher but they know that he is right. We should discipline our children, out of love for them. We have to realize that we will not always be there to bail our children out so we have to teach them to stand on their own two feet. They have to learn to live in society and make a meaningful contribution to their fellow man, and it all starts with how we discipline them. Let’s be parents who show our love to our children by disciplining them and teaching them how to thrive and contribute in life.
3. Forgiveness and love
Does unconditional love mean always forgiving our children, no matter what? In my book, the answer is yes. The same way that the good Lord forgives us no matter what we do, we have to show that unconditional love to our children. I’ve met so many parents over the years who have basically given up on their teens because they got involved in drugs or got pregnant or ran away from home. Sometimes I’m amazed at the animosity that exists between parent and child. I admit that I don’t know what happened before this moment in time but parents must realize that there are two sides to every story. The child didn’t wake up one day and become this person. Obviously a series of life events got him to that point and parents must accept their contribution to the problem and work together with the child to overcome the problem. Sometimes a family may need professional counseling when they get to an impasse or they may need to involve other family members. In my opinion it is always worth forgiving your child and trying to make things right. Love is not always perfection. Love and life can be messy. The situation is hopeless only when we give up and decide that it’s all over. There is always hope and if you are willing, you can forgive your child and move on and build a stronger relationship with that child. Never give up on your child.
4. Show true love
When we talk about love, we think about the love that exists between couples, especially in the early stages of their relationship. Teens these days are showing love by “making out” with people they meet because they never learned about true love. True love starts from home. Teens learn about love by watching how we relate to our partners and to them. They must learn that true and lasting love with their partners must involve friendship and some sacrifice. They should be taught that the hot flame of early love eventually simmers down and what is left is the trust they have for each other and the friendship they share and the willingness to let go the “it’s all about me” attitude. True love comes with responsibility and selflessness and we should behave that way towards our partners and children so they learn how to truly love another person.
Love is patient, love is kind.…. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13
Happy Valentine’s Day.