Are You Emotionally Connected to Your Teen?

As I talk to a lot of moms of teens and ask about their kids, I typically hear about the struggles to achieve. Whether it be tryouts for a sports team, a certain score on an AP exam, practicing for a musical showcase, or getting into the college of choice, society places a lot of pressure on our kids to be the best. And, if truth be told, sometimes it is us as parents adding to the stress. Competition is stiff and as our kids move toward high school graduation, the stakes seem to be getting higher. After all, most kids are competing for those limited scholarship opportunities that we think our kids deserve.

Yet, what I’m finding interesting as my kids have moved to become 20 and 30 somethings, is that a lot of those kids who pushed so hard to achieve end up losing in the end. When the competition becomes overwhelming, or stress of exams becomes too much, and even the pressure on the job seems formidable, they don’t know how to handle the feeling of ‘not measuring up’. They don’t know how to objectively look at a situation and know if it is good for them.

I know that competition can be a good thing and high achievement is good for our society. Helping our kids to become independent and launch is what we should all be striving toward as parents. However, if we forget the connection part during the teen years, we’re setting our kids up for a lonely existence and the inability to assess their emotional needs in high pressure situations.

I grew up in a family where emotions weren’t allowed. Tears meant I was a crybaby. Emotion meant that I wasn’t tough enough. Feelings were to be stuffed or people wouldn’t want to be around me. And jokes or silliness were instinctively inserted to take away the knot in the pit of my stomach.

Avoiding anything emotional was the game that was played–not out of insensitivity but because it wasn’t in my parent’s vocabulary. Dealing with emotion hadn’t been passed down from their parents.

However, we are emotional beings. God wired our brains with both the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala so that we can think and feel. Connection comes from the feeling part of our brain. And it is possible to under-develop the emotional part of our brains so that we stifle our growth toward healthy connection.

Thankfully, what I have discovered is that emotional connection can be learned. While it might feel foreign and uncomfortable at first and, like my experience, you might have to consciously think through the next step, the benefits for both us and our kids can be game changers when it comes to connection in the relationship.

If you are like me and didn’t learn to deal with emotion as a child, you are probably stifling the emotional connection with your own kids. Here are some ways to recover what has been lost as you forge ahead toward becoming more emotionally healthy creating more meaningful connection with your own kids.

  1. Learn to notice your kids when they are stressed out. What attitudes, behaviors, or reactions do they exhibit? If you see moodiness, anger, withdrawal, or complaining, ask them to put words to what they are feeling. Be available to listen without judgment or telling them “you shouldn’t feel that way.”
  2. Learn to notice when you are stressed out.  What are you exhibiting? Name it. And when your teens challenge you by saying something like, “Why are you in such a bad mood?”, be honest with them. Let them know if you are feeling angry, sad, or upset and the “why” within reason.
  3. Comfort yourself. When you find yourself stressed out, allow yourself to feel it, name it, and normalize it. Give yourself a physical hug and let yourself know that you have a right to feel what you feel. Then ask yourself what you need.
  4. Comfort your kids. Physical touch, hugs, and soothing words go a long way in helping our teens know that even in the middle of what feels like disaster they will be okay. Say something like, “You seem to be really upset right now, would you like to tell me about it?” If they say “yes”, listen and validate their feelings. Ask them what they need from you.  If they say “no”, respect their decision and let them know that you are available to listen when they are ready.

Psalm 23: 1-6

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Learning to connect emotionally with our kids is like being Jesus with skin on. Even though they are walking through an emotional valley, we have the ability to comfort them through our tenderness, our touch, and validating words so they have the desire to pick themselves up and move forward.

By doing the same for ourselves and validating our own feelings, we are modeling healthy maturity in what life can be like when the chips are down and we ourselves become overwhelmed. This is showing our kids what healthy adulthood can look like.

“Let go…and Let God”,

Do you wish you knew more skills to emotionally connect with your teen?  Why not start a group with other moms to learn how.  With All Due Respect: 40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens & Tweens is a great place to start.  If you can’t find a group, feel free to join our on-line eCourse where you will find daily encouragement and can interact with other moms in the same place in the parenting journey.

Another opportunity I’d like to share is our Deflating Defensiveness Training Retreat in Milford, Ohio that will be held June 27-30.  There you will interact with moms who are brave enough to try out the skills in person in a safe environment.  You’ll see behaviors taught, modeled, and you’ll have opportunity to practice.  You’ll walk away with a new perspective on what relationships can be in your home.












When Adults Tattle on Your Kid

With four teens under my roof at the same time, it was not uncommon to have adult “friends” who would tell me something that one of those teens had done that was wrong. I’ve had teachers, leaders, neighbors, and other moms say things like, “Well, if this was my kid I would want to know.”

For years it was hard knowing how to respond to the adult. “Thanks for letting me know”, was about all I could utter as I felt this wave of shame pass through me.

It was as if I was being judged as a parent. The feeling that I didn’t measure up and that now this adult knew it became my focus. I’ll admit I didn’t like the feeling. I kept second guessing what I was doing wrong in my parenting to deserve children who would do such things. My next thought was centered around the consequence this kid deserved so he would learn acceptable behavior.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I got to child number three that I had my A-Ha! moment.

It wasn’t about me — the first thing I needed to do was learn to take my emotion out of it and understand what was behind the shame.

It wasn’t about making sure that my teen was perfect to the outside world — after all, none of us are perfect.

It was about an opportunity to connect in a positive way with my teen.

Just last week I was having a conversation with one of my sons and he reminded me of a time when I got it right. Now hear me out. If the incident had occurred three or four years earlier in his life, I would have most likely messed it up royally.

Having practiced on his older siblings and done the wrong thing too many times, I became more adept at soothing the situation rather than ignite my emotion in front of my teen. Doing it wrong helped me learn how to connect with my teen when prior to that I might have started down my list of lectures or consequences for his behavior.

One day my son and his girlfriend went for a walk through the neighborhood. During the walk he decided to kiss her. And, as fate would have it, the kiss happened right in front of a house of my friend who stood watching out her window.

And the next time I saw this neighbor, I heard all about it.

This time, something was different. I was different.

I didn’t feel the typical shame that would have come over me. I had learned to recognize that this wasn’t about me. It was about my son’s behavior in public. And it was an opportunity to connect with him.

Rather than give him the lecture of how kissing can lead to other things, the conversation went something like this.

“Hey, honey, do you have a minute to talk?”

After I got his agreement on the talk, I continued.

“First let me say you aren’t in trouble. I just heard something that I thought you might want to be aware of and thought we should talk about it. Do you remember that walk you took last week with ________? Don’t get upset, but someone in the neighborhood told me they saw you kissing her in front of their house. (Insert chuckle to ease his shame of being caught). Honey, it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve kissed ________ . Most kids your age want to kiss their girlfriends. I can tell you really like her.”

“One of the things you need to think about is kissing in a public place. I know the neighborhood doesn’t feel public if you don’t see anyone around, but a lot of the neighbors know you. This time, someone happened to be looking out their front window. I don’t think you want to put _________ in a situation where her reputation might be judged or your motives misperceived.”

“Again, not a big deal. I just thought you would want to know so you can protect _______ in the future.”

He responded, “Thanks for letting me know and for not being upset.”

Whew. Totally different response than I expected.

Different response from you as a mom = Different reaction from your teens.

Proverbs 15:1

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

“Let go…and Let God”,

How we think about parenting can make all the difference in our relationship with our teens.  Whether you have a 9 year old or a 29 year old, your daily interactions have a huge impact on your relationship.  Why not join other moms as we go through the book With All Due Respect:  40 Days to a More Fulfilling Relationship with Your Teens & Tweens on-line?  We laugh and learn together as we share our own parenting stories.  There you’ll find teaching video and we have discussion in a private Facebook forum.  Seasoned moms are there to interact with you on a daily basis.  To join our eCourse, click here.  Or purchase the book here 

4 Ways to Tame Sibling Taunting

I’ve heard a new common cliche from lots of young moms over the last several years. “I want to make sure I do everything right so I don’t mess my kid up.” Or, “I wonder how much counseling my kid will need because of something I’ve inflicted on them?”

While I understand that it is easy to get in the mindset that we can completely determine the outcome of our kids’ future by our actions, I wonder if our inaction might be causing more of a problem?

For several years I’ve been paying close attention to family interactions when I’m with friends who have teens.  As I watch the way some siblings treat each other, I wonder if their parents understand the pain and potential damage that is being caused by the demeaning way they treat each other.  My next thought is, “What are they doing to keep their children from believing the verbal lies that are being inflicted?”

First let me say that I get that there can be sibling rivalry, jealousy, and sometimes bullying even in the best of families.  Kids will be kids and as I’ve often heard it said, “If you don’t believe in the devil, you haven’t had kids.”  Truer words have not been spoken.

I’ll admit there have been cruel things that have taken place even in my own family.  My kids have hurt each other at times doing deplorable things all in the name of “fun”.  I’ve seen the despicable way my children have behaved toward each other at times.  And as my kids have become older, I can still see remnants of those harsh words that were spoke to them by their siblings.  

When my kids were younger, I’ll admit that I didn’t have the skill set to impact those situations in a healthy way.  Responses such as “quit doing that to your sister” or “leave your brother alone” were uttered without much action.  Oh, sure, I might send the perpetrator to their room or issue a consequence as a way of getting their attention, and I might even interact with the child that was hurt and tell them I was sorry.  But now, I can see that those actions were not enough.

As I work with women across the country, I see the same wounding in many.  Wounds delivered in childhood or the teen years by people that either want to be seen as “better than” trying to raise the bar in their social ladder or those who because of their own pain choose to hurt others.  The scars are still there.  And it makes me so sad.

So what are some things we can do to help our kids learn that others are precious?  How can we help them see that jealousy, one-ups-man-ship, and name calling and other demeaning gestures have no place in our homes?

  1. Take inventory of how you and your husband speak to one another and to the kids.  Is it something that builds the other up or tears them down?  If you discover that your own lips utter put downs and disparaging remarks, take steps to change the habit.
  2. Rally the troops (hopefully both parents together on the issue) and have conversation about what the Bible says about these behaviors.  Take a stance on what the new behaviors will be in your home.  If everyone is speaking the same or similar language, i.e. disparaging remarks, come up with a system so that the “receiver” has an opportunity to say something that sparks an apology.  I know one family used “ouch” as a reminder when something said was hurtful.
  3. When you become aware of the behavior, call a halt.  Let’s face it, sometimes a cooling off period in their room is a good place to start.  After they’ve cooled down, have a one-on-one talk about appropriate behavior and how they have hurt the other sibling.  Encourage them to apologize for the offense.  (Be sure to teach them how to give a full, sincere apology.)
  4. And most importantly, be sure to console the underdog.  Help the child name his feelings.  Listen as he tells his story.  Show tenderness and assure the child that what was said over him is not true.  Let him know that you are on his side and no one should treat him that way.  Pray together asking God to let him forgive his brother for what he did.  Maybe even encourage him to go to the sibling (with a parent there to coach) and let him tell how he feels and how he hopes it won’t happen again.  Make sure this child feels heard and knows he didn’t deserve what he received from his brother.

I know that kids do dumb things at times and our kids need to be able to deal with a little lighthearted teasing so they can deal with the real world; however, don’t we want our home to be a safe haven for our kids?  What if our homes were known for the peace within them?  After all, don’t we want those hurt feelings to not sting quite as much during the holidays when our kids all get together as adults?

2 Corinthians 13:11

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Praying your new year is full of peace, love, and laughter.

“Let go…and Let God”,


Why not start off the year assessing changes that could make a difference in your parenting?  With All Due Respect isn’t just a book to read, it’s a place to start conversation with other moms, your spouse, or even just a place to ponder the decisions you make as a parent.  It’s guaranteed to help you look at parenting differently as you work through the exercises.