Sherry Antonetti outlines 7 ways to help your teenagers know that you love them -- and so does God.
You've got teens. They're all over the place. They're struggling with lots of things you never even considered, and drifting into the stream of the world via the internet, popular culture and as a consequence of the strangeness of quarantine.
How do you help them wrestle with God?
You love them. You love them, you love them, you love them, and you create opportunities for them to know it.
Wrestling with God is not safe. It will always involve the risk of the teen walking away, not wanting to finish the battle. However, if they know that you love them, then they know God's love even if they struggle with what it means and what it requires.
So, how to show your teens you love them and not have them always bug out of the room?
1) Schedule a date night with your teen. Mom and Dad or Mom and Dad, however it works. Take them out for a shake and a just general visit, to hear where they are, what they hope, and why they think what they think. (This is not a time for a protracted theological debate; this is a time for just enjoying the presence of your teen and to ask how they are.) Listen. Listen. Listen. Don't make it so long that it feels like a chore, keep it light, but it lets them know you actually want their company and to know their thoughts.
2) Text your child "I love you" every day, either in the morning or night. It can be emojis. You might even get a "love you" back. Trust me when I say, any affectionate response puts me over the moon every time.
3) Pick a devotion and make it for that child in particular. Maybe do it with your spouse but make it part of your daily prayer routine, to spend some time with God, talking about this teen you love.
4) Enlist the help of extended family. If there are godparents or aunts, uncles, cousins and family that the teens trust and love in addition to you, ask them to pray for the teen, and ask them over for dinner or to Sunday Mass, to give teens yet another Catholic witness in real time, about real life.
5) Enlist the help of your Holy Family. The community of saints exists for a reason. No matter what you face, there's a saint God let the world know, who can walk with you. Ask their Confirmation saint. Ask their baptismal saint. Ask their deceased family members, ask saints you love. Ask saints that speak to their condition. Ask their guardian angels. Surround them with the support that only comes prayer.
6) Fast in some fashion. Love means sacrifice, and we are called to give alms, to fast, to pray as a form of reparation for the sins of the world, and that includes in our own homes. So offer some daily thing, some tiny gift of self that would otherwise go indulged, for your teen as they navigate this complex, distracting, increasingly oppressively secular world.
7) Offer opportunities for family time/fun time that provides a glimpse of something other than what the internet and the world provides: hikes, beauty, good movies, good books, board games, 5Ks, baseball, whatever you can find that matches something of their interests.
Propose, rather than impose, but most people, even teens, long to be invited to do something. They like the invitation even if they say "no," and sometimes come after they've said "no," because what you've done appeals.
The world does not love our teens. The world does not love God. We know that God loves our children even more than we do, and God's willing to come through both the distressing disguise of the poor, and in the simple form of presence in ordinary time. Let's make sure we're doing what we can to reveal God's love by our ordinary acts every day.
Copyright 2021 Sherry Antonetti
Images: Canva Pro
About the Author
Sherry Antonetti is a Catholic published author, freelance writer and part-time teacher. She lives with her husband and 10 children just outside of Washington, DC, where she's busy editing her upcoming book, A Doctor a Day, to be published by Sophia Institute Press. You can find her other writings linked up at her blog, Chocolate For Your Brain! or on Amazon.