Giving space to our teens


“WHEN MY TEENAGER IS ASLEEP, I check his mobile phone to see who and what he has been messaging.”

Sounds familiar? Or perhaps it’s trying to enter their Facebook or reading their diaries … maybe these thoughts have crossed your minds or you may even plead guilty.

I’m sure as parents of teens we have come to realise that the lines of communication have changed suddenly to grunts or hmms and we don’t know how to communicate with them.

My humble plea is this: Let them have some S-P-A-C-E as they journey towards young adulthood. Space to make decisions, express their opinions, discover their talents and passions for themselves.

How do we play this balancing act between being in control and giving our teens the need for space?

Dr. H. Cloud and Dr J. Townsend explain, “Teenagers will have to learn to depend and trust all over again in some major ways … adolescents look to you for understanding … adolescents feel connected when they feel understood, as opposed to feeling physically close.” 1

It means validating their experience, empathising rather than lecturing them. For example, when your teen has a disagreement with a friend, you may say, “I see that you’re really upset about the matter” rather than “why are you overreacting over this small incident?”

Another aspect of trust is this: “Can I lean on you without your robbing me of my independence?”2.

Teens want to turn to you for guidance, but not at the expense of being controlled. If that happens, they will trust someone else. For example, a teen may say “I just can’t share with my mother without her imposing her views on me, what I should say and think! All I want is for her to listen and understand me.”

Trust can also be built through integrity and consistency. Your life of integrity (your faith, values and principles) that you live before them will speak volumes to your teens, more than your words ever will. Watch your life at home because you are being watched. They will also be learning to trust other people besides you. Don’t be jealous but take it as a healthy sign that they are in the process of growing towards independence. ey may turn to a youth leader, a friend or even a friend’s parent, as their sphere of relationships widens in ever increasing circles.

Ask your teen what is her love language that will also open the lines of communication. Some time ago I asked a teen, from a good school, what his love language was. He said: “Encouragement. When I get good grades, my parents just say ‘well done’ but then spend the rest of the time telling me how I can improve my grades.” at has distanced their relationship indefinitely.

Let us try to understand their language of trust and love instead of resorting to invading their sense of privacy.

May you find that balance between respecting their need for space and walking alongside them, believing that “He who began a good work in them will carry on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1: 6).

Joyce Seet is a Youth Worker with the TRAC Youth Ministries.

1 Raising Great Kids, Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend, page 183.

2 ibid, page 184.