By Ginger Ciminello

You look down at your toddler as she happily snacks on the food you just placed on your tray. She is dependent upon you for everything. She needs you. She may cry out, “NO! I do it!” more often than you’d like, but in the end you will be the one to make sure her shoes are on the right feet.

In a flash she will become a young woman. A TEENAGER. (Shudder?) And although she will be able to place her shoes on her feet and brush her own teeth, she will still need your tender care. While teens outwardly lament the need for space and freedom, inwardly they still desire…

Touch.

It’s imperative that as your child grows you continue to affirm and care for your kids with physical touch. They need a shoulder squeeze, hug, and pat on the back just as much as any of us. Be respectful of their personal space, but keep up the affection. I still kissed my parents goodnight every night when I lived at home. I treasure those moments.

“Perhaps one of the greatest needs of teenagers is a daily, loving touch, from their parents or significant others.” -Barrington H. Brennen

Words of Affirmation.

So often we think good things about our spouses and kids, but how often do we let those thoughts become words? If the majority of the words coming out of our mouths involve telling our kids what they are doing wrong, perhaps we need to hit the reset button. My mom used to put notes on the inside of my lunchbox saying that she loved me. It meant the world to me. Not to be outdone, my dad would put notes IN MY SANDWICH. It’s a special memory that my dad and I now share as adults. I’m probably going to sneak a note into his Thanksgiving plate somehow.

“A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.” Proverbs 18:4, NLT

Boundaries.

Boundaries bring freedom! Say that one over and over to yourself. Even as teens gain maturity and independence it’s still very important to give them specific boundaries. Your child needs you to be their parent more than they need you to be their friend.

When a teenager doesn’t know what is expected in your home, he does what seems right in his own eyes – and that’s a formula for family chaos.” –Mark Gregston

Rest.

When I start crying, nine times out of ten it’s because I’m tired. We recognize this easily in toddlers. “Does someone need a nap?” Sometimes setting boundaries looks like creating rest for your whole family. Is there an evening or even a whole day when you can turn technology off and just enjoy being together rather than doing together? Rest oftentimes does involve sleep, but other times we simply need to stop the tyranny of the urgent.

“God knows we are weak.  He knows we are needy.  He knows we can’t maintain a full throttle pace in life.  He knows we need rest.  Most of all, He knows we are quick to forget.” – Kevin T. East

Freedom to try… and fail.

Part of growing up includes new experiences of every kind. Knees will get skinned, bones will be broken, feelings will get hurt, and tests will be failed. Your child desperately wants and needs to know that you will love them even if they make a mistake.

Look for this one now, while they are young. We all try and hide our sin, but are your kids willing to tell you when they’ve messed up? If your kids are terrified to tell you now, chances are they will continue to hide their failures as they grow. Consistently remind your kids in your words and actions that you will love them no matter what.

“Eventually they’ve got to stand on their own two feet. God gives us their childhood (especially their teenage years) to let them practice making decisions under our roofs.  Simple logic would say that if children are going to struggle and make bad choices, it’s better that they do so while they remain involved with loving parents to help them through it.” –Dr. Tim Kimmel

Don’t fear the teen years that are coming. These years are the foundations that build into the man or woman your child will become. What an opportunity you have to face each day with the grace you’ve been given.

May you have strength for the road ahead!

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9, NLT

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