Never before has there been a more important time to fill your teen/tween’s “emotional love tank.”
In the world today, there is:
- So much brokenness. So little connectedness.
- So much rejection. So little acceptance.
- So much humiliation. So little encouragement.
- So much performance. So little authenticity.
- So much hate. So little love.
Parents, we most likely see these problems every single day. This is so opposite of the command to “love one another.” But what can we do about it?
The greatest gift we can give our teens and tweens is love. Affectionate love. Nurturing love. Tough love. Empathetic love.
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If we are going to make a difference, we must start with the emotional climate in our own homes.
Dr. Gary Chapman, author of *The 5 Love Languages for Teenagers, might recommend that we learn to communicate with and express love for our teens/tweens in a way that they feel understood. He writes from a Christian perspective.
Dr. Chapman believes, “When teens are secure in the love of their parents, they will have the confidence to face the negative influences in our culture that would keep them from becoming mature, productive adults.”
What is “emotional love?” It is when your adolescent feels loved because he feels accepted, connected, and nurtured, especially in his own home.
What are the 5 Love Languages?
Parents, we cannot parent our adolescents the same ways as we did when they were in preschool and elementary school! They experience so many physical and mental changes as they enter the age of reason and evaluation.
Consider, too, that your adolescent may feel loved in different ways now. Dr. Chapman identifies 5 love languages:
- Words of Affirmation
- Physical Touch
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service
All teens/tweens should be cared for in these 5 ways. However, consider which of these languages is dominant for your child. And, make sure to fill up his or her emotional tank in this particular method:
Words of Affirmation
According to Dr. Chapman, teens can feel rejected by negative words. “Affirming words speak most deeply to the teen’s emotional need for love.”
Use Words of Praise.
Be specific and sincere when you praise your adolescent! And, affirm your child in front of others for greater effect.
Use Words of Affection.
Obviously, this means saying, “I love you.” But, also consider how your words show that you value and enjoy your teen!
In our family, we almost always end our calls and texts with “I love you.” Even when it is awkward. Even when it is in front of others. Plus, it is just plain fun to invent different ways to say “I love you” using emojis and other languages when texting!
As infants, our children bonded through physical, skin-to-skin contact. As teens and tweens, sometimes physical touch draws them closer, and sometimes it causes them to pull away. Parents, we must read their cues (moods, nonverbal cues, etc.) and the situation (Does it seem childish or celebrate an accomplishment?)!
In our home, holding hands might be a source of connection. Another moment, it might seem like a controlling behavior. We have learned that playful physical touch is acceptable most times!
Quality time is less about a checklist of things you should do with your adolescent and more about the relationship.
One-on-one time is great for giving your teen/tween your undivided attention. The keys are: 1. Your child should be the focus rather than the activity. 2. Quality conversations occur when you talk with each other rather than have a monologue.
Our oldest daughter likes to go to the gym with The Man a couple times a week. Although, it is dangerous when he makes her laugh while she holds iron weight above her head! They have multiple inside jokes from their gym time. Plus, they have great conversations about what is happening in her life, or about the human behavior they observe there.
Our youngest daughter still likes reading with me, even though she is in middle school. Books make helpful conversation starters when she finds a connection to her life. We recently finished reading *The Help and then watched *the movie!
Acts of Service
“Parenting is a service-oriented vocation,” shares Dr. Chapman. On the one hand, we give and do so much for our children. On the other hand, we want them to learn important life skills in order to function independently.
Our daughters are expected to contribute to the household and have responsibility for their breakfasts and lunches. When one is sick, I will unload the dishwasher and make breakfast/lunch for her. She knows it is her responsibility usually, but she feels loved when I show her empathy through this act of service. In return, when I am sick, our girls step up to help out more.
I must admit that I struggle with the concept of gifts as a love language. Materialism and comparison are just two of my concerns!
But, Dr. Chapman points out: “Gifts are visible, tangible evidence of emotional love.” Even a little thing, such as new socks, can be a “gift” if presented as one! And, gifts should not take the place of the other love languages.
We find that gifts are more powerful when our girls’ interests are taken into account. And, it helps when the gift is something they can use long term.
Does this section seem familiar? It first appeared in the “Affection” section of How to Connect with Your Teen or Tween Effectively.
Love and Anger
Dr. Chapman explores anger in both the parent and adolescent. He offers tips for parents to manage their anger.
And, he suggests ways to process your teen’s anger so that his or her message is heard. Keep in mind: teens may either turn their anger inward (implosive) or outward (explosive).
Love, Independence, and Responsibility
Parents, imagine your teen or tween developing a healthy amount of independence in a climate of love and respect! How powerful would this be?
Dr. Chapman shares how to guide your adolescent into social and intellectual independence while maintaining healthy boundaries. As our children grow, we move from monologues to dialogues with them. And, much of the success of these dialogues requires the willingness to listen to their point of view.As our children grow, we move from monologues to dialogues with them. Click To Tweet
With independence comes responsibility. Love allows independence AND insists on responsibility.
Love allows independence AND insists on responsibility. Click To TweetDr. Chapman finishes this section with a discussion on responsibilities, boundaries, and consequences in these areas:
- Household “opportunities”
- Use of Automobiles
- Money Management
- Alcohol and Drugs (It is from this book that I learned to discuss the meaning of this statement, “Nothing destroys independence faster than alcohol and drug addiction.”)
Love When Your Teen (or Tween) Fails
Dr. Chapman examines:
- Failure to Meet our Expectations, and
- Moral Failure
He devotes the most space to moral failure as it is such a complex, emotional subject.
Ultimately, Dr. Chapman shows how our ability to love the adolescent, without taking the blame for the behavior, can lead to redemption. Parents, this chapter will give you HOPE!
Love in the Single Parent and Blended Households
*The 5 Love Languages for Teenagers contains one of the best chapters I’ve read on single parenting! (Granted, I’ve not read an entire book devoted to the subject!)
Dr. Chapman presents common challenges and suggested responses. He even includes information for both the custodial and noncustodial parents. My only complaint is that this section is too short! Yet, Dr. Chapman includes a resource section for further reading and education.
Finally, The 5 Love Languages for Teenagers ends with a brief chapter on blended families and their challenges.
Parents, our adolescents must feel valued and loved for WHO THEY ARE, not what they do, in order to be resilient in this rapid paced, anything-can-be-recorded-and-shared environment. The 5 Love Languages for Teenagers will help us love our teens and tweens well.
Parents, what is your teen/tween’s dominant love language? Have you read The 5 Love Languages for Teenagers? If so, what did you learn?
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