Tweens and teens often struggle with receiving affection. They embarrass easily and some would rather die than be seen kissing their mothers in public. At a time when they lack self-confidence in many situations and friends ridicule them for the slightest thing, teens need the affirmation that a parent’s love gives. Here are 21 ways to show your tween or teen that you love him (or her).
1. Take a walk together. Ask about your teen’s day. Don’t bring up grades, undone homework or chores. Don’t bring up any negative topic. Just listen.
2. Invite your daughter to join you in a re-decorating project. You could re-do her room, the bathroom, or some other space that is special to her. Browse Pinterest together for ideas. Go shopping for supplies and commit a weekend to work together.
3. Establish a monthly date night with your tween/teen. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. Take a drive, walk the mall, or go out for an ice cream. Just hang out together.
4. Send him loving text messages throughout the day. Something to encourage him, a quote, or just an “I Love You” will make his day.
5. Offer encouragement. When your daughter complains about her day, about how the girls talked behind her back, that she wasn’t invited to the party of the century, or she flunked her math test, do not offer solutions; simply encourage her. Find something to say to build her up without trying to solve her problems.
6. Pray daily. If you are a person of faith, pray for your teen daily—and tell him that you are. In fact, ask what his prayer needs are so that you have something more than “God, please bless my son today.”
7. Bake cookies for after school. Make a big batch of dough, shape into rolls and freeze. Every day before your kids come home from school, slice and bake a tray full. Nothing speaks love like cookies warm from the oven.
8. Send a card. Go to the store and pick out an appropriate card to let your teen know you were thinking of her. Mail it the old-fashioned way.
9. Give your daughter a piece of heirloom jewelry. Don’t wait until she is 30 years old; give it to her now. Write a note that tells the history behind it.
10. Clean your kids’ bathroom. Throw in his dirty laundry. Iron his shirt. Perform random acts of kindness throughout the month.
11. Go to the game, recital or play. Show up for your teen’s performances. If your work schedule interferes with his activities, take time off occasionally to let him know that what interests him, interests you.
12. Eat where they work. My son works at a local ice cream shop. When out shopping, my husband and I often stop and get a treat just to say hello.
13. Share embarrassing moments about your teen years. Talking to the kids about your growing-up years shows them that you endured the same angst-giving trials.
14. Show affection. If your kids are at the stage where hugging and kissing embarrasses them, come up with some other form of physical contact that they feel comfortable with. Then do that when you say good-bye in the morning, say hello in the afternoon, and when you say goodnight—every night.
15. Give undivided attention. Turn away from the computer, put down your phone or book, establish eye contact and listen when your teen is talking. Let your teen know that you want to hear what she has to say.
16. Don’t say it. If you are about to say something that you wouldn’t want someone to say to you, don’t say it to your kid. Not even in a teasing way.
17. Delegate. Have an important job that needs done, but you just don’t have time? Assign the job to your teen. Then walk away and trust he will do his best. He just might surprise you.
18. Talk to your teen’s friends. Ask them questions. Show interest in their lives. Loving your daughter means loving—or at least trying to accept—her friends. When she sees you making an effort, she’ll understand that you care about what’s important to her.
19. Drive the carpool. What better way to get to know your teen’s friends than driving a van load of kids to a swim meet or band competition?
20. Answer hard questions. If your teen musters up the courage to ask you about sex, drugs, or health-related issues, the least you can do is muster up the courage to provide an honest answer. If he knows that you will discuss hard topics with him, he won’t be as likely to rely on his peers for answers.
21. Protect privacy. One sure-fire way to discourage your kids is to talk about them to your friends. While that might be OK when they are toddlers, older children value their privacy just as much as adults do.
Freelance writer and mother of six, Carol J. Alexander enjoys writing about parenting and homeschooling topics.