It’s the end cap to my hallway and a doorway to my heart. My grandfather was a pioneer in radio. He owned a radio repair shop in Wichita back in the 1920s. His radio stands in my home, a testament to his work and a by-gone era.
Too heavy for my hands to lift, I open the cabinet and imagine his hands connecting tubes and adjusting wires. I see his weathered hands moving parts around for maximum signal strength. I envision him lying on his double chaise at night hand-in-hand with my grandmother listening to a baseball game, the President’s speech, or the Gershwin tunes he loved. With each move of the dial his heart can only guess whether his favorite will play.
Today I hold in my palm a device that stores thousands of songs. My preference is a click away. Because of this, most people would find no use for Grandpa’s antiquated radio. The work of his hands is outdated and irrelevant.
Parenting a teen can feel like that. As your child moves toward independence and maturity, mom and dad’s advice can seem outdated and irrelevant. I don’t want to go wireless with my kids for the teen years. Is it possible to maintain close connection through adolescence?
Here are some tips for staying connected with your teens:
Connect the Tubes
The tubes within carried the charge from outlet to receiver. The best early 20th century equipment was useless without an energy source. We too must connect the tubes to our teens. We sometimes expect them to infiltrate our world. In reality we need to enter theirs.
Get to know actors and musicians who influence your child. Stay current with thought and fashion trends. You don’t have to condone or even tolerate behavior to digest and understand it.
I grew up in the 70s, parents-smashing-records era. The sad thing is many parents never heard a single song. They assumed the content was unacceptable and took drastic measures to “protect” their teens from the influence. In truth many songs were uplifting and encouraging, not the pot-smoking, devil-worshipping lyrics they feared.
Make an effort to connect your heart to his. You might be surprised how wholesome his world really is.
Adjust the Wires
Unlike bulbous tubes, wires are those easily overlooked fine connections. I adjust the wires through careful monitoring of my heart and tongue. No teen wants to hear how much you disapprove of their friends or how rotten their generation.
Let every word wire your heart to hers. Be willing to hold your tongue and trust the Holy Spirit to lead. Adjust the wires regularly with laughter and quiet moments of presence. Your presence is often so much more important than your platitudes.
Maximize Your Signal Strength
My daughters’ eyes glaze over the moment I enter lecture mode. They may be listening on the outside but on the inside their hearts are miles away. I maximize my signal strength when I lead instead of lecture.
Ask their opinion. Get them to think through their options. In most circumstances you can trust them to be guided to the right conclusion.
What about when misguided thinking leads them? If I have connected the tubes and adjusted the wires, I’ve earned the right to be heard. My actions of love and understanding carve a canyon to open communication.
To my teens, my heart is like an old radio. Their youth leaders, friends and even teachers are more likely to hold today’s technology. I don’t have to go wireless to navigate these years. Join me as we connect the tubes, adjust the wires, and maximize our signal strength and keep adolescence wired.
What other tips can you offer for connecting to your teens? Leave a comment with a click here to share the growth.
She is the voice of Jesus & My Orange Juice, a fresh-squeezed oasis for ordinary living. Shannon finds joy among piles of laundry and miles of carpools and delights in leading others to this place of contentment in life, through the written and spoken word.