Wendy Warner is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in private practice at Trinity Family Counseling Center. In addition to working with couples, children, and individuals, Wendy also enjoys teaching the premarital classes for all couples planning to marry at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Macomb.
Are you struggling to connect with your teen? That might be like asking, “Is the sky blue?!” Parenting a teen is different than in their younger years. However, they are craving to feel love and acceptance from their parents now more than ever. As parents, we sometimes focus on their mistakes and think our corrections will help them mature. However, the foundation of our relationship with them still needs to be one of love. Teens will be more responsive to your attempts to connect with them if you are speaking in the love language that means the most to them. Each of us responds more to one than the others. It is important to know how your teen feels most loved by you.
Here are the five love languages of teens as identified by Gary Chapman, PhD:
Words of Affirmation Teens are searching for their identity and comparing themselves to their peers every day. As parents, we have the opportunity to pour sincere affirmation into them. It can be about their accomplishments, but also let it be about appreciation for their efforts. Let them know you are proud of them for who they are, not just for what they did. Speak words of affection to them. Regular criticism is devastating for a teen with this love language.
Quality Time Teens actually do desire to spend time with their family. If this is their love language, they want your undistracted attention. A common complaint from teens about their parents is that they are not listened to. Their parents are too busy to spend time with them. Put down the phones, share mealtimes, attend their activities and let them know you value their company. Broken promises on time together signal they are not a priority.
Touch If they were the kid who always wanted a hug or a snuggle, they probably still do—but the rules have changed a bit. Continue to hug or pat on the back but NOT in front of their peers. Dads need to still hug their daughters. If this is their love language and they are not receiving it at home, they will look elsewhere for touch.
Acts of Service Some teens feel loved when their parents are willing to help them out. This could mean teaching them a skill like working on a car, taking them to practice or cheerfully assisting with homework. If a teen is helped out begrudgingly, it will not fill their love tank. Some teens take all the support from their parents for granted. However, if it is their love language, they really see it as an expression of love and feel valued by it.
Gifts The key to loving your teen through gifts is to show that you know them well and you were thinking about them. It is not about giving them expensive items to buy their love. If your teen is a budding artist and you bring home a set of paints and brushes from the garage sale, it says you know her and care about her interests. If your son is trying to learn golf, a new glove and golf balls says you’re tuned into his world. Additionally, forgotten birthdays or celebrations will hurt more deeply for this teen.
If we love our teens in their love language during middle school and early high school, they will still be in relationship with us by the time they learn to drive. If they have not felt their parents invested time or positive interactions with them by then, they will choose every opportunity to be with their friends when they do begin driving. All teens want a lot of time with their friends. But we have the opportunity as parents to love them, show them we value them, so they will desire a respectful and positive relationship with us throughout their teen years.
For more information on this subject, I recommend Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages of Teenagers.