SYF: Let Your Teenagers Know You Care

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Teenagers need large doses of compassion and tender loving care. As a parent you give your teen so much materially and financially that it is easy to think this is enough. A simple act of kindness, especially from you, is more healing and nourishing for your teen’s soul than another pair of shoes. When was the last time you went for a walk with your teen? When did you give her a hug? Have you told your teen, “I’m glad you’re my daughter?”

Even though you can no longer rock your child to sleep, bounce her on your knee, or tuck her in at bedtime; your teen still looks for expressions of your love. Your son may be taller than you or stronger than you; but he still longs for your loving reassurance. Your son might not respond openly, and your daughter may seem apathetic; yet deep inside your teen wants to know, “Do my parents love me? Do they really care?” Your pats on the back, hugs and words provide the comfort when you can’t wipe away their tears and make everything better.

Sometimes parents of teens find it easy to forget just why they had children in the first place and why they still love their teen. Parents can get caught up in all the extremes and changes that come with the teen years. Teens need to hear that you love them. A seventeen-year-old boy said, “I’d like my Dad to say he loves me with words, and then I’d know for sure.” So give a hug, kiss, or pat on the back and shout as they’re running out the door, “I love you and take care!”

If this is new language at your home, don’t expect affectionate words in return. Exposing their sensitive feelings can embarrass some teenagers. They may choose to respond with a blank stare or a shrug; but inside they are smiling.

Your actions can also show your teen that you care. Be involved in your teen’s activities and interests. Open your home to your teen and her friends. Interact and talk, without interrogating, your teen and her friends. Pay attention and support your teen’s interests with printed articles you find and other items you think she may be interested in. Leave notes on a regular basis, and not just when there are chores to be done. Stay up and awake until your teen returns home for the evening. Send your teen e-mails or instant messages. You’ll really value this communication method when your teen goes off to school. Create as many ways as possible to keep in touch with your teen and what’s going on in her day to day life.

Don’t forget the importance of your words. Tell your teen what you see in her, what qualities you admire, what makes her unique. Tell her you’ll always be there for her; every teen needs to know this without a shadow of a doubt.

Additional information is available from Andrea Bressler at; or; and your local office of Penn State Cooperative Extension.  In Clearfield, the office is located in the Multi-Service Center, or by calling 765-7878.  In Brookville, the office is located at 180 Main Street, or by calling 849-7361.  And in Ridgway, the office is located in the Courthouse, or by calling 776-5331.  Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its workforce.

 Andrea Bressler, Penn State Cooperative Extension

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