Please Note all references to ‘we’ or ‘our’ includes the contributions of my husband who was and is present in the life of our children.
Be Available! I hear a big sigh from some of you parents and carers, but do not fear you can do it. Amidst the busyness of our daily lives, we must find ways to be available for our teenagers. When my teenagers were in the thick of their formative years, the daily challenges of living, working, doing housework, cooking, and raising them seemed to have no end. Teenagers can be fun, as well as being hard work; if you currently have teenagers at home you may agree with me. In this piece, I will be sharing some memories of me and my children and look at what I did in order to be able to raise successful teenagers.
‘Being Available’ does not seem much different from ‘Being Present’ in their lives. What I mean by being present in your teenagers’ life is visibly and physically being present so your child can feel the warmness of just having a mum, dad or carer present. When they call, you are there and they hear your voice, when they want a hug you are there, they get a smile from you or a wink just at the right time.
When I say, ‘Be Available’, I am talking about your teenagers’ having access to the real you. They need to know they have your ear, listening to them. Your children need to know you are contactable at any time. They need to know, no matter the issue, no matter the time, no matter what it is, you are available for them. This is something that needs to be communicated and understood by them implicitly.
The decisions we made helped us be available for our children and had a direct impact on our lifestyle. My husband and I made the decision that one of us should always be at home with our children after school and during the holidays; we felt it was important that they had one of us to watch over them. With our two eldest teenagers I worked part-time and was home in the evenings, this system was convenient and suitable for my husband and I. With my daughter it was different because I worked in the same area and the same school as her, this meant I was always available for her, (mummy was there for her). I completely understand that this scenario might not be accessible for some parents and carers. Alternatively, where possible you can get trusted family, friends, neighbours or church family involved to help out.
During those years as a family we spent lots of time playing board and computer games, and physical games in the park. At the weekends we would all go to the park to play frisbee, football and rode bikes. This I believe helped to bring a freeness and relaxation which then helped to bring about a closeness between us. I also remember we made time to eat out together and to go to the cinema. We had a Chinese restaurant we often went to which my children liked to go to. Many times, when we were driving there, they would not say very much in the car, but after the meal the journeys back home were rich with conversations. Food played a big part in letting my teenagers know we were available for them. As we know teenagers can become choosy with food, what I did was to accommodate for their choosiness; supporting their choice of foods let them know they were listened to and were being heard.
Often times in my children’s teenage years I felt like their personal chauffer, I drove them were ever they wanted to go to. If they had a friend’s party to attend my husband and I would drop them and pick them up – no matter the time. What I remember is they did not hesitate to ask for the lifts, they could even go as far as to ask for lifts on behalf of their friends. Now, this was something I liked doing because listening to their conversations was a ball. Some conversations were revealing, some funny, some were scary and unbelievable; (a little digression here), what I leant was never to use these (what I call) conversational reveals as weapons in any discussions we may have, as that would lead to total distrust on the part of your teenager towards you. But because I made myself available conversations flowed with natural ease.
Lastly, I believe praying together helped to convey to our children that been available was a top priority for us. Through prayer we showed them that they were always been listened to even if we did not have the solution to present challenges faced. Praying together shows them that you have them on your mind and in your heart.
I end with a prayer:
Dear LORD, give us the strength to always be available for our children when they need us, Amen