Monday, November 22, 2004

Teeners also need to be told they’re loved

Teeners also need to be told they’re loved

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Monday, November 22, 2004 12:06 AM

Have you noticed how, when we have little children in our midst, we give them lots of affirmations. We cheer them on and encourage them in many ways. We hug them and tell them how much we love them. We congratulate them for this and for that.

Now, fast forward. The little one is a teenager. Are we still quick to affirm? Do we look for ways to encourage and to motivate? Most importantly, do we still say those three little but all powerful words, “I love you?”

Chances are things have changed dramatically. The affirmations are a lot less. The time spent motivating isn’t nearly as much as it used to be. And the I love yous are fewer and far between.

Countless times have I asked the question to teeners: “Do your parents say to you, I love you?” You would be amazed at how many youngsters admit that rarely are they told that they are loved.

Are they truly loved? No doubt, they are. It’s just that as they grow older, they are told less frequently.

That’s sad. Sad because it is during times such as these that our children need to be told again and again that they are loved. Adolescence and the teen years are a time of great inner turmoil and self-doubt for them. As they grow more independent and begin to move away from the childish ways of yesterday, they need to be reassured that our love for them is intensifying, not cooling off. They need affirmations and encouragement of every kind as they try their wings and start to fly.

As they assert themselves more and more, many young people feel they are loved less and less. As they become more and more their own person, they tend to follow less blindly than before.

This inevitably results in clashes and misunderstandings with parents. Anger and hard feelings on both sides are often the consequences.

The bumpy ride through those turbulent years can cause irreparable damage to our relationship with our children. So many parents feel bitter disappointment when, after staying close to their children during the early years, they sense that they are drifting from them.

Actually, the teen years are supposed to be a time when the youngsters assert themselves and start moving toward an even increasing measure of independence. It is a time of transition when the very nature of the parent-child relationship evolves into a more adult-like bonding. It is a time of great uneasiness for teenagers as they leave their childhood behind and walk into the adult world.

It often happens that we parents think that they no longer need to be affirmed and told that they are loved the way we used to do so. This is a mistake, and a big one.

In fact, the affirmations and the I love yous need to increase both in number and intensity. The young ones need to be reassured again and again that the good old days when they were showered with love and affection are still here. They need to know that even if they are changing, the love and affection their parents have for them remains steady and, in effect, continues to intensify.


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