A great fear that many parents have as their children get older is them gradually drifting away and losing interest in their relationship with mom and dad.
And granted, part of that’s natural as kids grow up, especially as they enter the preteen and teenage years. They are becoming more independent as they transition from childhood to adulthood.
But does the fear of losing a good relationship with your child have to be a reality that every parent must face? I don’t think so, and here’s the reason why.
“Kids most often drift away from their parents not because they’ve chosen to, but because their parents have inadvertently allowed them to.”
There’s this mindset that once a child becomes a teenager, we just have to start giving them their space and allow them to become their own person. But the great danger in that thinking is that parents begin to withdraw from their children at a time when their engagement in their life is needed possibly more than ever before.
Our kids begin wanting to spend lots of time behind closed doors in their room, and parents allow them to do so, usually to the demise of both parties. It’s not healthy for kids to be allowed to disengage from family life, nor is it healthy for parents to lessen their influence in their child’s life at this stage.
No parent desires for their child’s heart to drift away from them, the family, or God, but the key to keeping that from happening is so much more simple than what most parents realize. I believe that it boils down to two main things. It is vitally important that you maintain:
1. REGULAR COMMUNICATION
As your kids get older, talk more, when the tendency is to talk less.
- Schedule times to take your child out and spend time in conversation about life one on one.
- Engage in regular and intentional conversation around the dinner table and other times throughout the day.
- Go out of your way to communicate that you care about them, their life, and issues that they are currently going through.
They desire someone to talk to about their life, and mark it down, they will talk to someone. It can either be you… or whoever else will listen.
Don’t believe the world’s “family sitcom” mindset that the older your kids get, the less they want and need to talk to you.
Regular communication is a preventative medicine for a drifting heart.
Secondly, it is also vitally important that you maintain:
2. REGULAR INTERACTION
Yes, they are going to want to spend more time with friends and develop their independence, but it’s still of great importance that they keep spending quality time at home and with the family.
Make your home an inviting place for them to invite their friends. At our house, we have video games, movies, a pool, a pool table, a foosball table, and many other fun options for our kids and their friends. We want our house to be the place to be – a fun place for them and their friends to hang out.
“No matter their age, never cease having fun with your kids. It’s part of the life-blood of your relationship.”
If we fail to maintain quality interaction with our kids at this crucial age, it’s no wonder that their friends’ influence within those few years seems to override all of our influence for the past 13+ years of their life.
Simply put, drifting happens when we fail to keep our kid’s heart within reach. When that happens, we open the door for other loyalties to form and other dangerous distractions to pull their hearts in a different direction.
They are craving for your attention and love. The key is never to let the drifting begin to take place. As soon as it rears up it’s ugly head, quench it’s power with some good old fashioned communication and interaction.
It’s possible to allow them to develop their independence while at the same time not allowing their heart to drift, but you must be intentional!
“It’s very hard for a child’s heart to drift from the heart of an engaged parent.”
My soon to be 13 year old still voluntarily gives his mom and I a hug and kiss every night and says “I love you.” Nothing means more to me as a dad than that. And with God’s help, I plan to stay engaged and keep it that way.
In addition to a lot of prayer and training in our children’s lives, this is our plan as parents for preventing our kids’ hearts from drifting from ours.
I’d welcome feedback from parents on the other side of the teenage years who could add some additional wisdom and insight for us younger parents. Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment!