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Parenting Teens - Christian Family Resources

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Build - And Repair - Bridges to Your Teens

  • Claudia and David Arp
  • 2003 27 Jun
Build - And Repair - Bridges to Your Teens
Do you ever feel that the bridge of communication and relationship between you and your teen has been broken? You can begin today on a reconstruction project through common communication activities, by writing a note, or by giving space.

When parents burn the bridge:

  • Apologize. Take the first step to rebuilding. Resist the natural tendency to point the finger and make excuses. Ask for forgiveness. As you show your willingness to apologize your adolescents eventually will learn to do the same.

When teens burn the bridge:

  • Be a forgiver. Parents need to be willing to forgive their adolescents even when not asked to. No relationship can continue without forgiveness, and parents are more equipped to begin the bridge-building process in this relationship.

  • Start each day with a fresh slate. Decide to forget the hurts and verbal attacks from the previous day.

  • Write a note of encouragement. Example: Dear Maggie, you really looked nice this morning. You have a real knack for putting clothes together. I know it
    And Suddenly They're Thirteen
    Taken from Suddenly They're 13 by David and Claudia Arp. Copyright (c) 1999 by Dave and Claudia Arp. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 49530, 1-800-727-3480. Published in association with Alive Communications, Inc., Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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    hurts to have someone disappoint you. I have been praying about the situation with Dad and know you'll use wisdom in handling it. I'm so thankful you are my daughter. I love you, Mom

  • Give breathing room. There are times when adolescents simply need some space to figure out things. Let them know you are available to talk, but don't press every issue.

When saying NO burns the bridge:

  • Listen. Be willing to identify with your adolescent's feelings. Let him/her say how he/she feels as long as it is done in the appropriate way.

  • Be patient. How much easier it would be to say, No, and that's final. This approach may be easy, but could result in loss of communication and secrets behind parents' backs.

  • Keep things light. Let humor be a guest in every discussion.

  • Concentrate on the relationship. Don't allow the issue to become a "gloom cloud" that threatens to destroy your friendship with your teens.

  • Proclaim a cooling-down period. If you become angry when an issue comes up, wait 24 hours before dealing with it if it's not urgent.

  • Observe good timing. Don't allow yourself to get pulled into an issue right before a meal when your blood sugar and patience are both low. Offer an alternative time to discuss the issue.

  • Avoid you statements. These kinds of statements attack. I statements reflect. [You make me so angry vs. I am so angry. You don't love me. vs. I really feel unloved.]

  • Avoid why questions. [Why can't you be more considerate of me and pick up your mess in the family room? vs. The family room is something else. Do you think you could get it back in order?] Attack the problem, not the personality.

  • Express feelings. Simply state how you feel about the given situation. Then ask for their response. [I feel frustrated when food and dirty dishes are left in the TV room. How do you feel about this?]

Originally appeared in Live It on

Claudia and David Arp, MSW, founders of Marriage Alive International and PEP Groups for Parents of Teens, are conference speakers, columnists, and authors of numerous books, including The Second Half of Marriage and 10 Great Dates. Their radio program, The Family Workshop, is heard daily on more than 200 stations. The Arps have three adult sons, five grandchildren, and live in Knoxville, Tenn.

Marriage Alive, a church and community-focused ministry, provides easy-to-use, practical marriage and parenting educational resources, including video packages, books, and Bible studies. Seminars, consulting, and training are also available. For more information about Marriage Alive resources contact: Marriage Alive International, Inc., P.O. Box 31408, Knoxville, TN 37930. Phone: 888-690-6667, Fax: 423-691-1575, Email: