The Gift of Availability
A year and a half ago I returned to college. I thought I would be invisible to the other students and that would have been okay. But I was the popular kid! One girl in particular who sat next to me in class chattered through much of the class. I hated to not listen, but I had to listen to the teacher to keep up in class. I actively listened to her before class as she told me about her weekend of drinking and not doing her homework.
Later I asked Katie about my surprise popularity. She solved the mystery, “Mom, the kids like you because you listen to them. No one listens to them, but you do.” How sad. As parents have we believed the lie that our kids don’t need us or care if we’re involved in their lives any longer? Our teens not only need us more than ever, they want us in their lives. Our presence in their lives’ tells them they are a priority to us.
How can we be involved and relevant in our kids’ lives when they posted a Keep Out sign?
Being available for your kids is the most powerful thing you can do as a parent.
Being available puts you in the posture to be the parent your child so desperately needs. Our kids will fill the parent void with something or someone less if we aren’t there for them. Our kids’ lives, futures, and God’s plan for them is at stake.
You may be thinking “My life is already consumed with activities for my kids!” Let’s define what being available is not.
- Heading up anything kid-related.
- Chatting it up with their friends like you’re one of their friends.
- Being a helicopter parent.
- Doing for them what they can/should do for themselves.
- Intervening with the school when they have consequences they’ve earned.
- Dropping them at church or youth group and trusting that will cover your responsibility to train and teach them.
- Present but occupied on phone/computer.
What it is:
- Be home. When your kids are home, be there. The most promiscuous hours of the day for teens are between 3pm and 6pm—after school. Be the house where the kids gather.
- Know where your kids are. If no parent is home, they can’t go there. Follow up. One parent shared with me that his kids must take a picture of himself and the hosting parents on his cell phone when he gets to their house. Then the teen must text the picture to his parents so they can see the other parents are home.
- Put away your technology and turn off TV when they come in the room.
- Listen much.
- Talk little and when it counts.
- Use technology appropriately. Text them encouragement, love, and fun stuff. Don’t overdo it. No posting on their picture on your Facebook page without their permission and no posting on their Facebook page (checking it is allowed and advised).
- Talk to their friends. I know I said not to, but talk like a parent of a friend, not a peer.
- Be present when their friends are there—bringing food into the room is a good cover.
- Drive them anywhere.
- Be at their events. Sure, they might give you only a slight glance, but your presence means the world to them. Katie has told me more than once how much it meant to her for Gene and I to be at her events even though she ignored us most of the time.
- Speak their love language—small gifts, go to an event of their interest/choosing, listen, affirm, praise, etc.
- Put your social life on hold. Be home so your kids can have their friends there. Okay—have your friends there too. We’ve often had friends over when the kids have their friends over.
- Lots of grace, love, patience
If your child is struggling at any age or in any way—lean in. Clear your schedule. Be there. They need you. Often it’s their way of asking/demanding attention. See life from your child’s perspective.
Being there puts us in the posture to be the parent your child so desperately needs. Our kids will fill the parent void with something/someone less if we aren’t there for them. Our kids’ lives/futures/God’s plan for them is at stake.
Our kids’ growing up years are few in number compared to the rest of our lives. We cannot go back. We must make the most of today and the time we have with them. Time spent with your child will never be a regret.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.