Three Keys to a Healthy Relationship with Your Teen/Young Adult Child

Later this week I will travel to spend time with Katie and her husband. We are all very excited. There was a time many years ago when I could not have imagined a fun visit like this. Most of you have read either here or in my book, Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With, about a difficult season in our family’s life. Katie was on her own journey and we were at odds most of the time. Katie and I both had a part to play. One day God got my attention and let me know that if I did not change the way I related to Katie I was going to do serious damage to our relationship.

Yes, I had a part to play—a big part—in the health of our relationship. I was not and could not be responsible for how Katie responded, only for my part of the relationship.

I talk at length in Love No Matter What about the changes that God worked in me. Today I want discuss two things that I see many parents stumble over.

  • The Power of the Apology—Believe it or not, you are not always right and your child is not always wrong. Do you have the attitude that says you are always right and if there is a problem it lies with your child? If you have conveyed this message to your child, it is time for an apology.

Do you understand your child’s world? I think it is almost impossible to understand a preteen,             teen, or college student’s world today. Technology has created many subcultures that we cannot           enter or understand. Ask God to help you see life from your child’s perspective. As you do, you               let God show you where you might be adding to her stress or problems. Go to her and offer a                 heartfelt apology. Let her know you don’t fully understand her life, but want to be there for her.

Maybe it is hard for you to apologize because you have not forgiven your child. You are hanging            on to his offenses and will not let them go. If you do not forgive your child, you cannot ask your            child for forgiveness. The relationship stays stuck.

  • Let God Change You—Yep, the stress in your relationship with your child is not just about her. It’s about how God wants to change you as well. I thought I was doing everything I could do for my daughter. But God made it clear to me that my parenting needed an overhaul. My first priority needed to change from rules to relationship. As I said previously, Katie and I both had a part to play in the stress of our relationship. If I wanted a better relationship with Katie, I needed to change.

I often hear from parents who tell me about the tragic state of their relationship with their child. Without hesitation they tell me how their child has messed up. Rarely do they tell me how they have messed up. When I offer advice similar to the above, they are resistant.

In Romans 12:18, Paul tells us to live at peace with each other—as far as it depends on us. Forgiveness, apologizing, letting God change you are ways we can live at peace with our kids.

The takeaway today is pretty simple.

  • Forgive your child. We all need forgiveness. That’s why Jesus came. God forgives you. You can forgive your child.
  • Apologize. Apologize for what you know you have done and for any hurt you did not know you imposed. An apology may be exactly what your child needs in order to open his heart towards a healthy relationship with you.
  • Cooperate with God working in you. Ask God to make you the parent your child needs. God will make it clear to you the areas and ways He wants to see change in you. Follow His nudges. After an apology, your humility and genuine effort to pursue relationship will speak your sincerity to your child.

Katie has grown into a fabulous young woman. I cannot take the credit for her growth or accomplishments. My part was to become a positive voice and encouragement to her.

Of the above three takeaways, which one or ones is your next step in building a relationship with your child?


For more ideas on parenting preteen, teen, and adult kids, check out Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With.

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.

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