Establishing Identity: Connecting Heart to Heart
By Michele Okimura
How do we help our teens to embrace their God-given identity and value?
Through Explicit Movement youth conferences and events, I have witnessed hundreds of youth hurting and so thirsty to be affirmed in their value and worth to the point of weeping.
As Christian parents and spiritual parents, we desire so much for our teens to know who they are in Christ. But HOW do we get them to receive what we tell them? How can we influence their hearts?
Your words and actions have great power to build up or tear down how a teen sees himself or herself. It is so difficult at times! Navigating their different perceptions, the myriad of emotions and dramas they go through; knowing when to say something and when to keep silent, is not easy. We need the Holy Spirit to help us with large doses of grace upon ourselves AND our teens!
Here are three helpful tips for starters that can help build that strong emotional connection that not only helps to make you a safe place for your teen, but also positions you to influence their heart and help establish their identity in Christ!
MAKE DEPOSITS INTO THEIR BANK.
Think of your teen’s heart like a piggy bank. You make a positive deposit every time you do things such as
Affirming and encouraging them (in addition to celebrating their achievements)
spend quality time with them
express unconditional love to them, no matter if they make the wrong choices
validate their feelings and empathize with them
give them physical affection
pray blessings over them often
Withdrawals are actions such as
correcting and disciplining them
‘directing’ them what to do (especially with a harsh tone)
saying hurtful things
complain about something they did or said
Surely some withdrawals are necessary to bring corrections! However, these are counted as withdrawals because imagine being a teen where 90% of interactions with your parents are them correcting you!
Some say for every withdrawal, a person needs around 5 deposits to help keep a positive heart connection strong. Let’s all be proactive in giving our teens way more deposits than withdrawals.
HAVE FUN WITH YOUR TEEN!
As parents, we want to be people that our teenager enjoys being around by doing fun activities together, laughing together, and doing activities they enjoy doing that you can be a part of. Conversations with your teens don’t always have to be ‘serious.’ Have a sense of humor and enjoy times to laugh with your teen.
VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS.
This is something many of us were never taught growing up, yet it is a huge key to connecting!
*Remember – it usually is most effective to validate feelings and empathize with your teen BEFORE giving positive encouragement and advice. They will appreciate that you ‘heard’ them and took time to really listen before jumping in to try to ‘fix’ them or the situation!