Are you quarantined with your teenager and they’re barricaded in their bedroom?
Ask yourself, Mom and Dad, “Why do I feel like I cannot enter my teenager’s bedroom?”
That barrier is invisible, but you know it’s there. At the bedroom doorway of most teenagers is an invisible force field that prevents or radically hinders parents from entering. It doesn’t seem fair, I know. It’s your house. You’re paying the rent or mortgage. You should be able to freely walk into your teenager’s room anytime you want. But you can’t.
In many ways, their space has become even more off-limits during these days of enforced stay-at-home orders. You are getting on their nerves. And vice versa. Sure they understand the need to social distance, but they also see no reason why they can’t hang out with their friends if they’re careful. And you’re tired of explaining.
The texting, Zooming, Snapchatting, and Skyping going on behind closed doors also has you a wee bit concerned, and you’re at a loss about how to respond. Plus, you’ve been hoping this forced togetherness would open doors of communication, not the opposite.
Here are a few ideas for breaking through that nasty force field.
The best way is to start early. If you’re a parent of younger kids, please take this to heart. Ask any parent of teenagers and they will confirm that it’s much easier to establish an ongoing eager reception into their bedroom when they’re little.
Does a four year old welcome Mom or Dad into their bedroom? Absolutely. How about a six year old? Nine? Eleven? If you start early and make it a habit to wander into their room a few evenings a week, you will always be a welcome guest. Once inside, talk about life – their day or your day. Read a story. Play a game. Hold a pretend conversation with their stuffed animals. Ask how they came up with the idea for a science project or wall hanging. Pray together. Or maybe just sit without talking, petting the dog, watching raindrops on the window, or listening to one of their favorite musical artists without judgment.
If you didn’t start early and that force field is seemingly impenetrable, don’t disregard that above list. In many ways, teenager still want to be kids. Especially because this pandemic has them on edge, facing uncertainty. They may not admit it, but some quiet time with Mom or Dad—listening to tunes, tossing around a raggedy stuffed doggy, vocalizing a sincere prayer, sharing real-life concerns—may be exactly what that unapproachable teen wants and needs right now.
Don’t bulldoze your way in. Instead, lean in their doorway—just outside the sting of the force field—and ask for your teenager’s help.
“Mom and I are so tired of Netflix. Have you found anything else worthy watching?”
“I’m not sure what to get your Dad for Father’s Day, any ideas?”
“A friend from work has a nine-year-old daughter and wants to know what books will get her interested in reading. What would you suggest?”
“I need to set up a videoconference call for tomorrow. Can you help?”
“I heard there’s an app that turns my iPhone into a flashlight/starfinder/pedometer/TV remote/foreign language translator/guitar tuner. Have you tried that?”
“I’m doing a takeout run. What are you up for? Pizza, Chinese, or Jimmy John’s.”
“After this quarantine is over, we’re thinking about going someplace fun as a family. Maybe a beach. Maybe skiing. Maybe the mountains. Whaddaya think?”
Asking a teenager’s opinion is a powerful door opener. But if you ask, be ready to listen. Take care to not judge too quickly. Whatever conversation takes place in that doorframe needs to end on a positive note. Don’t allow any conversation to end with you pushing them away. When you leave that doorway, the goal is to be pulling them closer to you.
Make them glad you stopped by. Next time, they may even invite you in.
Did you appreciate this insight for parents? Allow me to challenge you to do some reading that opens your heart and mind to God’s will for your life and your place in the Universe. The same style I use to write about parenting, I use to convey biblical truths. Really.
I recommend: What If God Wrote Your Bucket List? What If God Wrote Your To-Do List? The Jesus Dare. If God Were Your Life Coach. Point/Line/Plane/Eternity. They all make great gifts. But how about making a gift to yourself?