Restoration and Relationships
The job of parenting is constantly demanding that we bring to life new parts of ourselves. We master feats of strength like labour, childbirth, and sleep deprivation. We try to creatively handle tantrums, lying, and driving lessons. We become good at one thing, and suddenly that skill doesn’t matter and we are required to grasp a new one. Re-invention is the name of the game!
How many more summers will you get with your kids? This is a serious question. They are already different this year than they were last August. Are you paying enough attention to catch the subtle changes? Next summer they will be another year older yet; slightly less dependent on you and slightly more absorbed in their own expanding world.
The best way to build or repair a parentteen relationship is with a tool commonly called ‘Special Time.’ Special Time is a practice of dedicating a specific chunk of time to your child. Nothing else says ‘you matter’ more than focused love and attention. The quality that really defines Special Time is your warm, caring interest in the young person and whatever activity they choose to share with you. Special Time means no judging, no criticism, and no giving advice.
Special Time with young ones is often highly anticipated and treasured. Sometimes they beg for more and cry when it’s over. I’ve done hundreds of hours of Special Time over the years, with my own kid and many others of various ages. The young person takes the lead and the adult’s job is to keep the situation safe. You may also choose to hold boundaries around spending money. Parents often tell me they give all sorts of focused attention to their children, however I challenge you to:
• Implement these actual Special Time guidelines.
• Try it three times, and change up the length of time.
• Notice the dramatic difference in the quality of your attention and the impact it has on your relationship.
Special time is: 1. Not looking at your phone (other than to turn the timer off when it signals Special Time is over).
2. Only attending to the young person you are with, nothing else.
3. The young person taking the lead and you following their direction.
Special Time can be modified with teenagers. They will often reject our attention when it is openly offered because of their developing sense of independence. Yet all of us – even teens - can benefit from dedicated and caring attention, so remember that truth and be a little sly. I’ve had success with covert approaches like these:
• I make a decision with myself about devoting 15 or 30 minutes to Special Time and join my teen listening to music or watching a video. I calmly enter their world with my focus on them and their experience, and allow for conversation while concentrating on listening and curiosity.
• I wait for the teen to come home in the evening, and mentally prepare myself to be ready with a relaxed focus on them when they walk in the door. I hang around for chatting, snacks, or a card game – whatever they feel like.
• When the teenager asks if we can bake or go to the lake, I internally commit to making a chunk of that time Special Time, and choose to put my loving attention on them, following their lead exclusively, for part of the activity they have already chosen.
Reimagine Revival might mean shedding the old and welcoming the new. 2020 has definitively become the year of no automatic hugs and no more casual racism. How can you be more consciously aware of what you’re saying and doing? What if you levelled-up how you model adulthood to the young people you’re close to?
Your teenager is living a chapter of their life focused on growth and possibility. Never stop asking your teens what they like, what interests them, what their new favourite song is, what they think about when they first wake up. Encourage and support their discoveries. Let yourself rediscover your own passions.
Right now it seems a long way off, but winter is coming. The coronavirus will return in a second wave. Rejuvenate while you can.