We recently watched the movie “We Bought a Zoo,” based on the Dartmouth Zoo and the adventures Benjamin Mee records in the book of the same name (overall the movie is good, but I recommend a language filter such as “Clearplay” or “TV Guardian”). In the movie, Benjamin and his 14 year old son share a very touching moment, a turning point in their relationship. In this moment Benjamin’s son states, “I don’t know what to say to you.” Benjamin admits the same struggle in relating to his son.
We are raising a teenage son, and the drama of the Mee’s relationship in the movie seems an exaggeration to me. But it did cause me to pause and reflect about what parents say to their children. I am not a perfect parent, but here are a few suggestions:
- “May I help you with that?” Offer to help them with their homework, chores, etc. Bonding does not happen by default. This is a stealthy way to spend time with them.
- “Will you help me for a moment?” This is similar to the above, but builds confidence in them as they see you have confidence in their abilities and require their help.
- “Let’s listen to your iPod.” Show a genuine interest in the music they listen too. You do not have to like it but do show an interest. If the lyrics are offensive you should deal with that issue, but that is another post.
- “What are you reading?” Andrew likes to read, and we try to keep him in books. When he tells me about certain books, I often end up reading them as well. That gives us something else to talk about.
- “What are you plans for college / employment?” This one is more and more important as they reach and enter the teenage and high school years. Help them find their interests. (Hint: Not everyone can test video games for a living.)
- “Will you lead the prayer?” They need to participate in family devotionals and to witness the importance of your families relationship with God.
- “I am proud of you.” Compliment their accomplishments. Let them know that they hold a very dear spot in your heart.
- “I love you.” They may pretend that they are embarrassed, but inside they appreciate knowing you love them.
- “I love your mother (father if you are their mother).” They need a living demonstration of a healthy marriage. They might say, “gross” or “eww” when you kiss or hug in front of them, but they secretly appreciate that their parents are together.
- “God loves you.” Need I expound?