As parents, one of the greatest gifts we can offer our children is our support and enthusiasm. Somehow, this seems easier when the kids are still young, doesn’t it? Then they’re still overcoming anticipated milestones, natural aspects of physical development. First steps, first words, first everythings. Things we dreamed for them.
As teens, however, they have goals of their own, and sometimes those goals don’t match up with what we had envisioned. Perhaps as a musician, you hoped your daughter would be as passionate about the arts as you are; instead, she’s tone deaf but gifted in all things technological. Or maybe your son showed early promise as a student athlete just like Dad, but he gets more excited about historical reenactments and period weaponry. A sure way to communicate self-centeredness is to insist your child follow your dreams instead of caring about theirs.
Romans 12:15 is key to this idea of supporting our kids in their fields of interest. “Rejoic[ing] with those who rejoice” does not require hypocrisy; it does require empathy. While you may not be able to fathom why anyone would desire a particular path or goal, if your son or daughter has worked toward an achievement or hoped for an opportunity, you can identify with such feelings of accomplishment.
People who rain on others’ parades do not show love and support for the individual who’s in celebration mode. By contrast, going out of your way to show enthusiasm, asking about details, and even baking a cake or hosting a party for the “biggies” will go a long way toward fueling your teen’s conviction of something you’ve tried to communicate since that first step: You’re on their team.
Of course, the second half of Romans 12:15 mentions “weep[ing] with those who weep.” While your teen may not be the type to literally get teary or, even if they do, to want Mom or Dad to comfort them, the point is to empathize with their frustrations or failures. This might mean fixing their favorite comfort food after a breakup that actually has you sighing with relief or after finding out they didn’t get into that school that was far further than your apron strings could comfortably reach.
The point is to demonstrate your love and support, the fact that their hurt is your hurt. This can’t be manufactured, though; teens see through insincerity more easily than almost anyone.
When teens fail to share their parents’ affinities or aptitudes, and vice versa, it can be hard to bond, or connect. Even if it’s beyond your comfort zone, as a parent, you can learn to appreciate and understand some of your teen’s interest, while suggesting finding common ground that both of you can enjoy. Even an evening of old movies and kids’ games you once enjoyed together can help you re-connect.