In this season of love, it is important to realize that love is not an emotion. It is an action – a series of actions stringing together in a long line of “this happened, and he/she acted by…” So act! Here are some ways to love, complete with easy-to-remember, easy-to-say four-syllable phrases to help you turn your love into ACTIONS.
A: Acknowledge Success
“I’m proud of you.”
There is far more success than what’s in “Academic Success.” Learn about what your teen(s) have done each day. What are they proud of? What successes have they had beyond the classroom, or the field, or the rink? Celebrate with them. Yes, even if they’re most proud of “getting a twenty killstreak in Overwatch,” or, “belching the ABC’s backwards – yes, backwards! – at lunch while the English teacher looked on, horrified.”
C: Commiserate with them
“I’m so sorry.”
Do not, under any circumstances, trivialize your teens’ problems, their issues, or their concerns. Again, don’t trivialize their problems. Once more, because this one is important: don’t trivialize their problems. While bullies or your freshman crush likely won’t matter in 10 years, they certainly matter now. So, identify with your teen’s problems, and tell them that, yes, it is hard. Yes, it does hurt. Yes, you get it, and they’re right to feel hurt, or stressed, or sad. We don’t live “in 10 years.” We live “now.”
T: Tell them you get it.
Empathy seems in short supply these days, and while we are watching more stories than ever, on Netflix, Hulu, at the theater, or in the comfort of our reading chairs, it seems that we are finding harder than ever to empathize with people outside of ourselves. That is, “I understand,” and “That is so cool,” and “I’m proud of you.” Practice right now: I understand. Practice: That is SO cool. And now again: I’m proud of you. Each of these phrases is only four syllables, so it shouldn’t be hard to say them. It shouldn’t be hard, yet, it seems these sentences are going extinct along with, “Can you dig it,” and “I can drive stick.”
I: Interest yourself in their passions
“What’s the deal with….?”
The two things we universally find easy to discuss are as follows: 1) Ourselves, and 2) Our Passions. Inquire about what your teen has been interested in lately. Inquire casually. Inquire honestly. Inquire genuinely. Inquire without an agenda. Then, after you have inquired, interest yourself in what interests them. Tell them their passion is cool, even if you don’t completely get it. This is your opportunity to try to get it, and by getting it, get them.
O: Offer to “Listen” rather than to “Talk”
“Talking at” and “Listening to” are cousins bearing some resemblance but having little in common. Fixing things is in our DNA. We love to identify problems, then to solve them. We’re trained on this in school, in math, in English, in Science, History, Geography, you name it. We are given problems, and then we fix them. But the correct answer to a problem is not always the correct answer. Sometimes, the best way to “fix” a problem is not to talk but is instead to listen. So learn LISTEN before you TALK, and to ask, “Do you want my advice?” before you give it.
N: Notice that your kid will be like you. Notice that your kid will NOT be like you.
“That is SO cool!”
We get so much vicarious joy from our kids. So much vicarious frustration. They are like little us’s, though we must admit oftentimes better looking. And here, “Like” is the most important word to note. They are like us, but they are not us. Celebrate the ways that your teen is not you, is so much cooler than you, will never have to suffer through dial tones or AM broadcasting like you did.
S: Sign-Off of the net
“How can I help?”
Close this blog and go ASK YOUR TEEN, “HEY, SON/DAUGHTER, HOW CAN I MAKE YOU FEEL MORE LOVED?” Asking your teen how you can help them, how you can make them feel more loved, is not to be underestimated. Or, in this season of love, say some of the words from a Mr. Jerry Maguire: “I am out here for you. You don’t know what it’s like to be ME out here for YOU. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about, ok? Help me… help you. Help me, help you.”
Oscar is a passionate, service-oriented educator with a critical background in composition pedagogy, English literature, Asian and Asian American Studies, creative writing, and Jesuit rhetoric and education. When he isn’t teaching university courses or writing for Digging Deep, he reads his first drafts to a dachshund named Montgomery.