1. Love them fiercely.
Love everything about them, even the annoying stuff. Love them for their actions AND their intentions. Let them know in word and deed how much you adore them. Love their wrinkled shirts and Axe-body-spray-covered selves. Love their bad handwriting and pimpled cheeks. All these seemingly insignificant details are an amazing, magical process at work. It's like being witness to the miracle of a diamond mid-formation. All this imperfection is going to one day yield a responsible, serious adult. See your teenagers as a privilege, don't see them as a burden. So just love 'em.
2. Listen and pay attention.
When you connect with them after school, you have a precious few minutes when they will divulge the secrets of their day with you. Be excited to see them. Put down the cell phone.Look them in the eye and hear what they are saying. Make their victories your victories. Be empathetic. It is really hard to navigate high school and middle school. Don't offer advice at this time unless they ask for it. It makes them feel important and valued.
3. Say yes more than you say no.
The world is forever going to tell them no. For the rest of their lives, they will be swimming in a stormy sea with wave after wave of "you're not good enough" and "you can't do this" . If nothing else, you want to be the opposite voice. Try to instill in them the belief that they are not limited and they can do anything if they're willing to work hard enough for it. Be the YES, YOU CAN in their lives.
4. Say no often.
You need to say no to situations that will set your child up for harm or unhappiness. Don't let them go to parties where they will be forced to make a choice about alcohol in front of their peers . Don't let them stay out until three in the morning with a member of the opposite sex. Be the parent. Set up rules for their safety.
5. Feed them. A lot.
And not only them, but their friends too. These bodies are growing at an astonishing rate and need fuel to do so. When their friends know your pantry is stocked with treats, they will want hang out at your place. This allows you to not only meet and know their friends, but to keep an eye on your teen as well.
6. Don't sweat the small stuff.
When living with teenagers, it can be so easy to see the backpack dropped in the middle of the room as laziness. Or the bedroom scattered with dirty clothes as irresponsible. Instead, put yourself in their shoes. Find out about their day first. Maybe they are feeling beaten down, and they just need to unwind for a minute and tell you about it. Put your arms around that big, sweaty kid and give him a hug. Talk about his world. Find out what he did, wants to do, and dreams of doing. THEN, and only then, ask him to pick it up.
7. Stand back and watch the magic happen.
If you let them, these glorious creatures will open their hearts and love you more fiercely than you could possibly imagine. They are brilliant, capable, strong spirits who bring with them a flurry of happiness. They are hilarious and clever. They are thoughtful and sensitive. They want us to adore them. They need us to adore them. They love deeply and are keenly in touch with the feelings of others.