Most parents want their kids to feel supported and protected, like mom & dad have their back, no matter what. However, communicating this idea to kids is not always easy and sometimes can backfire, sending a message we never wanted them to receive. When well-meaning parents text the wrong thing, kids can react with mild annoyance “My mom just does not get me”, to anger “Stop telling me what to do”, to emotional distancing “I can’t tell my dad anything”. So how do we do show our kids we care, without pushing them away or annoying them? Here are some things parents can do, and things to avoid doing, to communicate unconditional support.
One way parents try to show support, that can backfire, is standing up and advocating for their child, with teachers, coaches and school administrators. Championing for a kid’s right to equal play time on the court, or fighting for fairness in the classroom, seem like great ways to show your kid that you are on their side, but be careful. The child may think they can’t like or respect this other adult for fear betraying their parent. We want our kids to believe they can solve their own problems, and take guidance from other authority figures. Some teens will stop opening up to mom and dad if they always want to “fight for their rights”. Other kids may focus on all the negative injustices in their life because they found this is the best way to keep their parents attention.
Another way parents try to show they have their kid’s back, is something I call “interviewing for pain”. When a kid gets in the car and the parent asks, “Were your friends nice to you today?” or “Did your teacher pick on you again?” it teaches kids to focus on problems and negative emotions. Most kids and teens bounce back from adversity much more quickly than parents do. They can be down in the dumps one moment, and high as a kite the next. Deeper conversations with vulnerable emotions make parents feel connected, but we don’t want to encourage our kids to go looking for problems.
So what can you do to help your kids feel supported, without being annoying?
Your kids want to feel like you “get them”. Some kids love mushy supportive texts like “I’m so proud of you” others find that super annoying. Kids want to feel seen, heard and felt by their parents so sending texts specific to their interests and personality is a great way to help them know you understand them. My son loves funny sounding names and signs with grammatical errors so I send those to him when I want to connect. My daughter loves sarcasm, sunsets and The Office, so she receives nature pictures and funny gifs from her favorite shows as a way to show her I’m always here for her.
Keep it short and sweet. It was funny how often teenagers requested this from their parents. Apparently, they are annoyed by our paragraph-length texts, even when we are being positive and kind! Take advice from teens and tweets, if you can’t say with a picture, gif or meme, keep it to 140 characters.
Show your kids that you TRUST them. This is the biggest theme that emerged from my survey. Worrying and telling kids what to do are hallmarks of parenting but they are ANNOYING! Kids want to feel responsible, smart, capable and good. What shows kids we have their back, is trusting them to make good decisions. We can help our kids by giving them room to make mistakes, learn and grow.
10 non-annoying texts to send your kid that show you trust them, understand them and support them unconditionally.
1. “You are so smart and you work hard for what you believe in. I’m so impressed by you.”
2. “I’m sure you’ll work it out but I’m here if you need me.”
3. “I just put money on your card. Do what you think is best for you.”
4. “Call me if you need me.”
5. “I know I’m not you, and don’t fully understand, but I’m always willing to listen and I believe in you.”
6. “How did I get so lucky to get such a great kid?”
7. “By the way, there is nothing you have to do today. The day is yours.”
8. “I’m pretty good at finding things to worry about but with you, I just can’t. I know you will have a great future and handle it brilliantly.”
9. “I filled your car up with gas and left $40. in the glove box. Thanks being such a responsible driver.”
10. “Do you want to do something fun this weekend?”
Try these strategies to let your kid know you HAVE their back, without RIDING on it or CLINGING to their back, arms, legs, and ankles. Give your kid the gift of your trust, support and understanding, in their favorite language….texting.
Would you like a better relationship with your teen or tween? Torie Henderson is a life coach for overwhelmed Supermoms who get exhausted from trying to do everything right. You can schedule a free coaching session at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com.