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Building an Authentic Relationship with Your Teen

Sometimes it’s hard to recognize what’s fake and what’s real in today’s online, over-produced, plastic world. But teens crave authenticity. They are looking for genuine relationships and it begins at home with their relationship with Mom and Dad. In this article, I’ll explain how you can build an authentic relationship with your teen by letting your teen get to know the real you, and by getting to know your teens, just the way they are.


What Authenticity Is Not
Don’t try to “brand” yourself as the perfect parent. You aren’t. If you are trying to convince your teen that you are perfect and they should be perfect, then you are living in a fantasy world that doesn’t exist. You won’t have an authentic relationship with your teen unless you are honest about what’s really going on. Hiding your feelings, thoughts, and hurts so that you don’t break the image they have of you, ultimately leads to a lack of real connection. So stop trying to sell your teen a “bill of goods” about who you are. Your teen doesn’t need a perfect parent.

I meet parents all the time who are so overly focused on drawing their teens into their world, and the way they see things, that they fail to take their teen’s unique personality, giftings, and experiences into consideration. If you’re too busy trying to create a fake life, then you are closing your eyes to the reality of your teen’s world. Ignoring struggles, difficulties, and hardships so that your family appears to be something that it isn’t will not help those problems go away. If you model a family life that’s inauthentic, then your teen may copy your example and hide his problems too. But sooner or later these problems will come out and your teen will have to deal with them in his future relationships.


What Authenticity Is
It’s fun to tell kids about your trophies, triumphs, and happy memories, but that’s not the whole story, is it? Your life includes ups and downs, and it’s the stories about what you’ve overcome and how you struggled through those problems that will draw your teen closer to you. It’s not only okay to share your struggles with your teens but it may also be exactly what is needed to help you build a closer connection. Let your teen know that you’re not perfect but you are still striving to be better.

Spending time together is the best way to build a genuine connection with your teen. Set aside a time, on a regular basis, to open up a conversation with your teen, and be willing to share about your mistakes of the past, and your struggles of today. Talk about the real issues that your teen is facing. Don’t forget to share your love for your teen at all times. As you share honestly, just watch as your teen leans into listen. Lecturing teens isn’t effective, but you can help your teen get a perspective that is backed up by experiences and lessons learned the hard way when you share your stories.


To Become More Genuine, Answer These Questions …
• Which does your teen know more of—your failures or your successes?
• Do they hear you lecture more or laugh at the funniness of life more?
• What if your teen knew the things in your life that you wouldn’t want anyone to know?
• Do you act like you have all the answers? Or does your teen know that you have “questions” about life too?
• Can you share your true feelings and thoughts about your hurts and disappointments in relationships while still upholding a sense of honor to those people?


Hey moms and dads … in a world of relational smoke and mirrors, all seems plastic and misrepresented, and your teen is looking for genuineness and authenticity in those around them. You are the first line of influence to give them a taste of what it is to be real, valid, dependable, and faithful—to counter the fake imagery and stories put before your teens in today’s culture. Your ability to share your struggles and reveal your hurts and pains shows your strength in what you believe and in Whom you believe. God didn’t call us to live fake lives. He calls us to be real and true. So Mom and Dad, this is the time to get real. It’s time to be who you were made to be, so that your teens can learn to be comfortable in their own skin and enjoy how they have been created.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.