Building Relationships in Uncertain Times

The news can be scary, unsettling, and anxiety inducing—and that was true even before the world turned upside down. So how can parents help calm their teens’ fears, while their facing the same fearful unknown? In this article, I’ll share the common warning signs that your teen is overly anxious and provide some specific way to help your teen process what’s going on in these uncertain times.

Watch for Anxiety in Your Teen

Anxiety is created when teens face the unknown. They may feel unsure about their future, question their purpose, or worry about how to handle problems in front of them. Under stress, some teens disengage from normal family life, choosing to withdraw into their room or sleeping for long periods of time. Others may self-medicate to alleviate the pressure by experimenting with drinking alcohol and taking drugs. While others may verbally express hopelessness or exhibit excessive anger and irritability.

If you see warning signs of anxiety in your teen, ask him how he’s feeling. Be a safe place to share his feelings and look for ways to take a break from the stressors––such as news or social media.

Be a Listening Ear When They Need to Process Their World

Our teens are being exposed to local and global tragedies through endless media streams. It’s important to help them navigate the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that are a natural reaction to bad news. One of the biggest needs for all teens is to feel heard. You don’t have to have all the answers. Your listening ear is enough.

Parents can have an important, positive impact on their teens, simply by listening! Take time to talk to your teen and ask your teen his opinion. Just having someone to talk to can help decrease his anxiety.

Share Your Own Struggles

I hear from many parents who are reluctant to share their own struggles with their kids. But I want to reassure you that telling age-appropriate stories about your own life will help your teen to see you as imperfect and “normal” –– and that’s a good thing. When times are tough, teens often feel like they are the only ones struggling. Hearing about challenges you have faced and overcome gives them hope for their own imperfections. Your experiences, help them see long-term solutions and to trust God no matter what happens.

Allow for Mood Swings and Bad Days

We all have good days and bad days, parents and teens included. But in uncertain times the hard days might come more often. So don’t be surprised when your teen has a bad mood. Your child is still learning how to handle his feelings. Instead of reacting to his bad mood or punishing him for feeling down, give your teen, and yourself, grace in the ups and downs. Knowing that their bad mood doesn’t push you away, and that there is someone who loves them no matter what, helps your teen learn how to struggle well.

Show Your Love by Giving Your Time to Your Teen

I often talk about the importance of spending time with your teen. That’s because your teen was created to be in relationships; it’s part of God’s design! Our modern culture and social media are a poor substitute for real, meaningful relationships. You can help your teen by taking regular breaks from your own responsibilities to lavish time and attention on your kids. Your teen will feel your love when you spend time together.

If you are struggling to connect, think about what can you do differently today to express a deep love for your child. No matter what happens, keep trying to go deeper with your teen and build a strong relationship that weathers life’s uncertain times.

Conclusion Hey moms and dads …. uncertainty ushers in fear and can lead to panic quickly. It can cause a teen to misuse their imagination, worry about life, and doubt those things that you have taught them. Anxiety can run rampant and hope gets flushed down the toilet if a teen feels uncertain about their future. So here’s my encouragement for you today. You are to be a voice of certainty amidst uncertain times. You can either fuel the worry and panic or you can be a calming voice that turns a bad situation into a wonderful opportunity to see how God’s going to show up when there’s a vagueness when viewing the days that lay before us. If you build a deeper relationship in times of uncertainty, you can be sure of the certainty of those relationships in the days ahead.

Quit Correcting Your Teen and Start Connecting

Nobody can get everything right all the time. But if you are constantly correcting your teen, there won’t be any time left for building your relationship! While some correction is necessary and may change surface behavior, connection aims at changing your teen’s heart. In this article, I’ll clarify the difference between correcting and connecting—and explain why connecting is a much better option.

Focus on the Heart

Behavior is the visible expression of the invisible matters of the heart. Bad behavior is easy to see. But it’s much harder to discover the root cause. For that, you need to reach your teen’s heart. No doubt, your teen will make mistakes. But you don’t have to let bad behavior get in the way of your special relationship. I’m not saying you can’t correct your child, but you should focus on the underlying motives and the feelings behind their actions. In fact, you need to cultivate a closer relationship during the teen years, in order to understand and effectively address what’s really going on. The bottom line is this: Don’t let bad behavior distract you or get in the way of connecting with your teen’s heart.

Think About Your Home’s Atmosphere

What would your teen say if you asked this question: Do I spend more time correcting you or connecting with you? You may not think you are overbearing or critical of your teen, but it really doesn’t matter what you think. What matters is how your teen feels. If your teen feels tension and stress at home, he will go in search of a place where he feels accepted. He will do things to make himself feel better, even if they violate your family’s rules and values.

Instead make your home a place of rest, where your teen feels heard. If you’ve done a good job creating a haven from the world, your teen will feel comfortable sharing what’s really going on and you will have the opportunity to share your wisdom.

Show Love Consistently

No matter what your teens are doing, love them through it. You may be angry or disapprove of your child’s behavior, but avoid the temptation to shame your teen, withdraw from the relationship, or take away your love and affection. It will only hurt your relationship and cause you to lose the influence. And that’s what you want––a real relationship that affords you the opportunity to speak into your child’s life!

It is possible to love someone who has hurt and disappointed you deeply. Believe me, it’s true. God does it all the time! Make sure your teens know there’s nothing they can do to make you love them more, and there’s nothing they can do to make you love them less.

What Do We Do if Connection Just Isn’t Happening?

Connecting with your teen isn’t always easy and it isn’t a quick fix. Connecting is a long-term strategy to build a relationship that lasts. If you’re struggling, ask your teen: What am I doing that’s keeping us from connecting? You might be surprised by the response. You might hear something that rubs you the wrong way. But lean in and listen! Before you react, pause, and consider what your teen is trying to say. Give them room to answer how they want, and then try to get past whatever is holding back your relationship.

If your teen isn’t opening up right away, try asking the question a little differently. For example: What do you think I’m not seeing that you are seeing? Can you help me understand what you mean? Can you explain that to me? Asking questions is a great way to connect.


Hey moms and dads … if I spent all the time with the teens that live with us, correcting them day in and day out, I would never have the time to develop a relationship with them. As your teen gets older, you’ll find that the only way that they’ll listen to you is if you have a connection with them—giving you the podium of influence that you long to have in their life. With that connection, you’ll find that they’ll be coming to you to ask for your help, your wisdom, and your insight. But without it, you’ll be just another dripping faucet that irritates your teen and causes him to look for a connection in anyone but you! So, quit correcting and start connecting. You’ll be surprised at your teen’s response.

What Your Teen Needs Right Now

Today’s world is crazier than ever, and it’s impossible to predict what tomorrow will bring. In the midst of chaos and uncertainty, most moms and dads need to make adjustments in order to meet the challenges of the day. How can you give your teen an extra measure of love, support, and sanity during these crazy times? In this article, I’ll share my lessons-learned and what your teen needs right now.

Your Listening Ear

Most teens just want to be heard and understood. So, one of the best ways to take inventory of your family’s situation, and determine what changes are needed to improve your relationship, is to listen to your teen.  Listening communicates value, love, and a sense of belonging. Don’t forget, moms and dads, you are the most significant people in your teen’s life. But, if you don’t listen to your teens, they will go outside of your home in search of someone who will. So, listen up!

A Bit of Grace in Unusual Times

Even in the best of times, the teen years are turbulent. But these are unprecedented times and most teens have had their lives upended. Disruptions to their normal routine can lead to frustration, confusion, even depression. So, give your teen, and yourself, some grace in this challenging season. Your teen won’t always act in a way you approve of, but everyone needs a break once in a while. Offer grace, in the same way God gives you grace, when you mess up.

Time to Themselves

Whether you’re stuck in the same house with your teen because of a pandemic or just summer vacation, your teen needs space! And you might need some too. Many parents feel obligated to keep their teens busy at all times. But it’s okay to have time alone for thinking, listening to music, resting, or just doing nothing at all. It might just be the refreshment your teen needs.

Time with You Individually

Even though you’re living together, you still need to make time to focus on your teen individually. Plan something fun, learn a new skill, or watch a movie. These intentional times, one-on-one with your teen, will build a closeness that won’t come just by living at the same address! Try playing a new game, working on a puzzle, or cooking together. Whatever it is, time with your teen will create memories and much-needed opportunities to connect.

Time to Laugh with the Whole Family

When you feel the temperature rising in your home, ease the tension by laughing together. Create times to be silly, watch funny videos together, tell jokes, create a silly family skit, whatever it takes to lighten up. Don’t be so serious all the time. Lighter moments are an important part of family life and create the balance your teen needs to handle the serious side of life. I like to say, “If we don’t have the fun, the seriousness won’t come.”

To Be Asked Real, Thoughtful Questions

Show your teen that you value his opinion and input into the family by asking thoughtful questions! Don’t just talk about homework, sports, and events of the day. Go deeper with your teen by asking questions that let him express his mind and heart. Get your teen thinking and show him you are willing to talk about the difficult stuff. 

Something to Look Forward To

Just like you, teens need something to look forward to! If everything at home feels monotonous, maybe it’s time to mix it up. Plan something different and fun, like a camping trip or an at-home spa day—whatever your teen gets excited about. Having something to look forward to is the essence of hope that things will get better.

Words of Encouragement

Your teen lives in a negative world and they desperately need to hear positive words from you. Your teen is watching how you deal with difficult times. So, be discerning about what you say in front of your teen. Stop complaining about your personal pet peeves. Trust me, your teens don’t want to hear your political stories and gripes. Instead, speak words of encouragement and hope, especially in this anxious time in their lives.


Hey moms and dads … believe it or not your teens need you in their lives and they want you desperately! But what they don’t know how to do, is create an environment of relationship, where a deeper connection can flourish. This is where they are relying on you to make it happen. You set the tone for your home. You determine the atmosphere. You set the mood. You make it a comfortable place where they want to be, or a place that they can’t wait to get away from. This doesn’t just happen. It’s built with a goal in mind and intent in your heart. So do this, ask your teens how you can make your home a place that they want to be, with you!