Quality time can be one of the hardest languages of love to speak, especially for someone who doesn’t personally care about quality time. My oldest feels loved when we spend quality time with her. She’s constantly asking to do things together either with me or her dad. Finding that time with three other kids in the house is terribly difficult right now while she is still a child. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it’s going to be as she enters the bustling teenage world.
“We demonstrate our love for family members not only in teaching them affirmatively but also in giving them of our time” (Susan W. Tanner, “Did I Tell You…?,” Ensign, May, 2003).
Gary Chapman, family and marriage counselor, tells us that giving our teens quality time is to give them a portion of our lives, our undivided attention. In other words, we must be willing to show them that nothing else in the world matters to us in that moment than what they have to say.
If quality time is your teenager’s primary way of feeling loved, it’s vitally important for you as parents to make an effort to spend time together.
Quality time is not merely being in the same room together. I cringe every time I think of the times my husband and I let our daughter stay up to watch a movie with us. Every time she’d ask a question or try to make a comment we’d shush her. We may have been sitting on the same couch, but she wasn’t feeling loved. She came away from the experience thinking we loved the movie more than we loved her.
Spending quality time together doesn’t require a great, in-depth conversation where intense feelings are expressed or big problems are resolved. The conversations can be lighthearted. It’s still important to make eye contact and use words to show we’re really listening.
We must purposely make time out of our schedules, even if it means putting something aside on a moment’s notice, to give to our teens. Be interested in the things they choose to talk to you about, even if those things seem trivial to you.
“Some time ago I read an article called “Putting Children Last,” which told about parents who talk about their children in “appointment book” terms: 15 minutes at night when possible, regularly scheduled play time once a week, and so on (see Mary Eberstadt, Wall Street Journal, 2 May 1995).
Contrast that with the mother who vowed to give her children not just quality time but quantity time. She recognized that a loving relationship requires constant and ongoing talking, playing, laughing, and working moments.
I, too, believe that parents and children need to participate in each other’s everyday, ordinary experiences. So I know about your upcoming test; you know about my lesson preparation. I attend your games; you join me in the kitchen for dinner preparation. We are major players in each other’s lives, absorbing love through daily experiences” (Susan W. Tanner, “Did I Tell You … ?,” Ensign, May 2003).
Teens will especially need to feel as though you are listening when they talk. Ask questions to show you’re aware of what they’re saying. Don’t be quick to jump in with solutions. It could be they just want someone to listen as they sort things out.
Dr. Chapman gives eight steps to help us as parents learn to help us learn to listen better.
First, eye contact is vital. It keeps your mind from wandering and shows your teen he/she has your full attention.
Second, don’t do something else at the same time. If you can’t stop what you’re doing (like making dinner), let your teen know you want to give them your full attention and set aside time later on to talk. Keep in mind spending quality activity time together (working on a car, shopping, etc.) can often lead to quality conversations.
Third, be sure to ask yourself what you think your teen might be feeling during your conversation. Try confirming it by saying something like, “It sounds like you’re frustrated with your friend for…” Not only does this give your teen a chance to clearly state what he/she is feeling, but it communicates you’re really listening.
Fourth, watch their body language. Sometimes body language can speak much more clearly what your teen is really feeling. Tears, a half-grin, clenched fists, or fidgety hands can give you clues.
Fifth, don’t interrupt! This can be extremely difficult for some people, but try to refrain. You could end up stopping the conversation before it really gets started. This time is supposed to be all about your teen, not about you.
Sixth, ask reflective questions. When the conversation lulls a bit and you find a pause where you can speak up, ask questions that reflect what you’ve heard. You can’t express your own ideas unless you truly understand what your teen is saying.
Seventh, show you understand. If your reflective questions show you’re on the same wavelength with your teen, express something to illustrate. “I can see why you’d feel that way.”
Last, ask permission to share your impressions. If your teen is just looking for a listening ear, she’s not going to want your input and will push away. Ask something like, “Would you like to hear what I think?” If your teen says yes, he’s looking for help. If your teen says no, don’t be offended. He may have already figured out what he wants to do by simply talking it out.
On the flip side when talking to your teens be sure to give reasons why you feel a certain way. Don’t give them the excuse, “Because I said so!” This closes the door to any and all communication. Tell them why you won’t let them drive with friends until after they’ve had their license for six months. As adults we often require explanations of ‘why’ and our teens are the same way.
For those teens that enjoy doing things together, look for activities they like to do. Take the time to watch them play a sport, act in a play, or other activities that they put so much effort into. If your teen likes to read, plan to read the same book together and discuss it.
Quality time can be a hard language of love for some parents to give, but it’s so important to make it a priority if you want your teen to feel he/she is truly loved.