I’ve always liked to hold hands with my daughters and still do. As they were growing up, I held their hand as we drove in the car, walked through the mall, and walked up to school.
But I remember learning a lesson when my oldest daughter, Megan, pulled away from holding my hand as I walked her into school. One day we clenched each other’s hand, the next, my hand was without hers. What had changed?
I always knew my relationship with my daughter would be different as she got older, but no one ever told me what that would look like. So that night, I talked to my wife, Susan, about it. She comforted me by sharing that it was a normal reaction as our daughter grew into the teen years. Susan also wisely encouraged me not to react by smothering her, but rather to give my daughter some space to grow into a woman.
So, if you find yourself in a situation similar to mine, here are 5 things to do when your kids don’t want to be with you:
1. Don’t take it personally. It could have been easy to get offended when Megan rejected my hand that morning. But instead of becoming upset, we have to understand that it is part of our child growing into a woman or man.
2. Look at them in a new way. There will come a time when your child feels awkward holding your hand or walking with you, but that’s okay. This temporarily closed door only means that so many others are opening as your relationship with your child matures. As your little boy grows into a man and your little girl grows into a woman, it’s important to put on a new set of glasses and look at them in a whole new light and speak to them in a whole new way.
3. Don’t withdraw. Just because my daughter didn’t want to hold my hand during that season, doesn’t mean she doesn’t still crave attention and affection from me. Be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that giving your kids space means you should leave them alone. Rather, find the balance of respecting their emotional changes during this season of life and still pursuing them, still hugging them, and always loving them.
4. Understand your child. As a parent, you have to understand that your children are unique and have unique emotional needs. To understand each child, you have to be a student of your child. As a student, watch, listen to, and take mental notes of your child’s likes and dislikes. For example, for Emily, I learned that she would be really disappointed if I wasn’t the loudest fan in the crowd at her games. But for Marky, I found that he got extremely embarrassed if I loudly cheered for him from the stands. It was ultimately up to me to learn this distinction and act on it.
5. Find common ground. Be intentional in finding common ground to spend time with your kids. During the teen years, I’ve found that searching for and finding that “one thing” is important. It’s that one thing they like to do and will do with you. For example, Grant liked to camp so that’s something we did together when he was a teen, and still do.
So, remember these 5 things when your kids pull away from you and be sure to remember to love them always, no matter what.
When did you first notice your relationship with your kids was changing as they grew older? I’d love to hear your story in a comment below.