Q: I am separated, and my teen daughter lives with me. She is quite bitter about the breakup of our marriage and is becoming more and more short-tempered and disrespectful towards me. We just don’t seem to be able to get along. I don’t know what to do. I want to talk to her, but what can I say?
Editor’s note: The answer that the mother asking this question received from Heaven can be applied not only to the specific circumstances outlined above, but also to other situations where a teen is bitter against his or her parents for some reason, or when there has been a serious breakdown in communication between the parents and the teen.
Love loves the unlovely
Show her unconditional love. Show care and compassion, and love her in spite of her unlovely moments and unloving attitudes towards you.
I, Jesus, care for you, and I will bring you through these troubled waters. I will help you to see things in a different perspective. You look at what seems to be disrespect and rejection, but in spite of all her willfulness, she still needs to know you care and are there for her when she needs you—not just when it’s convenient for you, but even when it costs you the most to give your time and attention. When she sees you sacrificing for her time and again, her heart will see that you really do care and you are not just doing it because you are “stuck with her.”
Meet on neutral ground
Try going out and doing things together on neutral ground. Try doing things where you can just be friends, and avoid situations where there is a big struggle with each of you trying to be in control.
Sit down and open your heart to her to break the ice. Tell her, “Let’s start over in our relationship. It is my responsibility to provide for you the best I can, and to care for you. But part of caring for you is helping to steer you away from things I think will harm you. I want to make it as easy for you as I can, but it’s a two-way street. We need to be able to get along and be more of a help and support to each other. I need you. I need your companionship. I need your help. I know you need me too. So if we can both learn to give a bit to each other, to meet each other halfway and be concerned about the welfare of the other, then we’ll both be happier.
“I’ll try to be more what you need, and be more concerned about what makes you happy. I’ll try to accommodate your wishes the best I can. But not everything is going to be all rosy. Life is full of difficult situations and challenges. Not all goes the way we like. You know that. We need to learn to take what is good, and keep going in spite of the hardships and misunderstandings. Neither of us can have it all our own way. We are in a partnership.
“You may think it’s all my fault that life is the way it is now, but that’s not really so. I did make many mistakes, for which I’m truly sorry. I know I could have done things better and been a better parent to you. But hey, I’ve still got a lot to learn too. We’re both still learning and growing. You’ve got to put up with me, and I’ll put up with you. And I’ll do more than that. I’ll care for you, as I truly do love you and care what happens to you. I want the best for you. I want you to grow up knowing that I love you a lot.
“I’m sorry I haven’t always been here to talk things out with you like I should have been. I’m sorry you’re hurting and wishing things were different, but this is the challenge that we are faced with. This is what we have to overcome as a team. In spite of our difficulties and misunderstandings, we can overcome and have a happier, better life if we want to and are willing to work at it.
“I know I don’t always see things from your perspective, but please give me a chance. Please try to see that I love you no matter what. I want you to feel free to open up and let me know what you’re feeling. And if you feel I’m getting a bit too intense and need to lighten up, then just write me a note or something. Let me know the way you’re feeling.”
Listen even when it hurts
And then take the time to fully hear her out, in spite of the way she expresses herself and the hurtful way she comes across. If you will take the time to get to know what is on her heart and mind, you will understand her concerns. In spite of her attitude, deep down inside she really does care what you think. She wants you to love her, and she wants to be able to count on you. Be willing to share a life with her—not resenting her or the circumstances, but rather keep giving and giving—even if it hurts. Enjoy living life together as a family, loving each other and looking out for each other’s well-being.
Enjoy life together
Do not carry the unnecessary weight of trying to win your child’s love. Love, and you will be loved in return. Give, and it will be given to you. Learn to enjoy life more together, and life will become more enjoyable. Find joy together by setting aside time to be together—have special times to laugh and let your hair down and show that you do love each other and enjoy each other’s company.
You need each other; don’t be afraid to let each other know that. It will help strengthen your relationship and bring you through the rough times. Encourage her and let her know how special she is to you, that you like her company and enjoy being with her. Surprise her from time to time with fun treats and tokens of your love that show that you think about her and want to make her happy. You’re not trying to win her love with presents, but just showing her little signs of your love.
Every effort will pay off in the end
It’s a fight at times, raising young people. It is a struggle to maintain a standard and try to keep them going the way you think they should go. Still, every effort and consideration, each wise decision you make, will pay off in the end. You can’t see the big picture clearly yet, but know that you never lose by loving, by believing, by being there, by being honest, by caring, by correcting, by encouraging, by being a true parent to them.
See each teen as a diamond in the rough
I have placed in your hands someone very special, someone whose full potential is sometimes hidden by all her childish ways. But she is a diamond in the rough, a treasure buried deep—which love and careful work will reveal in time.
Kids are the future; the future is what you make kids to be. So be what you want them to become. Live the way you want them to live, care like you want them to care for others. And most of all, translate for them My love in physical, visible, tangible ways. Not one bit of genuine love will return void. You will have accomplished the purpose for which I have placed you there, by giving My love to that one that I have put in your care. And I will show you love in return.
Don’t worry about tomorrow, for I will supply all that you need. I will help you carry the burdens and problems of life that weigh you down, the things that trouble and concern you. You know I care, for I have given you a precious child so that you can see and feel and know how I care for you. You’re Mine, and I won’t let you go. No matter how bad you feel you are, you are never beyond My ability to help you make it through. The future will be yours, for your children are a very important part of your future.