If you’re concerned that your teen doesn’t feel loved by you, there are many ways in which you can communicate your love. Saying “I Love You” is important, but that’s not the only way you help your teen feel emotionally and psychologically close to you. You can help your child feel loved by helping them feel safe, heard and understood.
Help your teen feel safe. The experience of fear and the search for safety and comfort in relationship are core human experiences. The search for safety is what drives us and serves as our primary motivation for the formation of our earliest relationships. When a teen feels safe in the relationships with his family, especially his parents, he or she feels secure enough to explore the world around him or her. When there’s safety, there is little to no fear. And at this stage of life, a teen needs the freedom to discover who he or she is. An adolescent needs psychological security and safety to do this. In order to feel comfortable in uncovering a sense of self, which is the primary psychological task during adolescence, a teen needs to feel safe in their relationships, especially with their parents.
Help your teen feel heard and understood. Teens want to know that what they say, the experiences they’re having, and the thoughts they have matter. You can provide this kind of experience by deeply listening to what your teen is trying to communicate to you. And this might not always be through words. Children and teens can also be communicative through their behavior, performance in school, relationships with others, and their creativity. Yet, when they are speaking to you, you can listen in a deep way. For instance, when you listen to your teen, use all of your senses, including your intuition. Watch your child’s body language. Listen for what he or she is communicating underneath the words. Then, when you respond, repeat back to your child what you heard in your own words. This process strengthens trust and respect. Your child will likely feel heard and understood. If you succeed in this task, your child will be more willing to discuss in more detail his or her life, thoughts, desires, needs, and challenges. And, more importantly, he or she will also be more open to what you have to say.
Let your teen know that you care. As mentioned above, communicating to your teen how much you love them is important. There’s no question that they need to hear this. You can also communicate love by letting them know you’re there for them. For instance, you might attend their sporting events, school plays, or their school’s parent night. You might give value on those things that your teen values, such as certain movies, music, and friendships. And sometimes, simply giving your teen the space they need to be who they are is another way of showing that you care.
If you’re still having trouble with helping your teen feel loved, check in with how you felt as a teen. Did you have an adolescence with parents who did not communicate their affection, love, and care for you? Are there subtle ways in which the way you were parented is showing up in your own parenting style? These are questions to consider as you help your teen feel loved. Expressing love isn’t easy for everyone, but with conscious awareness and healthy choices, a teen can receive the love they need.