My neighbor returned some children's books I lent her to read to her young daughters. Seeing the titles brought back all sorts of sweet memories of reading to my own children. The thing is, we read those books well into their teens! They have a soft spot for those books and remember those special moments before sleep. If you haven't done this with your older kids, why not? These childhood rituals can bring out the softer, sweeter side of your teen.
For all their attitude and bluster, teens are often just little kids in almost-adult bodies. There are times they want to be hugged and cuddled and spoiled, even though they would rather eat bugs than admit it; however, the walls they put up get awfully hard to keep up. Even when we were going through the worst of it with our son, I remember nights when he let his guard down and asked, "Mom, would you read me a bedtime story?" Talk about melting a mother's heart! The big decision was which book to read. Some that come to mind are:
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (who can resist looking for the little mouse?)
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (the best illustrations ever)
Lentil (an oldie but goodie by Robert McCloskey... Lentil is the name of a boy... look for the part with the lemons)
and one that wasn't a hit, but should have been, Five Minutes Peace (about a mama elephant who will do anything to have five minutes alone, tries to take a bubble bath, and all three kids jump in with her).
I'd sit in a chair or on the edge of the bed. My nearly six-foot son would gradually morph into a cuddly kid, defenses down. Perfection.
Another bedtime ritual that made an appearance from time to time was the lullaby. As a little one, Josh couldn't say 'lullaby' - it came out as 'wallaby', so it's something we could joke about. "Mom, sing me a lullaby." Music to my ears, and his. Favorites included "You Are My Sunshine" and "Fais do-do" (pronounced doh-doh), a sweet French song that both my kids love to this day. What else do I remember? Laughing about one of his favorite videos, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. I can still see him as a toddler, giggling 'til he gasped for breath. You see, Piglet is so small and light. On the blustery day, Pooh grabs hold of Piglet's scarf to keep him from being blown around by the wind. Instead, the scarf unravels, Piglet is lifted off the ground, and is blown up into the air like a kite. My kid laughed and laughed, and still does when we remember it together. In fact we recently popped it into the VCR and watched it together.
Coming back to the present... Whether you're going through tense times with your older child, or just normal adolescent nonsense, revisiting those sweet days with them will feel so warm and nourishing. These are the ties that bind you together. These are the moments that give your child permission to be a kid again, to soften and snuggle and just... be.
Pull out a favorite childhood book or video. Play a song you both remember from toddler days. Teens are struggling to grow up and be taken seriously, and don't want to lose face. It's up to you to take the initiative on this one, quietly and without a fuss.
What if your son or daughter turns you down? It's disappointing, but you are paving the way. Just keep doing what you're doing, whether or not you get the result you want. One day they'll come back to you as if it's their own idea. You are reminding and reassuring them that no matter how difficult things have been, you still love them. That has always been, and always will be, what it's about.
Fern Weis is a Parent Coach and Family Recovery Life Coach. She works with parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, from the homework wars to addiction recovery, and all points in between. Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive and be successful through life's challenges. FernWeis.com | 201-747-9642