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  • Raising Teens: How Dads Can Reconnect With Their Young Adult Sons

    The teenage years are a tricky period, so you have to be intentional about fatherhood
    by May de Jesus-Palacpac .
Raising Teens: How Dads Can Reconnect With Their Young Adult Sons
PHOTO BY @DragonImages/iStock
  • For fathers, the prospect of raising a boy whom they can play sports with and impart valuable life lessons to can be very exciting. However, many of these expectations may turn sour as a boy reaches his teenage years. Strained father and son relationships are common within Filipino families. According to experts, the physiological changes that teenagers experience, and possibly combined with unresolved issues in their childhood, may affect the way they respond to people. 

    Mark and Terry Benavente, founders of Elijah House, a ministry in the U.S. that helps in healing and restoring family relationships, point out in a seminar they spoke at in BGC early this year that any person who has not healed from his past wounds will end up wounding others.  Sometimes, what may seem harmless actions from the boy’s parents may scar him for a long time. 

    For example, raising your voice at him as a toddler in the middle of a supermarket for a split second may have caused him hurt and embarrassment without intending to. When these hurts are addressed, so will your son’s relationships with the family and friends start to heal.

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    Terry assures fathers that while establishing a relationship with your teenage son may be difficult, it is not impossible, and the secret to it is fatherhood. “Fathers have the special ability to call their sons to life,” she says.

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    Fathers need to recognize that their role in a son’s life changes through the seasons. You naturally have a lot more control over your children from their infanthood until they’re about 9 years old. However, this starts to loosen during and beyond a child’s pre-teen years.   

    Parental control is only at 40% by the time a child turns 16, and will continue to decrease as the child moves towards adulthood. Leo Natividad, a father of two, can relate.

    “These are the crucial years. My son Greg is exposed to different kinds of influence, especially from friends and social media. I understand now that his world doesn’t revolve around me and his mom anymore. He has his friends and his music which take away a lot of bonding time with his family,” he says. 

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    The teenage years is a very confusing time. In the book Wild Things, the Art of Nurturing Boys penned by therapists Stephen James and David Thomas, it says that boys would “appear cocky and full of themselves” during these years, when in truth, they are fearful, insecure, and unsure of the changes that they are going through. 

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    Leo couldn’t agree more. “Although he (Greg) would often act as if he knows and understands everything, deep inside, he is just a kid who needs lots of guidance.” He continues, “Over time, our interests have grown apart, but I still see my son having the average sensitivity to the timing on when to open up, especially when there is something bothering him. As a parent, I would normally be direct when I see an opportunity to correct certain behaviors, but I try to balance this with the bright spots that I see in him.”  

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    Even as they sort out the world, boys need the assurance that their family is a safe place to vent, and that he can be himself and not be judged or looked down upon for his thoughts and ideas. “When they are not allowed to express their emotions, it will leak in some other form,” warns Mark. 

    In truth, teenagers still need boundaries--rules without a relationship will result in rebellion. On the other hand, rules with relationship will elicit a response. Leo shares, “I get his (Greg) attention when I talk about things he likes. Sometimes, I take him away for a snack or errand within his favor just to somewhat corner him into a substantial discussion.” 

    The teenage years is the stage of individuation defined as when a boy starts to question all he has been taught. According to Mark, sometimes, your son needs to see some of your weaknesses. Terry says, “the last thing they need is perfect parents! They need to know that you’ve been there.” 

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    Despite having a re-established connection with Greg, Leo shares his regret as a father, “I could have been more purposeful with my son during his growing up years. I thought that the biking together and out-of-town trips with the family would automatically merit a good relationship with him,” he adds. “It had some gains though.”  

    According to Mark and Terry, healing of relationships between fathers and sons don’t always come in serious one-on-one talks. Sometimes, healing comes when you do fun things together and laugh together. “As we represent God’s heart, he’ll use what we have to heal our kids and restore our relationships with them,” they say. 

    Leo advises other dads, “Be an intentional dad! Don’t procrastinate and think that there will always be tomorrow to catch up. It’s a fleeting season. Be available and be a good example.”  

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