Bedroom door locked. Chores undone. Family ignored. Terse words.
These were outer symbols of an inner darkness when my teen went through a season of depression. Trying to show love while maintaining healthy boundaries became a test of motherhood mettle. Our conversations strained through a muffled closed door as I reminded her—again—to please empty the dishwasher or pick up her wet towels.
I longed for conversation, to reassure her, to tell her I loved her—but she withdrew in icy aloofness. It was hard not to feel hurt that she’d shut me out or angry that she’d left another trail of dirty dishes.
On one rare moment of openness, she shared that she’d taken an online love language test, scoring high on words of affirmation. Author Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages concept meant that my idea of “I love you” might be vastly different from hers.
Yikes. Our communication revolved around forgotten chores through a shut door. How could I offer loving words when she barely talked to me? Meanwhile, since my own love language was acts of service, I’d been trying to say “I love you” by doing more.
She couldn’t hear me.
That’s when I stumbled onto a solution. That’s when I tiptoed into her world, to a place where she hung with friends even on her darkest days.
I started saying “I love you” through social media.
First, I became intentional and set a daily reminder on my smart phone. Every day a beep sounded off and “words of affirmation” popped onto my screen.
Next I mined for gold from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and texting. One day I tweeted @HerName and announced to her world how creative she is, with a link to her photography page on Facebook. She’d taken amazing senior portraits of her friends.
Another day I took an adorable baby picture and used an app to add a quote from the movie, The Help. “You is kind, you is smart, you is important,” I inscribed on her photo, with a tiny “Love, Mom” at the bottom. I posted the photo on Instagram and tagged her name.
Sometimes I simply sent a text. Teenagers read approximately 100 percent of their texts, so texting is a no-fail way to reach them. “You are a fireball of potential,” I texted, and that’s when I discovered it was working. She captured a screenshot image of my text and posted the image to her Instagram feed. “Encouragement goes a long way,” she wrote beneath the image, offering a public nod to my private affirmation.
It’s cliché to say, “Can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” but when it comes to your teens and social media, there’s a good chance that you can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. So whether you choose a simple text message that says, “I ♥ U,” or something more elaborate, why not join their conversation? A little love goes a long way in their digital world.