FAQs

Big Questions
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Relationships

Q It seems that once she became a teen, my daughter stopped sharing what’s happening in her life. There seems to be a wall between us that I can’t break through. Any suggestions?

A Children develop in predictable ways. In the same way the “terrible twos” is a developmental stage where children experience a heightened need to do things for themselves without parental help, so teens are in a stage where they are learning to become individuals and needing to develop their own identities apart from those of their parents.

In this stage your teen will transfer her point of reference primarily from you to her peers. You will find that responses to your questions about her day or her life will mostly be “fine,” or “nothing,” or “I don’t know.” Although this can be frustrating for parents, it’s normal and even necessary for teens to go through this stage as part of their maturation process toward adulthood.

It’s important not to try to break through the wall your daughter has erected between you. Trying to do so may make her (unconsciously) feel the need to make the wall thicker and higher, which means she will withdraw even more. This is normal, just as it is normal for you to want to continue to have a close relationship with your child.

Because you are the parent, the executive in your home, you can take the long view here. Your close relationship with your daughter will most likely return once she successfully completes the stage of individuation.

In the meantime, your focus for your daughter needs to change from having her close to you to keeping her safe. Know who her friends are and encourage her to invite them to your house. Get to know them, and do not be critical of them to your daughter. Because of her identification with her peers, criticizing them is criticizing her; it’s not helpful.

Rather, exercise your right as a parent to know where she is at all times and with whom. Connect with the parents of her friends to set reasonable limits together, such as no parties without parental supervision.

In spite of your daughter’s apparent distancing from you, you continue to be the most important influence on her life—for good or for ill. Do not judge her as selfish or lazy or bad as she navigates this challenging stage in her life. Instead, have faith in your daughter; expect the best from her, be proud of her. And remember your own teenage years. All of us did foolish things when we were young, but we grew up to become nice, responsible adults!

You will find that taking the long view will pave the way for a renewed close relationship between you and your adult daughter that is even richer and more rewarding than the closeness that you experienced as a mother with a dependent child.

—Judy CookJudy Cook is a family therapist and clinical director of Salem Christian Counseling Services, Hamilton, Ontario.

Bible

Q In John 20:17 Jesus told Mary Magdalene not to touch him. Did that mean he was not flesh and blood anymore? A few verses later John says that Jesus came into a room even though the doors were locked. Was he like a ghost?

A There was something different about the body of Jesus after the resurrection. He entered a locked room and yet was a physical person once in the room. The first time he invited all who were there to “touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). To further prove he was not a ghost, he asked for something to eat and “they gave him a piece of broiled fish . . . and [he] ate it in their presence” (Luke 24:42-43). The second time Jesus came into the locked room he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side” (John 20:27).

Undoubtedly Jesus was greeted on these occasions with handshakes, hugs, and kisses. Most likely the seven disciples present when Jesus publicly reinstated Peter had physical contact with the Savior (John 21). Mary Magdalene touched him. The other women “clasped his feet and worshiped him” (Matt. 28:9). When Jesus repeatedly appeared to his followers during the 40 days between the resurrection and the ascension (Acts 1:3), there is every reason to believe that the normal encounters of touch continued and that Jesus specifically invited doubters to touch him.

The impression that Jesus did not want people to touch him resulted because one of the older Bible versions translated John 20:17 as, “Touch me not.” The newer translations say, “Do not hold on to me” or “Do not cling to me.” Mary is not prohibited from touching Jesus. She is told not to cling to him because there will be opportunity to see him before he ascends to prepare a place for believers in his Father’s house (John 14:2-3). Instead, she is encouraged to share the good news of his resurrection and coming ascension.

—George Vander WeitGeorge Vander Weit recently retired as pastor of Fuller Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.

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