My wife and I were young parents. As our kids were growing up, we were doing a lot of growing up ourselves, so sometimes we felt that we made missteps along the way.

Growing, learning, and getting better are all a part of parenting, but doing it while you are still maturing yourself makes it that much harder.

And as I became a grandparent, aka “Papa,” it became my mission to not make the same mistakes. I wanted to provide a positive voice and influence in the lives of my lil dudes, Jaden and Liam. I set the intention and goal to always pay attention to the details of my grandsons’ lives and to be a listening ear when they need it. No matter the topic, no matter the predicament, no matter the time, I always want to be available so I can help in any way I can.

Check out some of our tips: Here’s What Good Listening Looks Like

Six years ago, I received this message from, Jaden.

He told me as he handed me this note,

“You are the best pop, thank you for being my pop.”

I still think about how we are a kid’s biggest influence.

My social media family has also seen the struggles that my relatives and I have been through over the last year or so, and, as you know, it hasn’t been easy. Like the rest of you, life has only gotten more difficult with the stresses of the pandemic, family illnesses, coping with death, and many other problems that we struggle with on a day-to-day basis.

Read other CO parents’ stories: Tough Times Connecting With Youth: Parents in Their Own Words 

One of the biggest realizations that I have had over the course of these 12+ months is that life is too short to live indecisively. Although my journey is never complete, I am choosing to make a conscious decision to be intentional with my actions in my job, my day-to-day, and especially with my family. Now that Jaden is entering his early teenage years and Liam is about to be nine years old and entering important life stages, I have made the choice to be more present than ever.

“Being a part of their practices and games several times a week as a coach gives me more opportunities to be a positive light in their lives. I see the growth and positive impact that it has on them athletically but, more importantly, as young people.”

Some of you may be struggling to connect with your kids or family members, and I’ll be the first to tell you that it isn’t always the easiest thing. But if you set that intention and make the conscious goal to be there regardless of the circumstances, it will get easier to have that open relationship.

Keep persevering through those initial awkward conversations and, eventually, you will get to a place where you understand your loved ones more because they simply understand the level of care that you have for them. I’m rooting for you, your kids are rooting for you, and your family is rooting for you. Go make the connection, have the conversation, and build the relationship the right way!

Start the Conversation: Here’s What to Ask Your Kids to Get Them Talking

Many years ago, my pastor said, “If a child chooses to follow you, where will you lead him?” I still live by those words today. The more mentors the better, we can all move forward together.

Connecting with Your Teen

Try these steps based on research-based methods to connect with your teen:

  1. Express Care: Listen, encourage and show up.
  2. Challenge Growth: Encourage them to be their best, promote accountability, reflect constructively on failures.
  3. Provide Support: Help navigate them through challenges.
  4. Share Power: Show them that you respect them and their input in decisions-especially ones that impact them.
  5. Expand Possibilities: Inspire them. Introduce them to people, places, and opportunities that will help them grow as people.

Tony Valdez

Tony is a husband, father of three, grandfather of two, radio DJ and community leader raised here in the Mile-High City.