Things To Consider When Raising Teens
I hesitated to write anything on teens because I still feel like such a novice at this. I am only writing because I would have LOVED to have someone explain some things to me years ago, so that I could at least have SOMETHING to refer to when the teen years hit. I can say, at this point, that our experience with teens has been very good…not to be confused with easy.
“Just you wait.” I remember those words well when we had a handful of little ones. “Just you wait until they are teenagers.” I found this to be both irritating and disturbing. First of all, it was hard to imagine our sweet little children ever really challenging us to the degree we had heard that teens can. We also knew better than to be fully convinced that they wouldn’t. We were also hopeful that we were investing well when they were little to help insure that we had their hearts as they moved into “those” years.
As hopeful and positive as I wanted to be, in my gut, I knew the truth: this was uncharted territory and I really did not have a full understanding of what that season of life would be like. It was only a matter of time and I really had no idea how to prepare for it. I prayed a lot. As of now, we have 2 out of the teen years (and married). We also have one who is 19, in his Junior year of college and rarely at home, so it’s hard to count him as a “teen”. We have 3 teen boys in the house (16,15, and 13) as well as an 11 year old girl(who is on the cusp of “teen”) and a 9 year old boy.
So I speak with a little hindsight, but still in the thick of the teen years, with several years to go.
You are probably hoping for some great advice and clear directives on raising teens. I really hate to disappoint you, but the reality is that every family is different and what works for one may not work for another.
So my first piece of advice would be to pray. Pray a lot before they are teens, pray a lot while they are teens. Be specific. Learn to hear from the Lord. So much of what we have dealt with throughout these years are things God brought to our hearts and attention along the way. Pray that your child will “own” his walk with God. We can teach our children to pray. We can read the Bible to them, We can make THEM read the Bible. But we CANNOT force them to walk in real relationship with Him. It’s a work that God has to do. When we really understand this, we are more likely to get out of the way and let Him do the work. We actually look for the ways God is working in that child’s life and try to work WITH Him.
Which brings me to the next thing: Don’t be afraid to let your teens FEEL the full weight of the consequences of their decisions. This starts when they are young. An example would be, when one of our kids cannot get along with his siblings, he has to be alone…alone to the point of really wanting to make the effort to get along. In real life, if we can’t get along with others, we end up alone. No one wants to be with us and, if someone REALLY can’t get along, they end up in a prison cell…alone. The important thing is to come up with natural consequences that “fit the crime”. Proverbs is a great resource for clarifying what actions are “childish” (require grace) and which are “foolish” (require discipline/consequences).
Be willing to admit when you are wrong. Teens see right through us. In fact, they often know us better than we know ourselves and they are not afraid to hold up the mirror when we have our worst face on. There is a fine line here, though, of parents remaining humble and ready to apologize and make things right, and expecting our teens to communicate with honor and respect. Keep the respect going both ways. I speak from experience. I have messed this one up MANY TIMES. I remember crying and telling my husband, “If these kids turn out okay, it will be by the grace of God…and that’s ALL!”
Remember that there is A LOT of hormonal and developmental stuff going on and although we must hold them accountable for their actions, we need to be aware and try to remember how HARD these years can be for our kids. They are figuring out SO many things. When they are younger, they are content to be an “extension” of their parents… much of their identity comes from their parents and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. It sets the stage to lay a solid foundation and opportunity for good training in many areas. But as they move into the teen years, there becomes an awareness that they are separate from us. That they are their own person and they can make their own decisions. This is where things get dicey. They will push those limits on a regular basis. This is natural and the way that God intended it, but it’s like being out on the dance floor and trading off who is leading and who is following. We need to let them start slowly making their own decisions(leading for longer and longer periods of time). What areas those happen in and in what order is something we have to be Spirit led in. It often requires a lot of communication and long talks. And usually late at night. That can be REALLY hard, especially if you have little ones at home. Let’s face it, we are POOPED! I wasn’t always very good at hiding my feelings, but what kept me from sending the teens away was the fact that they WERE talking to me. We want our teens to know that we are available to talk whenever they need to talk.
And can I say this? If you make a decision and then realize it was not a good one, guess what? You can change your mind. I will warn you, it may not set well with your teen, but it’s a great test of your relationship and your teen’s willingness to honor you as their parent and to do what is right. But be prepared to explain your reasons. In other words, make sure your reasons are valid. Being “real” with your kids along the way is so important. The older our kids get, the more we explain to them our reasoning behind many of our decisions. Because we have made this a habit, our kids have learned that process and what makes sense in decision making. They also know if God’s word says something about anything, THAT is the basis for our choices.
Lastly, be watchful without being paranoid. It is easy to assume the worst (fear can often grip us during the teen years), but it can also be easy to miss things. Be a student of your children from the beginning so you are aware of any changes that are going on. Most of all ENJOY YOUR KIDS. As much as there is potential for conflict during these years, there is potential for a wonderful, growing friendship. We love the adults that our kids (so far) have become. We enjoy them as friends, confidants and encouragers. Kids (and teens) respond to parents who not only love them, but also LIKE them. And if you go through difficulty with your teens, remember that no matter how rocky those years can be, they are NOT necessarily the end of the story. God’s good that way.