I have always loved teenagers. I enjoyed the teen years with my children (2 daughters and 1 son) who are now all adults! There is so much growth that happens in the teen years: physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, financially/etc. It is a new season of parenting when the children transition to teens then teens to young adults. We need to transition our style of parenting so that communication and relationship stay significant.
One of the keys I learned that impacted me the most when my kids were teenagers was to value the relationship with my kids rather than the need to be "right". Greg and I held onto a saying we had heard from a mentor when we were in the throws of parenting, "Rules without relationship leads to rebellion". We chose rules connected to relationship~ so rules bended here and there to keep the relationship strong. And we found that we didn't need as many rules because we had great relationships with our children when they were teenagers and as they moved into becoming young adults.
I want to share 10 tips to parents ~ to keep relationship with your teens the key through these years.
1) Be available~ Spend time with your teen. Show him that he is a top priority to you. As your teen gets older, the “availability” time usually gets later & later in the evening. Keep your heart open to engage in conversation in the late night hours, when he is ready to talk. We had many nights when our girls were teenagers that they would come in the room after midnight with the question, “Mom, are you awake?” My response (in my sleep) was always “Yes…what’s up?” Availability on their time is key.
2) Be real~ Share your real self. Have you ever experienced what your teen is going through? Tell him about it. Let him know that there are things you have struggled with or maybe still struggle with. Your teen doesn’t need a super-human kind of parent. (And anyway, he sees right through any façade you try to put on.)
3) Don’t embarrass your teen~ Avoid public displays of affection that would embarrass him; avoid yelling or correcting him in front of his friends. Use the golden rule “Do unto others as you want done to you”. Don't share with your friends what your teen did wrong. One of the characteristics of love (I Corinthians 13) is that "love protects". Love does not expose. Do not expose your teen in things you say about them (even if he is not around).
4) Pick you battles~ Choose what issues are worth battling over. Greg and I made a rule while we were raising teens, that we would not engage in a battle we wouldn’t win or one that we didn’t really care about. Say “YES” whenever possible. Lindsay, our oldest, wanted to get a 2nd or 3rd ear piecing when she was a teenager. I really didn't like the idea, but it wasn't worth me saying "No". I thought about it and decided that in a short time I wouldn't care and it wasn't affecting her ability to get a job, etc. Think about this: In five years will this matter? Is it something that if I don’t act on it now will be destructive to him?
5) Don’t overreact~ “Pokerface”~ that was my go-to face when inside my mind I was freaking out! Teens need parents to be safe people they can run to when things are falling apart. If you overreact, that will create distance between you & your teen. Ask yourself, “Am I being constructive or destructive to him by my reaction?” You may need to excuse yourself from the confrontation with your teen & get some space so you can think clearly and pray about how to handle the situation. There is always a solution.
6) Ask forgiveness~ Cultivate an atmosphere of “forgiving one another” by asking forgiveness when you are out of line. If you yell at your teen, ask him to forgive you. Don’t qualify it by saying “If you hadn’t done such & such….” ~ humble yourself (be the grown up) and ask forgiveness. This will create an ease for your teen to ask for forgiveness when needed.
7) Take time to listen~ When your teen engages you in conversation, be “all in”. Be quick to listen & slow to speak. Let him share what is on his heart and only offer advice if asked. (I know this is hard for us parents, but our teens need to be equipped to think critically and problem solve, with our guidance.) Simply taking time to listen is one of the best things parents can do. Give eye contact; repeat what you are hearing “So what I hear you saying is….”; ask questions, “How did that make you feel…” or “Wow, do you feel so proud of your accomplishment?” (I found that car time is one of the best places to engage in conversations. Don't give that up too soon, because it is more convenient for your teen to drive himself places.)
8) See what is not yet made visible~ Ask the Lord to give you a vision for your teen that is not made manifest in his life yet~ to see what is not visible. Pray that vision over your teen during your prayer time and remind yourself of the vision when you see behavior that doesn’t line up with what God gave you for your teen. Do not let the “now” affect how you relate to your teen. I know this is hard, but it will keep the relationship solid with your teen, no matter what they are walking through or how far “off” the path he seems to be going. God loves the process with your teen; ask God to give you a love for the process too.
9) Don’t plan your teen’s life ~ Some of the best teachers in your teen's life will be the mistakes that he makes. If we plan everything out for him, he won’t begin to have these lessons until he is out of your home. Ex: A teen should not have to be reminded to do his homework. He is almost an adult, so if he doesn’t do his homework, there will be a natural consequence for him. He will learn a lesson. We want the rug to be pulled up from under their feet while they are still in our home, so we can help them up, wipe off the dust and get them back on the rug. If he is away from us and the rug is pulled out from under him, it will be more of a challenge to dust off & get up. Our teenagers had plenty of natural consequences while in our home that helped prepare them for life outside of our house.
10) You are the parent, not your teen's friend~ It is important to keep the lines of communication open with your teenager, but you also need to make it clear that you are the parent, not his friend. Your teen wants to be understood and loved, but he also wants you to be the parent and set boundaries when needed. There will be plenty of time for you to be the friend of your child (as they become adults). We have the joy now of enjoying the season of friendship with our adult children. My daughters are two of my very best friends.
Parenting is the greatest job in the world and it is the toughest job in the world.
Look at each season of your child's life with excitement and speak out that each season will be an awesome time (not a drudgery). I think that so much of our attitude is affected by what we speak about parenting and what we speak about the various seasons of their lives. The terrible twos does NOT have to be that label.
I spoke out "Terrific twos" and it was!!!!!
Realistically, we all know that in every season there are challenges, but be positive, look to mentors who have been there, and trust the Lord in every season. He knew the perfect parents to give your children. The teen years can be exhausting but exhilarating all at the same time!
You can do it because the Lord believes in you! He has equipped you and will guide you as you lean into Him!
Below is the joy to come for you too! (Our family vacation this summer 2021.) Keep pressing in and trusting the Lord to give you all you need to parent your teen, not perfectly, but to your best ability.