I love my job. The hours can be crazy at times with unpredictable demands and rigorous expectations. It is not a glamour job or a resume builder, nonetheless I have one of the most powerful and influential jobs in the universe. I am the mother of a teenager.
As the mother of three daughters, two who have already survived the teenage years, my husband and I approached those years with some apprehension: How would we deal with the unexpected highs and lows? The conflicting pressures that come from all directions? Pressures, highs and lows? It sounded like the ingredients for a perfect storm.
It didn’t take us long to realize that our daughters would face temptations and pressures that were similar to what we knew as teens, yet in many ways magnified. When my husband and I were teens, we could not have imagined online chats, social networks and electronic information. As parents, we noticed many teens who had unlimited access to computers, cars and credit cards and witnessed how they could be a curse, as well as a blessing.
Along the way, God brought other parents who had successfully parented teens into our life. We also remembered the life lessons that our own parents had taught us. We listened, we watched, and we prayed. Here is a sampling of what we learned:
- Stay abreast of technology. If you aren’t already connected, learn all you can about the internet and how information is exchanged. Most teens have a false sense of privacy when they are on the internet, especially when networking and using email. As we take advance from technology experts, we can learn about internet risks and how to protect our families.
- Spend time together. As simple as this sounds, we are often so consumed with the tasks of daily living that we do not give our teens the gift of time. It is tempting to believe that our role as parents is coming to an end; however, this is a time when our sons and daughters need us most. They have tough questions that require honest answers. Know your teen. Make their concerns, your concerns.
- Serve others. Sometimes God’s richest blessings to our teens come in unexpected ways. There is a deep satisfaction that comes from caring for the needs of others, especially those whom God has placed in our communities and whose needs are often overlooked. They will benefit from your teen’s loving care and your teen will learn from their life experiences. Your pastor may be able to recommend someone who is in need.
- Stake out a stress-free zone. Eliminate the nonessentials and enjoy each other. Turn off the technology and find a quiet place where there is no itinerary or interruptions. For our family, the outdoors is a place where we can relax, recharge and reconnect. Occasionally retreating to a world outside of ourselves helps us clear away our mental clutter and renew our appreciation for each other.
- Set boundaries. Rules reflect our love and safety concerns for our teens. The consequences of decisions that our teens make, both positively and negatively, will be with them for a lifetime. My husband and I gave our teens authority only after they had fully understood and repeated demonstrated responsibility. For example, the authority to drive a car requires not only funds to purchase fuel, but continual maintenance, cleaning, insurance, and consistent obedience to laws and curfews. Whose responsibilities will these be—yours, mine, or ours? Make it clear. Spell it out.
- Strengthen the strengths. Most teens struggle with a gnawing sense of inadequacy. They are trying to find their way—from what they know as a child to the unknowns and uncertainties of their life as an adult. As we spend time with them, we can help them recognize and appreciate their strengths. Explore internship possibilities and opportunities to “shadow” professionals who share your teen’s interests and giftedness. Teens flourish when their strengths and interests meet. The mentorship of an encouraging adult is invaluable.
- Support them in prayer. One of the favorite memories of my teenage years was to see my mother sitting at the kitchen table in prayer. My burdens were her prayers. She not only took me to church, she worshiped with me. More than an example, she taught me what she knew to be true: We have a faithful God who loves us more than we can imagine.
Our heavenly Father knows that as parents we struggle with guilt and worry. Like our teens, we feel inadequate for the role that we play. Yet, because of the sacrifice of His Son, we are forgiven. In Him, we are fully adequate; in Him, we are more than sufficient. “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)
God is for us. He hears more than we can ever say when we voice the concerns we have for our teens to Him. After all, even in the midst of the storm, they’re His children, too.