I have young teenagers. My oldest is 14. My second oldest is 13. I also have an 11 year old and a 9 year old. I am NOT an expert at teenagers, but then again, who is?
There will be a lot I learn about teenagers in the next decade. And there is a lot that others know that I don’t- even at this stage- but maybe someone else has young teenagers and can at least feel like they aren’t alone.
Living with teenagers is not like living with toddlers. Granted, there can still be a lot of tears, but the tears are different. More intense. Usually because the tears don’t come from not being allowed a piece of candy, they come from heartache. Life with teenagers is definitely not for the faint of heart, but it can be very rewarding.
Here are a few things I’ve learned so far in my journey of being a parent to teenagers….
#1. You will learn to rely more and more on God. When they were little, you kept them safe. You decided what they could or couldn’t do, where they could or couldn’t go, what they could or couldn’t eat. You decided EVERYTHING! However, that isn’t a popular choice for parenting teenagers because our ultimate goal should be producing self-sufficient, respectful young adults and the only way that can happen is by giving THEM more and more freedom. As they spread their wings and test the waters- without your ever watchful eye always there- you learn to pray more for sure!!! I know I have!
#2. You will make mistakes and it is o.k. to tell your teen you are sorry! Look, parents, we are NOT perfect! We are ALL sinners saved by grace. Just because we’ve been on this earth for 20+ years longer than they have does NOT make us immune to mistakes! Each child is different, each situation is different, and there is not always a one way answer. Plus, let’s face it, we’re dealing with hormonal teenagers who are also sinners saved by grace. It’s bound to blow up sometimes. So admit you made a mistake, ask for forgiveness, and demonstrate Christ’s love and forgiveness when they make a mistake.
#3. There are ALWAYS consequences. I tell my kids this ALL the time. With teenagers, though, the consequences become bigger. You also cannot always bail them out. Teenagers need to live with their choices, but this is where demonstrating Christ’s love can come into play. They will make mistakes. Sometimes their mistakes are big. Sometimes their mistakes are shocking! Never let what your teenager did be a reason to not love them. There is punishment for sin- the Bible tells us the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)- but God loved us so much that the “gift of God is eternal life“. So yeah, let there be consequences, but never forget the love.
#4. Never stop reaching. When they were babies, you held them while you rocked them to sleep. When they were toddlers, you held grimy hands as you walked through the store. When they were in elementary school, you were freely given hugs- at least at home. It’s pretty normal for teenagers to pull away from you- it is all part of discovering who they are as an individual- not as mom and dad’s kid. I make it a habit to reach over and stroke my teenager’s hand whenever she’s riding in the passenger seat of my car, I do high 5s even if I get an eye roll, I give hugs- often. Even if they don’t really feel like it.
#5. When you listen- listen. I get it, we’re all busy. There’s always school work to be done, sports to be shuttled to or from, chores, church, and just life in general. When they were little, they talked ALL THE TIME. Now that mine are reaching the teenage years, they’re actually talking less and less. When they do talk, it’s probably important- at least to them. I’m learning to be intentional when they talk. To purposefully set my phone aside and look them in the eye when they talk. It’s hard- especially if we’re in the middle of a billion other projects. And if you aren’t quite to the teenage years, listen up! Start doing this NOW! It isn’t just a teen thing!
Are you the parent of teenagers? Do you have anything to add?