Just kidding. But you got a little excited there, didn’t you? I mean, wouldn’t it be great if someone could tell you in a hundred words or less how to get through those interesting, challenging, mind blowing, years of raising teens without pulling your hair out?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I love raising teens. I didn’t think that I would, but I do. Like many parents, the fears I had about the potential pitfalls of those years had me freaking out about going through it FOUR times. I am happy to say, it has been my very favorite stage of parenting to date. While I have loved pretty much every stage, this one, this time that worried me so, has been great. I will put out this disclaimer: I have great kids, not perfect kids, but great ones. I mean, I know you do, too, but I am serious here. My kids don’t drink, smoke, or chew and they don’t swap spit with kids that do. Now if that were all twenty first century parents had to worry about I think we’d all feel comfortable going away for the weekend and leaving them with the house. Parenting teens today has a whole new set of pitfalls and snares that our parents didn’t have to worry about.
Mostly when I say I have great kids, I believe it’s more in spite of me than because of me, but I do think Matthew and I have done one or two things right. I’ll tell you what those things are, just in case those things might help you navigate this unique stage of child rearing. I’ll share the first four today, and the last four on Wednesday. (I’m sure the anticipation will make you crazy.)
Alright, here you go:
Find parenting mentors| Matthew and I met a really cool couple several years ago who had successfully raised three children to adulthood who all happily served the Lord and loved their family. We watched this family, and asked those people LOTS of questions. We asked their kids some, too. How did they do it? We learned a lot from that family, and much of what we learned we use with our teens today. One of the best things we learned from our mentors was how to take things in stride. Most things are not nearly as desperate as they seem in the moment. Ask yourself, “Is this going to matter in five years?” Most of the time it won’t. But for those things that will, stay vigilent!
Get reinforcements| Find a young adult to spend time with your tween or teen and invest in them. Someone who loves the Lord and holds the same values you do and are trying to instill into your kids. Pay this person to spend time with your kids if you have to. They will say what you are saying to your teen, only they will say it cooler. News Flash: you are not as cool in your kid’s eyes as you were when they were five.
Making their faith their own| Kids entering middle school need to have a conversation with you about owning their faith if they have not already. They can and will ride along on your faith skirt tails as long as they can, but the time comes when they have to step up and make it their own. This will shape how they act, who they choose as friends, and how willing they are to be salt and light among their peers over the next few years. This is not something you can leave to chance. Even if your child became a Christian at a young age as ours did, they still need to “grow up” in their faith just as their bodies and minds are growing up.
Get them into meaningful service within the body of Christ| Sixty percent of all kids raised in church leave the church in their early twenties. How can we prevent this? Matthew and I firmly believe that if your kid spends time in your church or other Christian organization serving in meaningful ministry, (as in their presence there actually matters and they are really making a difference) they will get a taste of how it feels to be used by God, and they will never want to be without that feeling. Your church should offer these opportunities to kids as young as sixth grade. If they don’t, find a church that does. Mercy Lokulutu of Celebration church in Florida says to students,“We don’t need you to be the church of tomorrow, we need you to be the church of today.” (www.mercylokulutu.com)
So if you are just starting on this journey of parenting a tween or teen, or if you’ve been at it for a while, hopefully these tips will help. Matthew and I have blundered up plenty in raising our kids and we have found that God’s grace does cover a multitude of sins. Teens need parents who are engaged and plugged in, not fearful parents or parents who are too busy to invest in them.