My husband, Jerry, and I have survived raising four teenagers and have lived to tell about it! Someone once said that raising teens is like an alien invading your child when they turn thirteen. Then, somewhere around age twenty, the alien leaves and you recognize this adult as your child! We can relate and testify to this truism.
We raised two teenage sons and two teenage daughters. Although there are LOTS of differences, here are a few of our experiences:
- Don’t sweat the small stuff! As parents, we had to determine what is the small stuff and then stick to it when the crisis arrived. NOT EVERYTHING IS BIG STUFF. This is especially true when you parent the first child.
- Enjoy the time in the car before they drive. Lots of awesome conversations can be had in the car.
- Be ok with the ebbs and flows of their faith. They are learning what THEIR faith looks like. This is a good thing! Tuesday they may not believe in God and Friday they may want to be a preacher. Give them freedom to find their own faith through Scripture, relationships, and conversation.
- Trust but verify. And one much like it: Trust is earned not given. I trust that what they tell me is true. When I verify I am expecting that what they tell me will be true which will cause me to trust them more and verify less in the future. If they don’t tell me the truth or use selective truth, then I will verify more and the whole process starts over again. This concept works in all aspects of life.
- Have a good working definition of disrespect. In this phase of life, teens are pushing the boundaries. That’s normal. Don’t freak out. When parents and teens agree on what words, tones, expressions are considered disrespectful, then the boundaries are understandable. When they push or break the boundary then it won’t be for a lack of understanding. We would give them a five minute “arena” where they could say what they feel without fear of retribution. They couldn’t be disrespectful or sin. This was a way for them to vent and have a voice.
- Allow them to ask any and all questions.No question is off limits. Be calm and responsive. Make sure your answers are scriptural first and experiential second.
- If your teen is a Christian and they are in sin or they argue a topic, ask them what the Bible says. Refer them to what God says. Don’t be a bible thumper but put the heavy on God more than your opinion. They will want to prove you are wrong and they are right.
- PRAY FOR WISDOM, DISCERNMENT, DIRECTION, AND DEVOTION.