There are hundreds of books and blogs on raising children. You can find umpteen ways to sleep train your baby, wear your baby, feed your toddler, teach kids to read, and dozens of techniques on how to motivate them. But start looking for books and tips on how to handle your teenager, and the market thins significantly. I think I know why too. We parents of teenagers don’t want to draw a lot of attention to ourselves, lest it become unbearably obvious that we don’t know what we are doing! I have a decade of teenage parenting behind me, and three teenagers in my house, yet I still feel unqualified on the subject.
What I can say is that in this final season of “childhood,” I’ve felt God work a gentle overhaul in my heart, as He shows me that I’m not the piece that holds this all together, whether through my kindness or my wisdom or presence. I’m also not the destroyer of their futures through any of my lacks. It’s less and less up to me.
It’s unsettling to transition from the mother of little ones whose literal survival depended on my daily presence to more of a coaching role. Sometimes my heart is in my throat as I watch them struggle or hurt while resisting help or advice. Sometimes I cringe at the things they say or do, knowing those may come back to bite them, but I cannot protect them from life’s lessons, nor do I want to. Most of the time, of course, watching them achieve, succeed, learn, mature, and grow is wonderful!
I hesitate to call these tips, because I’m not suggesting I know anything more than someone else, but here are some of the things that are helping me today:
Pray. Prayer is my safe place. I can work out my fears and hopes and dreams, and ultimately surrender everything to Jesus.
Let go. I try not to get stuck on any of my kids’ lives looking any particular way. There are lots of twists and turns.
Come alongside. They still need a coach, a guide, and a cheerleader. I can be that.
Give time. Time translates to love. Spending time on their needs goes a long way. Clean their room once in a while, learn a bit about something they’re interested in, talk with them (even if they mostly want to do it late at night).
Communicate trust. Showing confidence in their ability to figure stuff out, and letting them know they have the freedom to fail and learn and try again is so important.
Lead them to Jesus and God’s Word. He doesn’t stop being faithful and true just because their faith gets wobbly.
Ask me again in a year, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say—and maybe something to recant. But I’m learning, and maybe more importantly—I’m learning how to learn. Good luck to us all.