Preparing for Parenting Teens

Question

We have two children who are approaching adolescence and we’ve heard way too many horror stories of parenting teenagers.  Do you have any wisdom as to how we can best prepare to parent our two emerging adolescents?

Answer

Adolescence is a bridge between childhood and adulthood, between immaturity and maturity.  It can be a tumultuous season of radical change, role confusion, raging hormones, confusing cultural forces and a roller coaster of emotions they don’t understand.

It’s a challenging season that includes developing abstract-thinking and problem-solving skills, discovering who they are and who they want to become, adjusting to sexually maturing bodies, assuming the responsibility of becoming an adult, making decisions and dealing with the consequences of those decisions, and deciding if and how God is relevant to their world.

It’s also a time of tremendous spiritual warfare.  Josh McDowell has documented research indicating that anywhere from 69 to 94 percent of our youth are leaving the church after high school and according to that research, few are returning.

The good news is that it’s also a time when the “Faith of Our Fathers” can become their own faith.  Where they decide which of our values will become their values, and that’s where wise parents can make all the difference in the world.

Parenting adolescent children can be one of the most challenging and difficult times in a marriage.  In fact, it’s in this season of marriage that couples routinely report the lowest levels of marital satisfaction.  That’s why the essential first step is for you to cultivate a strong, healthy, Christ-centered marriage.  One that provides security and stability and where, consistent with Deut. 6:4-9, the truths of Christ can be both taught and caught.

Let them see where and how your faith actually makes a difference in the real world.  Share your failures and what God taught you through them.  Model for them the difference between being a hearer and a doer.  Don’t just pray for them but pray with them.  Talk with other parents about what they’re learning and pray for each other’s families.

Pretend you are missionaries in a foreign country, and that country is the adolescent world of your child.  A typical evening in this foreign country might involve them catching up with their friends on Facebook while sending and receiving tweets, talking on their cell phone while checking a new Facebook entry while listening to their iPod with the TV on in the background while doing homework.  Make time to understand their world.

Learn their language.  Maintain open communication with them.  Listen longer, ask more questions, think before blurting out your “solutions” and make your home a safe place to discuss anything.  Especially difficult, awkward and unpleasant things.

Research tells us that, even though it may seem you’re having no impact on them, that parents have an enormous impact on their adolescent children.  With God’s help seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to demonstrate who Christ is and the difference that He can make in their lives.  It will be well worth it.

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