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As any mom would know, or eventually learns, parenting is about transitions if it’s about nothing else…
… from pregnancy to birth and “new mommyhood”,
… the transition to verbal communication,
… beginning the school years,
… the middle school years and the earnest launch of independence.
With each stage, our roles move into new and (often) unchartered stages, too. Life as a parent is fundamentally a series of transitions which repeatedly require us to dodge and weave and roll with it all.
As much as I loved the years that my kids were little, however, the teenage years were so much richer.
Yes, I wistfully remember playing blocks together on the floor, and endless rounds of Candyland, and finger painting, and making crafts out of snacks and snacks out of crafts.
But the teen years, despite being fraught with sleep-deprived nights, were when the parenting “rubber hits the road”, so to speak. I remember having deep conversations way past my bedtime discussing a myriad of topics: conflicts with friends, challenges to my teens’ faith, relationship heartaches and breakups, and confusion about their future as they began to navigate what to do with the rest of their lives.
And, yes, while those few short years are that much more turbulent, too, at this point in the parenting journey, you begin to realize that time flies by all too quickly, and there’s not a dang thing you can do about it. There’s just no “stop” or even “pause” button on this crazy ride.
So today I’d like to share with you two vital lessons I’ve learned from experience about transitions during the teen years, and a few tips that may help you hold on as you go through them.
Truth #1: It’s NOT about “you”
We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself. Romans 15:1b-3a
It’s super easy to take things personally when you have teens in the house. Emotions run high as they experiment with their growing independence and abilities. Frustration builds, and they may say things they don’t really mean. It’s important for us to remember during those times that we don’t need to buy into their frustration; realize that they’re having trouble navigating this season as well. When they push back, remember that it’s not about you.
Here are a few things we can do as parents to smooth out the difficult moments during those years:
Look for ways to bless your teen, as I’ve written about here. Teaching your teens compassion and empathy (at any age) is very often caught rather than taught. And imagine the healing balm of a kind word or action on a turbulent teen’s heart!
Encourage them to develop routines. This will minimize a lot of friction that’s caused when we expect our time schedules to be their time schedules. Routines encourage them to develop processes and manage their own time, as opposed to scheduling, which requires fitting into an arbitrary time period.
Keep in mind that because they’re stretching their independence there’s going to be a lot of trial and error. And that stuff’s not easy to schedule.
Maintain a running conversation about the concept of choices. Help your teen realize that they can make their own choices, even though some of them will be mistakes. Allowing them to take ownership of those mistakes will set them up for an awesome adulthood. Oh, it’s oh-so-hard, at least in my experience, to let them fail! But it’s important for them to experience consequences, which they will get very familiar with as adults.
Parenting tip: If you’re reading this as a parent of not-yet-teens, a great book/tool to help teach your kids about choices and their consequences is “Sticky Situations”. It’s a year’s worth of situations that your child may face in life, potential options for discussion, and relevant Scripture to help them work through the decision-making process.
Truth #2: Now is NOT the time to give up or give in!
Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 2 Cor 9:13
As our teens approach adulthood, It’s tempting for parents to feel like it’s time to check out and live for ourselves. But let me assure you: in terms of parenthood, now is not the time to quit.
The flip side of the consequences coin is that your teen still does need your guidance and support. It’s crucial for them to hear from you now, even though they may push back. Trust me, taking the easy way out of conflict will not end well in the long run.
Continue to speak into their lives while giving them growing freedom. Unfortunately, there’s no exact recipe for how much input is too much or too little, and there will be times you overstep or underserve. Just find the lesson in each experience and move on…
Ya’ see, there’s a difference between letting go and launching. There’s nothing as inspiring and symbolic of freedom as a helium-filled balloon being released into the air. It’s can be quite mesmerizing as it rises and sails off. But we all know that most of the time, it won’t really go too far.
Launching a rocket-ship, however, is a far different thing. It involves the time and energy of many people as money and skills are poured into the project. After the initial excitement of its launch, we watch it rise powerfully into the air, the booster rockets falling off as it shoots off to its destination.
Parenting during the teen years is so much more like launching a rocket than releasing a helium balloon. Additionally, the transitions are that much more intense. When you launch a rocket, it needs fuel for the long run and that initial boost to get it off the ground. You, mom and dad, are the initial fuel and that booster rocket. You will provide them with the force to be released into the world. Once they reach the outer stratosphere, they, too, will release you as they shoot towards the life God has prepared for them before time began.
The process can be bouncy and a little stressful. But keeping these truths in mind can help YOU as you prepare your teen for adulthood.