In my estimation, one of the most crucial points in a child’s life is when they become a teenager. Things are different now and suddenly the ol’ “Because I said so!” mantra doesn’t work as well as it used to. You can still use it, but it will backfire in the long run.
Parents need to make the transition from telling their kids what to do to how to make their own decisions. Behavior control for little kids is good; they need that. But when the teen years start rolling around, it’s vital that they learn how to make their own choices.
So what exactly is going on here with these newly christened teens?
Their minds and hearts are growing. Not only are they changing physically, but personally and spiritually. They wrestle with bigger questions. In fact, they start to question everything. From your curfew time to family vacation spots, to church and authority (some out loud, some quietly to themselves). So what’s the best way to approach this?
Let me just say that I don’t think there is a “best way.” As Pastor James MacDonald says, raising children isn’t like cutting cookies. There’s no one-size-fits-all. That being said, there are still some really good things and some really bad things you can do.
Here’s 5 things I’ve noticed from my life and from watching others:
- Don’t shelter. Some parents believe in “My kids won’t see anything, do anything, go anywhere, be with anyone!!!” But the problem is you won’t have them forever. It’s much better to deal with their heart now then later.
- Answer questions. Teens will have questions. Don’t diminish them, and don’t make fun of them for asking (what may seem to you) a stupid question. Try to answer it as best you can. But when they ask something hard or perhaps out of your field of expertise…
- Admit when you don’t know something. I’ve found that when I’m support raising, people have some very good questions about Poland, some that I’ve never thought of before. Instead of stumbling my way through a made-up answer, I’ll just say “Honestly, I don’t know right now. But I’ll do my best to find out.”
- Bring up topics. There’s some things that you will need to bring up yourself. One of the biggest ones with teens is sex. I truly believe that the sexual rampancy with teens would go down if more parents had honest, open talks about sex with their teens. Not vulgar, shock talk; and certainly not this Victorian, “don’t say this or that word” thinking. We need honest, open, sensitive talks that bring them back to how the Bible views sex. *End soap box rant* 😉
- Guide their thinking, and by this I mean, help them think through things for themselves. Staying on the topic of sex, make them answer why they think it’s unwise to have sex before marriage. Show them 1 Corinthians 6:18 and have them read it out loud instead of you. Ask them what it means. It’s one thing to be taught something, it’s another to sort it out with your own words.
What do you do to help your teen? What did your parents do or didn’t do?