We have read about the Seven Cries of today's teens. The response is up to us. Will we heed the cries? Will we reply to their requests for attention? Or will we get back to our routines, avoiding their cries with the busy hubbub of our schedules? You may be struggling with if-onlys.

  • If only I had been a better parent.
  • If only we hadn't gotten a divorce.
  • If only we lived in a better neighborhood.
  • If only I had more help.
  • If only I had more money.

Parents of teens frequently ask me, "Where did I mess up? Am I missing something
here?"

I remind them that God was the perfect parent. He created the perfect man and the perfect woman and placed them in the perfect environment. It was the best neighborhood around! And look what happened! Who are we to think that we can be parents and not have challenges with our teens too?

God understands what it is like to be a parent. He knows what it is like to have rebellious children. He knows the pain of losing children to death. He also knows the joys of new life and the prodigal who returns home. You are not alone in your parenting. God understands and is compassionate. He can relate.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good
work in you will carry it on to completion until the
day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

You are not alone. God is at work within you and your teen. He is committed to helping you complete the task of preparing your teen to be a mature, godly, young adult.

I know there is much work to be done to get our teens ready for life. But here's the secret: We don't have to do it all! God will send people into our teens' lives to complete them. God will send some sandpaper, files, and rasps to finish off the rough edges. To put into perspective, remember this: God is more committed to completing the good work He began in your teen than you are.

We do not have to do it all before our teens leave home. The finishing day is not when they move out; it's when Christ comes. That is why it may take more than eighteen years you have with your child.

But what will you do with the time you have? How will you respond to the Seven Cries of today's teens?

Remember when your teen was a baby and cried in the middle of the night? Chances are, you got out of your warm, comfortable bed and responded to your child's cry. It would be insensitive to ignore your child's cries and not met her needs. It would be ridiculous to hear your baby cry and go next door to tend the needs of the neighbor's child. You focus on the cries of your child.

The same is true for teenagers. We each need to heed the cry of our own teen and seek to meet his need. We do not need to respond to the cries of the kid next door. We do not need to respond to the cries of the kid next door. We do not need to respond to the cries of every troubled teen we see loitering and smoking on the corner. We respond to the cries of our own teens.

Every parent needs to respond to the cry of his or her own teenager. If we all did, we would have an entirely different scenario with today's teens. But it takes getting out of our comfortable chair, bed, or routine to engage our teens. It takes commitment to provide security and refuge. Our teens will feel secure when we respond to their needs. And home will become a refuge from the adolescent storm.

There will never be an ideal time to build a relationship with your teen. There will never be an ideal time to teach. There will never be an ideal teen or an ideal parent to guide the maturing process. All you have is the reality of this day, this teen, and who you are.

In a country that has been rocked to its foundation, it is crucial that we provide security and refuge to our teenagers. Security is more than public safety; it's inner confidence: I'm trusted, loved, and have a purpose. It's the sense: I'm being heard and have value. These are ways we can support our teens in uncertain times.

These are gifts that only parents can give their children. If children fail to receive these gifts from their parents, they have difficulty acquiring them later. Everything depends on whether the modern American family can provide a secure refuge for our teens - a shelter.

A place where their cries are heard.

Tim Smith, the author of The Seven Cries of Today's Teens, works with children, youth, and family members at Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, California. As an author, he has written a dozen books for teens, parents, men and families, and is also an in-demand speaker for these audiences. He is currently presenting a national seminar based on the Seven Cries and is a Research Fellow with the George H. Gallup International Institute. He and his wife have two daughters.

Excerpted with permission of Integrity Publishers, Copyright 2003 by Tim Smith. Visit Integrity at
http://www.integritypublishers.com