Taming the Monster: Preparing for the Teen Years
- Thursday, February 17, 2011
3. Pick your battles. I have a friend whose teenage son left the house in tattered and garish clothing she felt was very inappropriate for him to wear in public. As she complained to her husband, he helped her keep perspective with this question: “Is it sin?” That became the quote my husband and I would repeat as we faced issues like piercing, clothing, and hairstyle. Is it sin? We decided early on that outward appearances would change with the times, and we were more interested with what would last for eternity: their commitment to Christ. The fact that my children were living for the Lord with enthusiasm certainly made their outward appearance or other more trivial issues pale in comparison. Major on the major issues, and let the minor ones die.
4. Be available. Teens do not talk when they are not in the mood. Mostly they respond in grunts and one-syllable words. Unfortunately, many parents think that once their kids clear elementary or middle school, it is safe to extend working hours or involvement outside the home. I found that it was the exact opposite with my own family. As their lives became the focus of our household, I dropped many of my own activities and spent a lot of time just hanging around the house. As the kids felt the need to share a problem or discuss an issue, I was ready and available. When I sensed they needed some time, I would stop what I was doing and give them my complete attention. It always seemed that my kids would be in the mood to talk when I was in my nightgown, turning off lights and heading for bed. “Mom, do you have a minute?” I would inwardly sigh and know I would be staying up late again. Those late night talks became the backbone of our relationship as deep thoughts were shared and heart to heart communication took place.
5. Don’t be afraid to touch. Most of my children went through an “anti-touch” phase in their lives during their middle school years. I knew they were not interested in or were embarrassed to be hugged and kissed, so instead I would rub their shoulder or smooth their hair. Find some way to keep physical contact alive. Teenagers need human contact as much as the rest of us. As they matured through adolescence, eventually even my most resistant child began hugging me once more.
6. Stay involved. I am a teacher in a large K-12 Christian school, and it amazes me to see the lack of parent involvement in school once children leave the elementary grades. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to know about your teenager’s world. Go to parent-teacher conferences and open houses. You will be demonstrating your interest in what is important to them with your physical presence. Get to know the leaders in your child’s life: their teachers, coaches, youth leaders, etc. Offer help when you can. I spent six years as the booster’s secretary for my kids’ marching band. I knew more than my children did about upcoming competitions and concerts. I had to be around after practices to hand out fliers and letters to parents. This gave me great opportunities to have contact with the people who were a part of my children’s lives. Sew costumes, stuff envelopes, or be a driver to events. You will get to know other parents as well as your teens’ friends.
7. Be a cheerleader. Whether your adolescent admits it or not, he wants you to see him perform. Gone are the days when your child would call out, “Mom! Dad! Watch this!” They may even verbally discourage you from coming to watch their events. Yet in their hearts, they still value your support and appreciation for their abilities. Whether it is a basketball game, a part in the school play, or a concert, make sure you are there and seated where they can see you. I was the assistant director of the school talent show for a few years. Parents would have been amazed at how many teens peeked through the curtain to make sure their parents had arrived. You will never regret attending a single event.
In summary, loving your child takes on a different slant when you are dealing with the adolescent years, because his needs have changed. Though they are outwardly becoming more independent, they still need your interest, involvement, and godly guidance. Your acceptance and appreciation means so much to them. Give them opportunities to see that you care. The bond that you nurture will be a blessing for the rest of your lives.
Julie Coleman loves to teach the Word of God! With contagious enthusiasm, she brings hope and encouragement to her audience through rich biblical teaching. Julie uses humor and personal stories to make her teaching entertaining as well as meaningful. Her warm and insightful messages make her an effective and well-received speaker.
During her 20 year teaching career, Julie received professional recognition including being named Anne Arundel County Teacher of the Year. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Capital Bible Seminary. Julie and her husband, Steve, have four grown children and make their home in the Annapolis, Maryland area.
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