“Thoughts on Parenting Teenagers”
by Lisa Walters
In those first few months of parenting a newborn, my husband and I were told to make sure we treasured the time because (say it with me) “She’ll grow up so fast!”
Turns out they were right.
Right now we have two teenagers in our home. Our girls are 14 and almost 16, and although it’s not always easy, we are enjoying this stage of our parenting.
I’d like to share a little of what my husband and I have learned about parenting these beautiful, emotional, enigmatic, maturing beings called teenagers.
(And before I go any further, please understand …
that these were learned through trial and error—lots of error. We are not experts, nor do we claim any special parenting abilities. We have been driven to our knees as we cried out to God for wisdom, and he’s faithfully answered that prayer.)
Thoughts on Parenting Teenagers
*Refer back to when they were two.
I know that sounds strange, but think about it—when they were two they were pushing boundaries, exploring their world, desiring more and more independence, learning how to handle social interactions, etc.
What was important in your parenting then is still key.
• Enforce the boundaries, with appropriate consequences for crossing them.
• Let them have plenty of chances to do things on their own.
• Celebrate their victories with gusto and their failures with grace.
*Spend time with them.
Do things they enjoy doing, even if they’re not things you necessarily enjoy.
My 15 (almost 16) year-old loves to shop. I do not. I have discovered, however, that the times I have taken her out have sparked interesting conversations, created teachable moments, and allowed bonding opportunities that might never have happened at home.
My younger teen has a television show she really enjoys watching, and she is so grateful when I say yes to watching an episode with her. Because I’m joining in with something she likes, she feels important and validated.
Kris Bales, of Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers wrote an article with a fun list of ideas for spending time with your teens. It’s worth your time to read!
*Along the same lines as spending time with them, be available to talk when they are ready and willing.
We have found that this usually means spending time with them late at night.
I have a friend, who was a foster mom for many years, tell me that she always liked having infants and teenagers at the same time because she could sit up late at night with the baby and the teen would keep her company and talk to her then!
Late nights tend to bring the barriers down and the capacity for openness and honesty up. I know it’s hard for us as adults to stay up late, but I can tell you that it is so worth the effort.
*Realize the emotions for what they are: temporary feelings that ebb and flow and do not define your teen.
This is a difficult one for me. My husband is much better at seeing past the emotion and not getting caught up in it.
It is hard to hear our teens say hurtful, even hateful things, but keeping our own emotions in check will allow us to help our teens talk through theirs. There have been many times when I have had to pray and ask for help handling my own anger or frustration before (or after) a conversation with my kids.
*Admitting when we’ve messed up and asking for forgiveness is what we as parents have to model for our teens.
We don’t always know what we’re doing and we make mistakes in our parenting. Our kids already know this! Acknowledging these mistakes to God and to our kids demonstrates a humility that they need to see in us.
If you have younger children right now and are fearful about parenting teenagers down the road, please let me encourage you: don’t be scared! It can actually be a joyful, enjoyable period of life. There are many great things about having teenagers in your life.
If you are in the midst of being mom to a teenager, I want to say to you: “You go, mom! You can do this!” I pray that as your kids grow, you will have the wisdom and grace and fortitude you need to embrace these years and not just “get through them” but enjoy them!
Lisa is wife to one Army Chaplain, homeschool mom to two beautiful teen girls, editor, writer, dark chocolate fanatic, Jane Austen reader, and sometimes crossword puzzle worker. After living in Indiana for the past 16 years, her family was recently transferred by the Army to Fort Hood, Texas where she is learning to say ya’ll. You can find her at her blog, The Army Chap’s Wife, and her editing website, For Love of Words.”