Often, I hear folks dreading their children heading into the teenage years. They are so anxious and scared; they’ll tell me how they just know their teen is going to hate them and never listen to anything they are told. The coming years look like a dark cloud that doesn’t seem to have an end.
Having worked in student ministry for 20+ years before becoming the campus pastor at Seacoast’s Asheville Campus, I know how many parents feel. But, as my own three children headed into those teenage years, I was incredibly excited. You see, these are some of the best years you will ever have as a parent. And how you view them can make all the difference. Here are a few things that have helped me raise incredible teens who love their parents and the Lord.
Assume the Best and Refuse the Traditional Narrative
You are the parent. You get to set the tone in your house. If you’re assuming the worst in every situation, you’re setting an expectation of how everyone should act. Parenting is a 24/7 job. There are no days off. Seeing your teen in a positive light and believing the best about them will set an atmosphere in your home that they will notice. It can help create teens who love to be home and with their parents. I’m an optimist by nature, so this comes pretty easy to me, but it can be done by anyone.
Invest the Time
I read a stat recently that said 95% of the time you will have with your children during your lifetime occurs between the ages of 0 – 18. That means once they become an adult, you will only have 5% left. So, this time with our teens in our homes is critical in preparing them for their next step in life.
I know we often want to build our careers and move up some sort of ladder, but I don’t think it can come at the detriment of time with your teen. Do whatever it takes to make it to the games and to the fine arts performances. Be there for their first date and the second date and stay up till they get home. Be available to talk about all the things with them, all the time. You can catch up on sleep later.
Seeing your teen in a positive light and believing the best about them will set an atmosphere in your home that they will notice.
When my oldest son was seven, I came up with the plan to take each of my three kids on an individual trip before their senior year. Each would get to pick where (within financial reason). For 10 years, my oldest son and I talked, dreamed, and prepared. Two years ago, we took a 7,000-mile road trip out West, camping and hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park, seeing Half Dome in Yosemite, and going all the way to California to put our feet in the Pacific Ocean. We had some great conversations and made memories we will never forget.
And just last week, my daughter and I returned from her trip. She wanted to go to Walt Disney World to ride all the incredible rides and eat the amazing food. Now, I’ve got about four more years before my youngest son and I take his trip, but we are already planning! Quality time is so important. If you can, plan something for you both to look forward to. Enjoy tightening those relationships with your teen.
It hasn’t been easy or always rosy, but I can say with confidence, it really can be wonderful. Raising teens has been my favorite part of parenting so far.