Thursday, June 4, 2009

Navigating the Teenage Years, by Chris Groff

Parenting teenagers can be challenging! In fact, most parents say these years are the most difficult.It’s not hard to see why! These years take our kids through an emotional, hormonal, and biological overhaul. In addition, teens begin to see their parents' flaws and realize they’re not perfect. They want to try handling things on their own and see if what their parents taught them is really true. In the process, they start to break away and test the boundaries. After years of relative compliance, many parents take this desire for independence personally. They may ask, "What happened to the child who looked up to me and enjoyed spending time with me?" What happened is the individuation process! Individuation is a normal and needed transition. Why? Because God created each of us as unique individuals. This applies to our kids’ faith as well. We cannot have a relationship with God on our kids' behalf. Faith becomes personal as our kids discover who they are and what they believe apart from mom and dad. As our kids try on different "hats" to see which ones fit, parents need to set secure boundaries for them and listen empathetically as they work through the challenges of becoming an adult. The job of parenting teenagers requires us to trade control for influence, and to walk beside them as they make bigger and more significant choices. Here are some guidelines to help you navigate the teenage years. 1.Prepare. When parents understand the developmental changes that are occurring during these years, they are less likely to take their teen’s behavior personally and are better able to be a calm, strong, and empathetic authority. An excellent article on teenage brain development is "Please Excuse the Mess" by Michael Valpy. ( 2.Don’t fear the struggles. James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Kids need challenges to mature. In a lot of cases these struggles are gifts from God, and parents can do more good by walking beside their kids as they struggle than they can by rescuing them or providing comprehensive instruction. You should provide only as much help as your kids really need to solve the problem on their own. Teaching your child problem-solving skills is a big part of your job! 3.Adjust your expectations. Your kids are not going to be responsible decision makers overnight. Give them the time and space to learn from their mistakes. When necessary, use consequences to reinforce your value system, but deliver them with empathy. It may help to remember what it was like when you were a teenager. In other words, walk in their shoes! 4.Trust God. As parents, we must focus on helping our kids become the people God created them to be, rather than the people our culture may be telling them to become. Avoid the "success trap" by adopting God’s idea of success and an eternal perspective.5.Make authenticity a priority. Too often, we act differently in public than we do in private. If we want our kids to be authentic, we need to be authentic. This begins with admitting our failures and mistakes and asking for forgiveness. Children typically ignore much of what we say if it’s contrary to what we do!
Chris Groff