A Letter to the Parents of Teens

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Parents, your kids are as unique as snowflakes, so treat them and train them the way God is counting on you to do.

I am one of you. I am a father of two teenage girls. Like you, I love them desperately. Like you, I watch them grow up in an ever-increasingly complicated world. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I have done ministry long enough to have gleaned from some of the most expert students and teachers of modern-day teens, as well as having been a teen and led teens.

What I want to say to you is not rocket-science, nor is it particularly brilliant. It’s just what’s on my heart to share. The points are random, but I hope that the Lord helps you to derive some help, hope and strength from each insight. Our children are one of the most treasured possessions that God has given us and we are going to be held accountable for how we have led them, managed them, cared for them, stewarded them, blessed them, trained them and guided them.

I believe that although their friends are incredibly significant in their lives, we are the primary influence in their world (less so, the older they get). I know assuredly that we are called to be the primary shapers of their lives. May we pour into them in a way that strengthens them and empowers them to live strong.

In no particular order I offer you the following:

  • Parental Effect- Moms, you will provide a role model to your girls for how a woman interacts with her world, but to your boys you will shape their internal identity and worth. Fathers, you will provide your boys with a role model on what a man is, but you will mold your daughters hearts, worth and internal identity. Both parents are desperately needed for whole children, yet I have seen God, in His grace, step in when one steps out as well.
  • A Healthy Home- The greatest gift we can give our children after a well role-modeled Christian life, is a thriving marriage and a peaceful household. Our home is the furnace where children’s characters are formed. The environment within those four walls echoes in their hearts as long as they live. It’s less about telling them how to grow up as cultivating the soil in which they grow.
  • Real Life Role Models– Our children don’t need perfect parents, they need real, good ones. They need great-hearted adults who try really hard and mess up continually. They cannot get any traction to grow off false fronts, identity masks or hypocrites. They need to know how to really live, not a shielded presentation of what we wish we were like. Do as I say and not as I do means nothing to them but another reason not to respect us.
  • Listen Deeply– Our children are talking to us, but they rarely use words. Their reactions tell us what’s really going on. Their silence speaks volumes. They have stories to tell, if someone would listen. It’s not so much about information transfer as it is the value of paying attention. Listen more to what they are trying to say than the words they are using. They don’t know how to say it, but they need to be heard.
  • Growing Up is Really Difficult– growing up today is really hard. They don’t know that. They only know what they know. To them it’s their reality. They don’t know why they are stressed, they just are. With school demands, emotional challenges, friendship crisis, advertising onslaught, temptation bombardment, expectations through the roof, demands from adults, social media complications, post-modern philosophy, gender questions, a divided nation, fears, doubts, insecurities and depression, it’s no wonder why they keep melting down on us. Cut them some slack. It’s hard.
  • Parenting by Prayer – There’s only one person that loves our kids more than we do: God. Parenting by prayer is a crucial element. We pray about their present and we pray about their future. We pray about their future spouse and we pray about their current friendships. We pray about their health and we pray about their character. We pray about their relationship with God and we pray about their relationship with us. We need to involve God into every aspect of their lives and prayer is a beautiful invitation and partnership for that to happen.
  • Parents Not Friends– We are parents to our children, not friends. I know it sounds fun to be their best buddy and bond over life’s challenges, but they need more from us than that. Friends vent on each other when they are stressed; parents use their maturity to absorb their kids struggles. Friends fight; parents lead. Friends mutually give and take; parents invest and empower without needing in return. Our kids need strength not drama.
  • They Know– They don’t know why, but they know. Our kids are listening at all times, especially when we wish they wouldn’t. They catch more than they are taught. They absorb atmospheres, moods and concerns. They eavesdrop for both curiosity and safety. We’d love to pick and choose what they hear, but we can’t, they hear it all. What are they hearing from us?
  • Give Them a Reason– if we want them to have the character and discernment to make good choices when we aren’t around, we need to give them a reason for our rules. Although I agree they should respect our direction without it, it’s less helpful for them long term. If they know why, they will know how to apply it to multiple situations. “Because I said so,” only suggests that we don’t know what we are talking about. 

There are many more lessons I’ve learned and am learning right now, but I’ve already gone on too long. Again, I’m not an expert and there are far more expert people on this subject than me. However, I have noticed a tremendous difference in the parents that are willing to apply these concepts and those that don’t. Please morph it to your specific situation and with your individually designed children. Each one of them is a snowflake and a fingerprint; unique. May we treat them as they need to be treated and train them like God was counting on us.

 

 

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