I am so thankful I am not a teenager today. It is not an easy age to grow up in! Teenagers have so much more coming at them in the form of opportunities and temptations. Teenage rebellion is really the natural manifestation of your children growing up and asserting themselves as individuals. When they’re young they’re happy to wear what you want, do what you want, and go where you want. Then they hit the transition stage to adulthood. It is a metamorphosis that doesn’t always go smoothly.
Mark and I had five teenagers at one time. I want to share some of the struggles teens face and how you can guide them through their transition to adulthood.
When your teen is struggling for identity…
Teach them they are defined by WHO they are as your child, not by what they do.
When our children were little we would tell them “You’re a Merrill.” We wanted them to get their identity from being a part of our family and a part of the values we shared. It’s normal to want to fit in and identify with others. The child at greatest risk is the extremely social child. They will crave acceptance and popularity. Popularity can come at a cost. Find a place for them to be safe and accepted. For our kids, it was at our church. There they got encouragement and a break from the peer pressure at school.
When your teen is struggling for acceptance…
Teach them it’s ok to be different, and that they’ll always be accepted by you.
For most kids, there is a light bulb that goes on around 10 to 14 years of age. All of sudden they care what their peers think about them and they want acceptance. That desire can make your child doubt that they’re good enough and try out new versions of herself to fit in. As a parent, you want to watch for that awareness and direct it. If your child is a follower you don’t want them going down a path that isn’t emotionally, spiritually, or physically healthy with a group of kids that will lead them astray. A letter of encouragment and truth from you could also help your child.
When your teen is struggling for attention…
Be sure to spend quality time with them, affirming their character.
Seeking attention is a big problem for this generation because the child who craves attention can get it on social media. But the attention is often received for the wrong reasons. And because we are busier as parents we give our children less of the attention and family experiences they need. The season you have to parent them is short and worth the time sacrifice.
Like a friend of mine says, “I can catch up on my sleep when my last child heads to college!”
Teach them to make wise decisions by talking through options together.
We have to adjust our thinking and treatment of our teenagers as their desire for more control increases. It’s better to respond to their requests for more freedom with questions. “Really, what makes you want to do that? What might happen if you do that?” Play out the scenarios instead of deciding for them or telling them no right off the bat.
It will also allow you to hear what they’re thinking. You can also ask, “Are you doing this for your own pleasure or to please others or to please God?” You want to help transition your child from what you believe to what they believe based on their own decisions so they’ll be able to think through decisions when they do have full control of their lives.
When your teen is struggling for freedom…
Teach them that with freedom comes much responsibility.
Always explain to your child that you are also looking forward to the time when they will not be under your authority but they will report directly to God. I told my children that when they reached that point of maturity I would pray for them and offer advice if they asked for it.
You can probably tell that the theme running throughout these areas of challenge is talking to your child. Keep the communication as open as you can.
In this podcast, Mark and I share some of the stories of ways we applied the principles above with our teens.