TEENS: Parenting teens is challenging and fun too. These tips from Leia Joseph — a crisis counselor, high school music teacher, and mother — appeared first here on The Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is used with permission. This is part one of a 3-part series on parenting teens.–LAM
I have had the privilege of spending the last 13 years working as a music teacher and crisis counselor for teens. The following six tips represent a handful of lessons I have learned along the way. If you are the parent of a teenager or pre-teen, I pray that you find this helpful.
1. Be Relational but Not a ‘Best Friend’
Parenting two boys under the age of three is physically exhausting. I can’t remember the last time I felt truly rested. In fact, one of my daily dilemmas is figuring out when I can shower while still keeping both of my rambunctious little boys safe from harm.
But I know that all this changes when kids grow up: The emotional expenditure overrides the physical, to which any parent of older children can attest.
And one thing is clear: God has created us as relational beings, which means that no matter the temperament of your children, they want you to know them. There is not one student that I have met with over the past decade who does not deeply desire a healthy relationship with his or her parent.
But teen years are hard. Over the course of the high school years, students are transitioning from childhood to adulthood.
At the same time, hormones are raging and fluctuating, and the prefrontal cortex of the brain (responsible for time management, good judgment, organization, controlling impulses, goal setting, and an understanding of long-term consequences) is still developing. Plus, both parents and teens are simultaneously navigating new waters and new roles.
Implement basic counseling principles into your parenting during these years. Ask lots of questions, but also study body language and mood (remember the raging hormones). Realize that sometimes simply your presence and listening ear are all that is required. At other times you will find golden opportunities for conversation.
When does your teen seem to be the most talkative? Notice patterns and create space for those times if at all possible. For instance, if your child talks more at night than on the ride home from school, make it a point to start making chocolate chip cookies right around primetime.
In the teenage years, your child needs you more than ever before, whether or not they communicate it.
And they need you to just be there for when they’re ready to talk. When they do open up, make sure to listen, observe, and wait.
They don’t want you to treat them like a best friend; they need you to be their parent. Click & Tweet! However, they need a different kind of parent than when they were 10 years old. Go on a grace hunt in their lives and make sure you are encouraging and cheerleading far more than nagging and reminding each day. In short, constantly pray for wisdom about when to let them fail, leave their problems unfixed, confront, or just patiently pray as you slowly prepare them to leave the nest.
2. Communicate Enjoyment
We all know the striking contrast of duty and delight. Teens usually know deep down that you love them, but be sure they also know you enjoy them. Click & Tweet!
Whether you’re going to the grocery store or making dinner, communicate how much you enjoy being in their presence. One primary way to accomplish this is to enter fully into their hobbies, interests, and what delights them. Whether it be photography, gaming, horseback riding, or baking, get enthralled with what they love.
The best relationships develop and blossom out of mutually enjoyed activities. Learn and enjoy alongside them, and the quality time and strong bond that ensues just might surprise you!
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,