Parenting a Teen: A New Journey
I have gained a lot of new roles and labels this summer, and parenting a teen is one of them. I have officially been the parent of a teenager for about two months. It’s the beginning of a new era for both of us. BookGirl enters young adulthood and takes strides to become even more independent than she already is. I learn to let go a little more, giving her the space she needs to stretch her wings and fly, while still providing a safe place to come back and rest and recuperate.
We talk, and I share experiences from my junior high years. She realizes that I really do understand and that we are even more alike than she thought. We share books and movies and discuss them. I say yes instead of a knee-jerk no, and the discussions teach both of us as we walk this journey together. Being a young teenager is not new to me. I remember the drama and the heartache, the trying to find your place, the being unsure of yourself and who you are in some areas and very sure in others. I remember entering the church youth group and finding your place. I remember going to camp and the pranks and camp romances and trying to avoid as much of that as possible. I remember making friendships I thought would last forever and being disappointed when it was just for a season. I also remember the unlikely ones that have stood the test of time.
I taught teenagers when I was in the public school classroom, and I loved it. What I don’t know is how to parent a teen well. My mother handled my teenage years with a lot of grace, so I am trying to model myself after her, to some degree. We spent lots of time talking, and Mom listened, offering minimal but valuable advice occasionally. She spent long hours praying, and I know that made all the difference – both in our relationship and in God bringing me through my high school years relatively intact.
I’m trying to do a lot of listening and praying, and I try to arrange times for us to talk, showing interest in the things she shows an interest in, and listening for new ways to connect. I spend time at the church, meeting the people I hear her talk about, observing their interactions with one another and learning more about these young people. I see myself in them too.
With God’s help, I can parent teens. I can parent mine and mentor the others God sends my way who need someone to pray for them, to listen to them, to laugh with them and talk to them. I can show an interest in them and their friends, in what concerns them.
Father, please use me in the lives of the teenagers in my community. Help me to show them Your light and hope.
Question: What is your best advice for parenting teens?