For both the parent and child, the teenage years can be likened to a roller-coaster ride, World War 3, or an exciting adventure through the Amazon. Thankfully, our experience as parents (& hopefully our teenagers would concur) has been that of an exciting adventure canoeing through the Amazon. There have been some challenges but mainly lots of engaging, productive, fresh experiences requiring effort. Like the rest of your life, you are never certain of what will happen until you are in the middle of it.
Our daughter turned 18 at the end of April. Our son is 15. Both unique personalities and different abilities. This makes for an even more interesting journey. An adventure.
This year has been a massive year for Princess and us as her parents. In the last six months, Princess has commenced University, begun a dating relationship, passed her driver’s licence, owns her car, headed up a section of the children’s ministry at Church with her friend, was promoted several times at work and is now a manager at McDonald’s. All while loving life, maintaining friendships with numerous people from various aspects of her life, and serving at Church.
Matey is in year 9, still home-schooled but currently looking at options for next year. Actively involved in Air Force Cadets, Junior Fire Brigade. Serves at Church. Still involved in collecting brand new socks and donating them to the homeless through his charity 2 Pairs Each. At this stage, he has collected over 30,000 pairs of brand-new socks. Swimming squad and boxing are his sporting involvements. He loves adventure and experimenting with cooking. Matey completed his silver Duke of Edinburgh last year. He works part-time at McDonald’s and one day per week lawn mowing.
With life and our parenting, we have found that our attitude as parents is the deciding factor. How we respond to the unexpected is so important. It sets the scene for what comes next. Thankfully, so far, we have mainly set the scene well with few bumps along the way.
Last blog post, I raised the points that:
- Parenting teenagers is a lot about sacrificing.
- Parenting teenagers is a lot about perspective.
- Parenting teenagers is a lot about dealing with your stuff first.
In this blog post, I will unpack the first of seven top tips for enjoying the teenage years. If your children are not yet teenagers, most of these tips can still apply to parenting your children.
Tip 1 – Be proactive.
- Reaping what you have sown.
The Bible (Galatians 6:7) talks about reaping what we have sown, and the teenage years are a fantastic example of this. It is a time of reaping what we have already sown during childhood. The sacrifices we have made, the teaching, the family values, attitudes, atmosphere, word usage, work habits, etc all come out loud and clear during the teenage years. Begin as early as possible to set the tone you desire in your family home. With those areas you wish to improve in, it is not too late to start.
Stability at home for a teenager is vital when other areas of their life are rapidly changing. Don’t underestimate the value of stability in your family. Try to keep routine at the forefront eg mealtimes, weekly routines, etc.
- Try to understand from your teenager’s perspective.
Get to know your teen and their friends (and their friend’s parents), their stressors, likes and dislikes, activities, music, and movies. Ask questions to learn. Watch their behaviour.
Volunteer to drive your teenager and their friends. As you drive, listen. You will gain a greater understanding of various issues and maturity levels. You will soon realise who has a significant influence on your teenager’s life.
Get to know the people who have the greatest influence on your teenager. Watch movies and tv programs they want to watch and chat about them. Read books they are reading. Listen to the music they love. Ask them to send you their favourite humourous TikTok videos. Get to know your teen and relate to them.
Deliberately make time to listen to them. Stop what you are doing when they want to talk and listen.
We have discovered fantastic opportunities to chat are when driving in the car, especially when picking them up after work, and special 1 on 1 outings for milkshakes/food.
I find that ‘dropping’ a suggestion and leaving it to ‘marinate’ before unpacking it with your teenager aids in strengthening the relationship. Surprises are not always helpful, and dropping suggestions paves the way for future conversation that everyone is more prepared for.
We also discuss the week ahead and everyone’s activities, and whether we can fit all the activities into the week. When family members are aware of the bigger picture, it can help ease any disappointment.
We ask for their input and advice.
Communication is mostly about understanding where they are coming from.
- Talk through issues and scenarios and discuss strategies beforehand.
We try to be proactive and discuss issues and strategies for dealing with specific scenarios before we are confronted with them. When we have chatted about potentially dangerous situations our teenagers might find themselves in and brainstormed responses, we find our teenagers are more prepared for unusual occurrences. Our teenagers have, hopefully, an idea in their head of a positive response to that situation. We have found meal-times or extended car trips invaluable for this.
- Be involved in their life.
My daughter loves shopping at specific stores, so we will often shop together. This is not my favourite activity, but it is her desire, so I am involved. Princess loves shopping at a major shopping centre the day after Boxing Day, and my husband sets that time aside to go with her each year as a tradition.
We are going to Sydney as a family to see ‘Hamilton’, the stage musical, because it was a massive desire of our teenagers. If we didn’t choose to go, they would have done it with their friends. We realise we need to take as many opportunities as possible to join with them in their activities, and also let them have the freedom to be with their friends.
- Encourage life-giving relationships.
Encourage those friendships which are positive. Be aware that friends you may presume are positive may not be, so try to be open-minded.
Encourage involvement in Youth Group and Church if they are positive. If not, find a new Youth Group and Church. The teenage years are not a time for your family to be church-hopping. They are a time when your teenager needs positive role models and great friendship groups. Become involved and supportive of the Youth Group and Church.
Please do not use being grounded from Youth Group as a punishment. That sends a counter-productive message.
Encourage positive and life-giving activities.
- Eat together and discuss life.
Try to eat at a table together daily and discuss the day’s occurrences. Share feelings and facts. Keep everyone up-to-date with the family’s activities. Sharing feelings helps to normalise feelings for teenagers. Resilience grows in your teenagers as they share their feelings and thoughts and realise they are not alone.
Surround your teenager with great mentors. Brainstorm with them people who could speak into certain areas of their life. Encourage life-giving relationships. Invite people for meals who can model a great lifestyle and share their story.
Our son has worked every Monday lawn mowing in my husband’s business. For the last six months, an ex-Pastor has also been employed by my husband and has worked alongside our son. This has been a fabulous mentoring opportunity as my son has gleaned an immeasurable amount of wisdom and life knowledge from chatting and working alongside this man. We have deliberately kept our son working on these days with this man for the informal mentoring and life coaching.
Get to know your teenager’s friend’s parents. These parents may well speak into your teen’s life when your teen may not think you have the wisdom they need.
- Create memories.
Every Christmas, as a family, we watch Home Alone and Home Alone 2. We have created certain traditions that bind us together, times we look forward to. We celebrate birthdays, spiritual birthdays (when we each accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour), promotions, achievements, etc. We are proactive when we create memorable events, as our children will hopefully then want to come home and celebrate in the future.
Our family is not perfect. I am not a perfect parent. The worst thing I can do is to compare myself to other parents and compare our family to other families. But I can look at our family and suggest several strategies that may help us as a family.
I encourage you today – what is your one take-away from this list of tips? How can you be proactive today so that your tomorrow may be easier and more fulfilling?
I have also attached this month’s prayer calendar. It focuses on our identity as children of God. I encourage you to pray the Bible verses over yourself and your children/teenagers daily. If you would like a copy emailed to you, please contact me. You can download a pdf copy here or a word document copy here.