I am on the brink of mothering teenagers… again.
My older two children are in their twenties but my younger bunch of kiddos is currently 12 and under.
On the verge of 13 and under.
The teenage years are soon to be upon me again.
Teenagers get a bad wrap I think. People expect those years to be tumultuous and anticipate having to grit their teeth to get through that time period by the skin of their teeth. I won’t lie and say that it has always been a bed of roses in my experience, but I also have absolutely loved going through that phase of parenting with my kids.
There is something special about guiding your child from childhood into adulthood and something unique about the journey from being primarily parent into parent and friend as they move into their twenties.
As I sit on the brink of teenage life “part two,” I’ve been contemplating what I did well in “part one,” what I want to do again, and what I could have done better. I hope my thoughts shared here encourage you as well as you move through the seasons of raising teenagers or look forward to that season to come.
1. Feel Sorry for Your Kid
This is a piece of information an elderly woman, a completely stranger, gave me in an elevator one day. She walked slowly inside, asked me to press her floor number and then proceeded to ask me if I had children and what their ages were.
When I told her I had a fourteen year old, she asked if she could give me a piece of advice and this is exactly what she told me. “Feel sorry for your teenager. Would you want to repeat the ages of 13-18 in its totality? Probably not. So let your child know that you know it’s hard, challenging, and new territory going from childhood to adulthood.”
I have come to know that this simple language can be powerful in the parent/teenager relationship. Let your son or daughter know that you don’t relish each time you have to tell them no, be firm, or exercise loving discipline, but rather that you are genuinely regretful that they have to experience hard things.
Your teenager needs to know you care and you’d be surprised but the compassion you show by simply prefacing many statements with “I’m sorry” will go a long way towards that end. You teenager will get that you care if they hurt, if they have disappointments, or even if they have to endure a consequence born of their own doing.
2. Cheer Your Child On
It’s so easy to celebrate the first steps of a toddler or the great report card of a second grade. It’s simple to yell wildly at the little league game or on the soccer field even for a losing team. When our kids move into adolescents and later into their later teenage years, they can challenge our cheering with bad attitudes, moodiness, failures, fights for independence and the like.
Can I tell you a secret? Even if you see absolutely nothing to celebrate in your child during a difficult phase of growing up, cheer them on anyway. Find something to celebrate, something to praise, or some way in which to encourage them.
The teenage years are when they need most to think that you like them. Notice I said like. Your kids may cerebrally know that you love them but they need to know that you like who they are and who they are becoming.
Think back to how much you smiled at them when they were babies or the physical affection you gave them when they came to you with a scratch on their knee. Think of how their eyes lit up when they saw how pleased you were with their new found abilities to read, to do a chore, or to play an instrument at their first recital.
Your teenager needs you to celebrate them and cheer them on between twelve and twenty just as much as they did when they were two!
3. Be Available
Last, but certainly not least, your teenager needs you to be available.
Some of the most meaningful moments and conversation will happen because you are available when your child decides they want to open up and share their questions, opinions, thoughts, or happenings in their everyday.
Unfortunately, I could have done a better job in this area. While I have gone on to continue to develop a meaningfully deep friendship with my older children, I have learned a lesson in the importance of availability and mean to be more intentional about being present with my the next set of children moving into the time of teenage life.
Sit on their beds at night to let them know you are willing to listen at any time. Linger at the dinner table. Play a video game or two even if you have no interest. Take your girls and boys on special outings or “dates.” Invite them to join you for an early morning coffee (or hot chocolate). Make them go to the grocery store with you every once in awhile – they might roll their eyes but they will not die and later they will remember that their best conversations with you happened on the cereal aisle.
And never forget that quality and quantity influence the impact you have on their hearts.
Chrystal Hurst, ChrystalEvansHurst.com