Welcome to this series on teenagers. The goal of this blog series is to help parents and youth workers to understand the general changes and issues that teenagers are facing. Sometimes a little knowledge can go a long way in helping to develop a proactive game plan for parenting, teaching, and shepherding students.
These are general observations gleaned from over fifteen years experience in youth ministry. Nothing in this series is ground breaking, earth shattering, or even new. Hopefully these basic observations will give you the insight, perspective, and perhaps empathy for the teens in your life. Of course the ultimate goal is to learn how to best take the gospel and apply it to the teenagers in our lives. This series is mostly to help you understand the world of being a teenager. To this end I hope the entire series proves helpful
We’ll be taking everything in bite size chunks. So buckle up and hold on to something, we are about to reenter the teenage world armed with the gospel.
Teenagers are Changing (Literally!)
Teenagers are emerging adults. This isn’t an overnight process. They are in a constant state of transition from childish dependence on others to adult like independence. One moment they may surprise you with their ability to give selflessly to others, the next moment they can throw an emotional tantrum and break down because mom asked them to take out the trash. They really do have a foot in both worlds. It is fair to expect your teen to be more responsible, but don’t assume it will happen without a few setbacks along the way.
When a set back occurs, take it in stride, gently help refocus your child’s attention on becoming responsible. Be sure to take time to praise the positive strides you see your child making. Genuine praise and encouragement for being responsible will motivate your child to become even more responsible. If we’re not careful we can fall into a pattern of discouragement by only noticing the set backs and it’s easy to deflate your child’s motivation toward responsibility.
Teenage bodies are also growing and developing into adult bodies. Your teenager will most likely hit growth spurts. Not only will they get taller, but thanks to puberty their bodies will take on a more manly or womanly shape. It is important to keep in mind that mature physical appearance doesn’t mean that your teenager is grown up mentally as well. Many teenagers are children in grown up bodies. Just because they look grown up, doesn’t mean that they are.
Your child may be taller than you, but they still take their cues from you on how to handle the various situations life throws their way. They may not be asking for advice because they feel a pressure to figure things out on their own. A wise parent will make the extra effort to be available for their child to talk. Sometimes talking works best in a shoulder-to-shoulder situation or in the midst of an activity rather than an intense face to face sit down. As a parent it might be wise to schedule a regular time with your child each week to participate in an activity you both enjoy. My dad was always great about taking my brother and I to play tennis, fishing, look for fossils or arrowheads, and a host of other activities we enjoyed. Later in life these times fueled great shoulder to shoulder conversations on the ride home that helped both my brother and I process life.
Each of these posts will end with a Challenge. This is a way to take the post beyond just information and allow the information to impact the way you interact with the teenagers in your life. Obviously the applications will be different according to your relationship with teenagers. Much of this is geared towards parents but will have some application with youth workers as well.
Challenge: Write down the name of the teens you have in your life (if you have a bunch then you might want to spread this over a few days). Take time to pray for them. Thank God that he has placed them in your life and ask Him to help you be sensitive to their needs as they mature. Ask God to give you wisdom in your relationship with them.
- Write down all the ways that you see your teen becoming more responsible. Think of appropriate ways to encourage your teen when you see them following through on this type of behavior
- Now Write down areas of responsibility that you they still need to work through. Current frustrations, etc. Pray over these issues and have a game plan in place to encourage the snot out of your kid when they step up to the task.
- Think of ways to challenge your child to be more responsible.
- Pray that God would protect your child from people who would want to take advantage of them.
If you don’t already have a regularly scheduled time to hang out with your child start working on a plan to get some shoulder to shoulder time in on an activity. Think of something that will be fun for the both of you and work at it until you find something that sticks. You’ll be surprised at how much this regular interaction will open the doors for authentic communication down the road.
In the coming days and weeks we’ll be looking at teenage grumpiness, technology, identity, forgetfulness, and more!