Updated: Feb 15
School has started, schedules have begun to get busy and you're dealing with a difficult teenager. You may sit there asking yourself, "How am I going to make it through the year?"
As much as teens can be difficult to live with it, it is important to remember that your job is to engage in their lives and help parent them through these vital years. I like to call it the sacred seven to parenting teens.
Be engaged. The first step of alleviating future problems or solving current ones is an understanding of their feelings and current position in life. Regularly take weekends or other leisure opportunities to spend time together doing something they want to do. An environment that they enjoy is often conducive to open discussion. To a teenager, love is a four letter word spelled t-i-m-e. Show them your interest by sacrificing what relates or interests you and play on their turf.
Know the telltale signs of teens on the verge of trouble. Most notably, this includes changes in behavior such as eating habits, excessive sleep, change in friends, unusual aggressiveness or anger, thin lacerations on arms from cutting, unusual mood swings of depression and isolation from family.
Investigate. This is not pushy invasive demands but careful follow through on friends, hangouts and after school activities. Know your teen's routines and social network in detail.
Develop accountability through non-moving boundaries. Thousands of students have told me that they knew their parents didn't really care about them because there were no defined rules on which mom and dad followed through. Many parents are surprised that their kids want fair and healthy rules to abide by.
Listen. Parents think they are listening to their teens when in actuality they are only talking atthem. A good parent listens without criticism or dominating the conversation with their own opinions and loud, aggressive dialogue. This is not cornering them into a "talk" but understanding and developing the environment that facilitates openness.
Take threats of suicide, hopelessness or personal cutting seriously. Statistics prove that a majority of students send out clear warning signals prior to suicide attempts or drug/alcohol related activity. Most often these signs are a teen's way of saying "I'm hurting, notice me." Hints or blatant threats should always be addressed immediately with the caveat that you are always open anytime, anyplace and at any hour to talk about the issues.
Never withdraw. Parents often believe their kids are going through a "phase" of puberty or teenage life and should be left alone to "work through it." Isolation is one of the leading causes of sexual and narcotic experimentation as well as suicide. During difficult, challenging times, there is prime opportunity to cultivate a forged relationship and watershed experience that will prepare your kids for the future.
So what are you doing for your teen today? I encourage you to take these things to heart and try them but above all else pray for your teenager. Pray that God will guide his or her path and that He will stir a longing in his or heart for things that are of Him.