Being in my early 20’s gives me a very unique perspective on adult hood and adolescence. I was very fortunate enough to not have a super long “rebel” stage…(this coming from a guy who is adorned with tattoos and piercings…and feels that wearing shoes in public venues is not a necessity). But, for all intents and purposes, I have (somewhat) smoothly crossed over from adolescence into adulthood, while having the unique opportunity to work with teens…who, when you think about it, are really not much younger than myself. So, having this unique perspective has given me the opportunity to see from both sides of the 18 year old marker…the marker that separates the boys from men. So, in this post I would like to offer up some of my wisdom…which may be funny for some of you considering some of you probably have a pair of underpants that you wear weekly…that most likely out-date me by a few years. But, age aside; hopefully you can gain some insight into the inner workings of the teenage mind.
1. It is harder to be a teen now than when you were a kid
I figured it would be fun to start off with a “shocker.” But I stand firm on the idea that, honestly, it is harder to be a teen now than when you were a their age. Now when I say this, I do not mean in ways like transportation (we all know you had to walk to school barefoot in snow.) There are many ways life is easier when it comes to schoolwork (Google), getting directions (Google), finding cheats for video games (Google)…. I think you get my point. But, sometimes, with ease comes distress. Just think about all of the awful things that are just a finger click away from your teen seeing, reading, hearing, etc. The rise in media means a fall in morality. In the 80’s, Madonna’s cone brassiere caused uproar…now you have Hannah Montana swinging on a wrecking ball, naked, while rounding second base with a sledgehammer. Things are rough, and your teen is in the middle of it all; being bombarded with pornographic images, false truths, and expletives from all sides. Let’s face it…being a teen really stinks, and the things your teen encounters on a daily basis would make ol’ aunt marge roll over in her grave.
2. They know more than you think
It is always a doozy when your child comes home with math homework that looks more like alien script to you. It’s a moment when you realize “Oh crap, they might be smarter than me!” The only reason I can relate (I don’t have kids) is because I have the math skills of a blind donkey…that is why I went into ministry! But, quite honestly, in some ways your student might actually know more than what you give them credit for. I would say a big part of this is because of the technological world we live in. There is no need to brush the dust off of the encyclopedia set anymore (again…Google). But, apart from book smarts, I do not think we give teens enough credit for how much they are really thinking. Sure, it may look like the only thing on their minds is boys, One Direction, or Call of Duty; but deep down, teens are actually questioning the world around them, thinking about the future, and contemplating their own beliefs.
3. You aren’t really that “Uncool”…
Believe it or not, your teen still loves you. Sure, you have heard the lines, “I hate you!” or, “you are sooo embarrassing!” But, in reality, your teen still loves you and still longs for your affection, love, knowledge, and pride. You might find it surprising that your teen still tries to be like you in ways (maybe so much, in fact, that it causes tension…. imagine having to deal with yourself when you were a teenager!) But, whether your teen knows it or not, they desperately need you…to be their parent. Many parents find it easier to become their teen’s friend rather than their parent. When I was in high school I knew someone who had an arrangement with his parents; if there was a sock on the door handle go away for a couple hours…there is a girl over. What kind of message do you think this sent to the teen? Better yet, how do you think this teen turned out once he became an adult? Your teen needs you to be their parent, no matter how dorky you are. That means putting your foot down when the need arises, guiding them through decision making, supporting and encouraging them, but most of all, loving them unconditionally. Surprising enough, you being a parent is much more important to your teen than you being their friend. They will always have friends in their world, but they will only have you as a parent. It is important to remember that your teen, just like any adult, craves love, support, and acceptance. If they do not get this from you, their parent, then they will search for it in other places…like sex, partying, drugs…. the list could go on and on.
Some things to take away
1. It’s rough being a teen. Encourage your teen to make the right choices…and remind them of the consequences that come with each action. They will make mistakes, that’s a given, but they need you to support them the whole way.
2. Your teen is not oblivious. He/she knows quite a bit, and is in a constant struggle with their own beliefs. That is a great thing! The fact that they are thinking shows you did a good job! Help your teen along this process between childhood and adulthood. Use this time as a way to have deep, adult-like conversations with your teen (teens love to be treated like adults!)
3. Be a parent, not a friend. Like it or not, your teen will be thrust out of the nest soon. Do you want them to fly or tumble? Take these last few years to be a model for your teen; showing them what it means to be a good, loving, Christ following, adult.
4. Pray for/with your teen. No greater lesson can be given to your teen than giving them a firm foundation to base their faith on. Seeing you be like Christ will help them be like Christ. Keep your teen in your prayers, because they come face to face with terrible things daily. Don’t just pray for them, but pray with them. Praying with your teen is much more important than sitting at a table and eating with them…but that is important too!