Six months ago I got married. And two weeks ago my wife and I taught the “Parenting Teens” class at my church because, you know, wait . . . we’re qualified to do that? What was my church thinking?!
To be fair, we both work for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Oregon State University. We spend large chunks of our days with college students and kids in their late teens. So I guess you could say we know a thing or two.
Teaching that class was an exciting and humbling experience. We may pour a lot of ourselves into our students, but it doesn’t come close to what parents do with their own kids.
Nevertheless, we noticed a few things that could potentially be very helpful to parents with teenagers, and humbly offer those to you now.
1) Get Freaked Out . . . LATER!
Sometime during the eight years your child is a teenager, they are going to do something that will scare the crap out of you. And you know that “crap” was a pretty tame word to use right there.
How could your sweet baby child do something like that? How do they even know about that? They aren’t supposed to learn that till they are at least 35!
Well, they know. And so do their friends. And they talk about it at school.
And when they tell you about it, the absolute last thing they need is for you to freak out in front of them.
Repeat after me: Poker Face.
Don’t give them the slightest inkling of the raging tempest inside your soul. Because they want to know you will listen to them. They want to know that you will be there no matter what. They want to know they can trust you and tell you things and ask you hard questions.
Freaking out confirms that you are not the person to turn to.
So you can freak out, just do it later when your kids are not around.
2) Everyone Else is Just As Freaked Out as You Are
Let’s continue on the “freak-out” theme, shall we?
When my wife and I led the class, we noticed a wide range of how the kids were doing spiritually. (Keep in mind, this was a church)
Some kids seemed to be loving God with everything they had. Others wanted nothing to do with God. And a handful fell in-between. Their parents thought they could go either way.
But one thing was constant: Every parent there was worried about how their kid would end up. Just because they were “good” now, doesn’t mean they will be “good” a year from now.
If you are worried about your child’s spiritual growth, you are not alone. So is everyone else.
3) They Are So Close to Understanding Grace!
I did a lot of dumb things as a teenager. I knew I shouldn’t have been doing them and I didn’t need my parents to tell me those things were dumb.
I needed something else from them.
I am realizing more and more that your teens and 20′s are not about living life perfectly. They are about learning how to fail well. They are about learning from your mistakes. They are about being honest with how you are doing and what you are struggling with.
They are about realizing that your parents aren’t perfect but that they will be there for you when you need them. That’s what I learned, and it made all the difference in my life.
Just because your kid does something that makes you freak out, doesn’t mean they are on the cusp of running away to join a gang of street youths.
Rather, they are on the cusp of learning what unconditional love, forgiveness, patience, and grace are.
And who better to teach it to them?
How good is your “Poker-Face?”
Question: When was a time you were able to show grace and forgiveness to your child?
EdiTOR’s Note: Our family recently delivered our third child. As such, some blogging buddies of mine have graciously offered to write a series of guest posts to allow my family to spend a little time together – away from this blog. I’m deeply grateful for such friends, and I hope you enjoy their writing!
Today’s guest post is from Ben Emerson works for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Oregon State University. He blogs at The Whole Dang Thing: Blogging through the Bible with irreverent reverence. You can follow him on twitter and like his blog on facebook.