Parents often lament the trials of raising a teen. They complain that they just don’t know their child anymore. It’s very easy for parents to become separated from their teen-aged children. Those teens are torn by so many feelings as they’re trying to fit in with peers, obey parents, have fun, succeed in life, accept their body and honor God … all at the same time. It’s not surprising when parents become frustrated with their “confused and distant” teenagers. My advice to the parents of teens is this: accept your child UNCONDITIONALLY, regularly let your child know you DO accept him or her unconditionally, pray for your child continually, choose to spend time with your child often and SACRIFICIALLY.
Building on that last point, let me tell you about the awesome experience I just had the first half of this week. Heather and I, along with two other dads, had the privilege to accompany our teen children to a church youth gathering on Mackinac Island with 1000 other teens from all across Michigan. Some parents say they could never do that because their child wouldn’t want them to be there. I say, “DO IT ANYWAY!” Although teens will often push back against mom or dad being around when they’re with their friends, it has always been my experience that both the teens and the parents eventually appreciate the huge blessing of such time together. The four parents on this Mackinac trip ALL were so thankful we had this opportunity to watch and hear and share with our teen children. Every one of us grew closer to our teens. Although our children may not have acted all that excited about us being there, we could see the signs that said “thanks for loving me enough to be here.”
The teen years are a time when our children ESPECIALLY need to know that we will SACRIFICE our comforts and time to be with them. They need to know that we will accept them UNCONDITIONALLY even when they push back at times and are a bit distant so they can still “look cool” to their friends. Our persistent LOVE for them even through these years of transition is a way for us to EMBODY the love of Christ. They may not show appreciation for it at the time, but experience and observation have shown me time and time again that they will ALWAYS appreciate the Christian love of mom and dad.
Don’t let them push you away. Don’t run from the awkward situations. Don’t give up. DO pray for you teens. DO forgive them for pushing back. DO accept them as they are, unconditionally. DO spend time with your teen, including around their friends. DO love them … just as Jesus loves us. The pay off will be WORTH IT!