Life with teenagers is definitely not boring. It is a time when that sweet, affectionate young boy or girl suddenly becomes not so sweet and way less than affectionate.
What happened? Well, actually lots of things. Let’s take a look at them before addressing what to do.
Sometimes you think that your teen has lost their mind. In a way they have.
The brain undergoes many changes during the teens years. One study I read said that a teenager’s brain prunes itself by 25%. It is reformatting, building new connections, and getting rid of old ones and this process goes on until the early twenties.
Another study said that their brains are rewiring in decision making, impulse control, and judgment areas of the brain as well as the prefrontal cortex that connects all of them. Certainly, this could account for much of the irrational decisions and mood swings. But there is more:
Puberty and the teen years bring a cascade of hormones into the body causing it to develop from a child to an adult. Bodies change, moods swing, new emotions and feelings emerge.
Add to that a culture in many western nations that promotes sexuality through dress, movies, and famous people they idolize. Teens are taught on every front that life is about sex and they better be sexy, act sexy and pursue sex.
Incredible peer pressure
High schools today are not what they were 50 years ago. Actually, elementary schools have changed quite a bit too and none of this is for the better.
At schools today emphasis is no longer on academics and preparation for living as an adult who can support oneself and live with integrity. Now, it is on the social world.
Schools are filled with drama. Who is going out with who, what so and so is wearing, who is “in” and who is “out.” The pressure to fit in and be accepted is astronomical.
As your teen is getting older they are trying to figure out who they are. When they were younger they were your child, part of the family, but as they get older they need to find an identity that will fit them as an adult. We can watch the kids change clothing styles, hobbies, interests, and friends as they try on identities as one would try on hats.
How they are gifted or what has interested them may end up taking last place to what they feel others want them to be. Acceptance is critical and some kids will do things they never would have done to fit in. Parents become uncool as fitting in becomes more important. The temptation to exclude parents from their lives becomes strong as peer pressure takes hold of them and tells them who they “should” be.
Not a child and not an adult
Teenagers find themselves in between. They are not yet an adult, able to make their own choices and decisions in life. They are not really children, fully dependent upon others for their lives. One minute they need you and the next they want nothing to do with you. It is as frustrating for them as it is for you.
What do they need?
In many cultures, teenagers spend a great deal of time with adults. These teens tend to act out less, go through less turmoil and mild rebellion. In cultures where teens are basically isolated from adults and learning how to function from one another, we find a great deal of rebellion and turmoil. Teenagers need adults.
They need unconditional love. That means that you love them no matter what. It doesn’t mean that you become their doormat, their personal slave, or their critical, judgmental conscience. It means that you act toward them the way Christ does toward you.
There is never a time that the Lord does not love you completely no matter your mistakes. He is always there for you and you need to be there for your kids.
Pray for them
They need your prayers. There is a war on for their hearts, minds, and souls. You need to do battle for them on your knees. Pray against those who would lead them astray. Pray that the Lord would speak to them and that they would hear His voice. Pray for good friends for them that would bring out their best. Pray that they would have wisdom, discernment, patience, and safety.
Pray for yourself
God had two children in the garden. He was the perfect parent and His kids rebelled against Him. If He, the best possible parent, had kids that betrayed Him, then it is conceivable that even if you have done everything right your kids might also turn from you. Maybe you’ve made your share of mistakes with your teen and are reaping some consequences and are feeling badly. In either case, God is with you. He encourages us when things are hard, He forgives our failings, He offers encouragement and hope. If you spend a lot of time with Him, He will give you the wisdom and supernatural patience, and love that you desperately need.
Pray with others
Churches need support groups for parents of teens so they can pray together, laugh, and give loving understanding. If your situation with your teen has reached a critical stage and you need outside help, then seek professional counseling.
This is a stage
They won’t be teenagers forever, one day they will be adults whose brains have completed reformatting, who come to their senses, settle down, and then one day have teens of their own. I know it can seem overwhelming right now but hang in there. God is growing you too.