It’s easy to see ourselves as warriors, as guardians over our children when they are young. They are so vulnerable and innocent. At night, when I look in on my sleeping boys, I’m struck by the intensity of emotions I feel for them. I don’t ever want anything to harm my children. When I look at them, I do feel like a warrior.
Our children, though, need us to be warriors for them throughout their entire childhood and adolescence. They need us to support them, as champions for God, not only when they’re young and vulnerable but also when they’re older and vulnerable. Granted, as they age, they’re gaining the skills and insights they need to transition into their championship role, but we must not pull our support too soon.
Finding the correct balance when teenagers can be a challenge. Here are some guiding principals to help you create the necessary boundaries in your child’s life, while also providing them with the freedom they need to grow into their best selves.
Adolescents need to be allowed to make mistakes.
How will our children ever learn about grace if there’s no need for it? Now, this is a truth really for us parents, not for kids. They already know they can and will make mistakes. We parents need to remember mistakes will happen. After all, this is a spiritual training exercise our children are engaged in. The only way to keep them from getting dirty, taking a knock or two, scraping a knee, or twisting an ankle is to pull them from the arena altogether. If you do, kiss the training goodbye, at least while they’re under your roof.
Adolescents need to experience a team.
You’re the dad coaching from the sidelines. You’re the mom cheering from the stands. You are not your adolescent’s teammate. You’re not your child’s buddy or best friend; they have other people to fill those roles. You may and will, by God’s grace, become your child’s dear friend, as well as parent, later on in life, but do not expect it now.
Your child needs to be part of a team and who your child chooses to team with will tell you a great deal about how he or she is doing spiritually. It is appropriate for you to ask questions about who your child is “teaming” with. It is appropriate for you, as the coach, to make changes to your child’s team. If you pull your child from one team, though, you must help your child incorporate another — and it can’t be just you and your family. That may seem safer, but it’s not realistic and it doesn’t help your child learn to operate in the arena of peers.
Keep active, keep on the sidelines, keep aware of the game and how it’s going. Keep alert to the other players on the field, but let your kids play the game. Trust them to take a time out and run off the field to get instructions, ask questions, or receive a pat on the back when they need it. Call timeout yourself, if needed, but recognize you’ve only got so many of them before you’re going to be called yourself for delay-of-game.
Adolescents need their space.
Don’t react to their growing independence by tying them tighter and tighter to you. This is dependence on you and it will hobble God’s champion. Instead, this time of adolescence is meant to foster independence from you and a greater dependence on self and God. You cannot keep kids from wanting their space, but you can encourage them to make sure that space includes God.
Adolescents demand split—second timing.
On the cusp of childhood and adulthood, their age vacillates back and forth. As a spiritual coach of this fluctuating champion, be aware that you’ll need to learn how to read your child. Because of the immense physical and emotional changes happening during this stage, what your child needs from you at any given moment is a moving target. You must be prepared to be father or friend, mother or mentor, parent or peer. You must be prepared to spend at least an hour talking with your teen, or accept barely a monosyllabic answer to the most complex question. You must be prepared to dive in and rescue your drowning child or wave calmly from shore as the waves roll in. You must be alert to, aware of, and available for your adolescent at any time…and on their schedule, not yours.
Raising children through their teenage and adolescent stages can be a challenge. For some teenagers, it’s simply a matter of weathering the storms with them until they land safely on the other side. For others, this phase of life can be a real challenge, potentially causing lasting trauma in their lives. If you believe your teenager is struggling with issues such as depression, anxiety, disordered eating, or addiction, you may need to seek professional help. For more information about treatment and recovery options, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today. Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE is standing by to help you and your loved ones.