Last week I presented the first part of an article by Jim Burns, Ph.D. giving advice to parents of teens. We'll finish his article with the tips 3 and 4.
3. Your Kids Still Want a Relationship with You During Adolescence.
Where else will they go when they need money? Seriously, the older your kids get, the more they will move from dependence on you to a state of independence. Deep down, this is what we want for our kids. After all, who would look forward to having the responsibility of parenting a thirty-five-year-old adolescent? Not me! Still, the road to independence can be tough on parents, especially when it appears as rejection. Such experiences come as anywhere from a mild surprise to a major shock to parents who are watching their fun-loving 12-year-old become a sullen, more serious 13-year-old seemingly overnight. Try to keep in mind, however, that it’s only a normal part of adolescence.
Kids still want your presence in their lives, Moms and Dads. They want a relationship with you. Remember that just because they may not say “I love you” as much as they used to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you anymore.
4. God is Still Important to Your Kids’ Lives, Even When They Express Doubts.
Just because a teen struggles with faith, expresses questions and doubts, or seems bored with church doesn’t mean that they hate God. As kids progress through adolescence, they begin to think critically. A byproduct of this new way of thinking is that they begin to examine their faith from an adult-like perspective – which gives rise to doubting and questioning. Let me say it as clearly as I can: this is a healthy, important part of becoming an adult, and of developing a mature faith that will carry them through their adult lives! As parents, we need to create the atmosphere in our homes where our kids can struggle with faith issues safely and with lots of love, acceptance and guidance.
Too often, parents try to clamp down, to control or minimize these faith struggles in their kids, because they fear their kids may walk away from faith. But in the end, these tactics actually stunt the spiritual development process at work in their kids’ lives. Instead, parents who understand this key phase of spiritual development in the lives of their teens, and come alongside with support and encouragement, will actually help them develop an enduring faith.
In my book, Parenting Unchained, I noted that Jesus changed His tactics of teaching as He prepared to launch the disciples into life after the Resurrection. Jesus expressed confidence that the disciples would actually thrive after Jesus went to heaven. We need to express confidence in our kids as they face an independent future. It's true that they will face trials and failures, but because you have laid a solid foundation built on a relationship with you, a relationship of unconditional love, your teens will grow stronger through those trials.