For most parents, the teenage years appear to be the most difficult.
For many, there are ongoing fears and conflicts as we seek to bring up children who will ‘do us proud’ in the church and in the community.
As our children begin to live out their own ideas and directions more blatantly, we feel that we are losing control. The reason we feel this way is simple—we are (and should be) losing control. The teenage years are the years when we gradually hand over control as our children become young adults. The ongoing development of responsibility and decision-making skills, which has begun in earlier years, is critical in the teenage years.
In our experience the teenage years should be seen as a process of movement from child to adult. At the age of 13 to 14, our children are in many ways still children.
Hormonal changes make them quite unpredictable, moody and often irrational. The move and adjustment to high school can be quite difficult and cause distress as they adjust to new friends and a different structure of education. There is more pressure from the outside world as ‘sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll’ take on greater significance.
And yet there are many ways in which our 13 to 14-year-olds show adult characteristics.
Many are physically maturing and are able to make wise and sensible decisions. They can be trusted to be left alone and solve many of life’s problems for themselves.
Great wisdom is required from parents in determining where the limits are to be drawn at this age. We would not see this as the age for teenagers to be out alone at night, nor do we feel that an extensive social program is necessary.
This is an age for growing, developing more responsibility and adjusting to physiological change. By the time your child reaches this age, we would hope that you have sat them down and talked openly and clearly about sexuality. Often your children will be more comfortable if this is done father-to- son/mother-to-daughter, however this is not essential.
For many 15 to 16-year-olds, life is ‘me’. Parents don’t know anything, and what they do know is out of date.
I am old enough to do what I like and go where I like with whomever I like and make my own decisions. And yet, underneath the bravado there is still a sense of insecurity. This age group is still searching and wanting direction and is generally open to it.
Such acceptance to direction is often relationship-dependent. The directions will only be OK from those whom they trust or look up to. This might be less from parents, and more from relatives, friends, teachers or idols.
Up to this age, parents have usually been the main ones to give input and training—now they are sharing this privilege with others. In the model of the ‘master’ and ‘apprentice’, we are now releasing our child more and more from the ‘workshop’, enabling them to get broader experience and input from others outside. This can be hard for parents as we come to realise the broader influences on our child.
Work hard to keep communication channels open so that you can talk through the issues and influences that are shaping your teenager.
Social interactions will also increase at this age. There will be a greater desire to go out with friends as our teenagers seek more independence. It is important here for the local church to be involved in setting direction and providing opportunities for teenagers to learn and meet together in a Christian setting.
This is the age where ongoing Bible teaching is important, not only from parents but also from others. Good Bible-based youth groups are available in many suburbs but may require some travelling. This is a more difficult situation in many country towns.
When you have 17 to 19-year-olds living in your house, you effectively are a household of adults living together (even though some will be young adults).
Many ‘teenagers’ at this stage of life are still studying, but there will also be those who are working and earning their own money. Those who are studying find this a difficult time, especially if friends have the independence that comes with a job—possibly have bought their own car and have little demand on their time outside of the job situation.
For those studying in Year 12, greater independence is sought. Most schools fail to deliver a structure that enables such independence and when they do, they find that most 17-year-olds have not been adequately trained to know what to do with it.
This is the age for handing over most things that we as parents cling to. The training of the past 16 years will now be seen bearing fruit (of varying quality) as our children make their own decisions and live with the consequences. As the ‘master’ we now observe the ‘apprentice’ in their own ‘workshop’, observing their work and offering occasional advice as requested.
As the apprenticeship is close to an end, that advice may not be heeded. If you are not happy with the decisions your adult teenager is making, it is important at this age to determine which issues really matter. It really is not worth fighting over the state of the bedroom, the quality of dress or even the nose ring. These are all symptoms of an expression of independence and identity. It does not need to be seen as rebellion but can simply be their expression of individuality.
Conformity is not always a good thing—individuality is generally not a bad thing. However, it must also be said that for several adults to live in the same household there will need to be agreed guidelines. Proper treatment and care for each other is essential. Clearly listed job responsibilities may be needed. Selfishness brings conflict —right and caring relationships should be evident as parents and teenagers live together. For this reason there will still be issues that may need to be addressed with your young adult teen- agers—but dealt with as adults together.
For All Ages
In the context of the Bible, it is important to remember throughout the teenage or ‘adolescent’ years that godly behaviour is still the requirement.
Unfortunately we have heard some Christian parents excuse wrong behaviour with the explanation that ‘they are only sowing their wild oats’. There is often a perception that if they get their ungodly behaviour over with in teenage years, they will settle down later on. Sometimes the excuse is: ‘But that’s what I was like when I was a teenager.’ There is no biblical support for such attitudes.
Children always need to be taught the Scriptures, so that they may grow up living in obedience and growing in their faith and knowledge of Christ. As parents we have a responsibility to teach our teenagers the Bible and not to condone ungodly behaviour.
Taken from Let's Talk About Parenting by Tony and Judy Willis.
During Marriage Week, from September 13–19, 2015, we're taking 25% off marriage books (including Let's Talk About Parenting) to help you and your spouse strengthen your marriage. Purchase your copy now!
For more articles from Growing Faith, subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.
To hear about the latest books and resources from Youthworks Media, subscribe here.