Babies require constant attention. They depend on you for food, warmth and comfort – they simply cannot exist without you. But as your children grow, the tangible ways in which they need you become less and less. And one day you wake up and realize that you are not as central to their life as you once were. It can be hard to parent a teenager.
It can be easy to assume that just because your teenagers don’t need you to dress and feed them, they don’t need you as involved in their lives. It can be easy to disengage. In fact, you may want to disengage because, let’s face it, teens can be a challenge to be around.
But if we pull back from our teens too soon, there are going to be some consequences. As Christian parents, we need to stay engaged and finish strong. It seems that adolescence is a time of spiritual battles over our teens’ hearts. Now is not the time to sit back. The war is not over. It has just begun.
Nehemiah chapter 4 has some great ideas on how to stay engaged through the teen years. You can read the passage here.
The Israelites had a handful of workers, a huge wall to erect, limited resources and a constant threat of invasion. On paper, this seemed like an exercise in futility. Focusing on the facts would have led to inactivity. But instead of focusing on what they didn’t have, Nehemiah helped them realize what they did have: God.
“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:14)
So when your teen seems impossible to relate or connect to in any fashion, don’t throw in the towel. When they push you away, don’t push back. Love them instead. When you are tempted to give in because upholding your rules and standards creates too much conflict, stand firm. God is for your relationship. Restoration, redemption and unity are always part of His will.
Trust God as you parent a teenager
As they were rebuilding the wall, the Israelites were ridiculed and taunted by Sanballat and his friends. They mocked their meager wall and limited resources. But the Israelites refused to give up and let these destructive words erode their faith and hope.
“Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.” (Nehemiah 4:4-5)
There is a battle raging in the mind of every parent. Doubt creeps in every chance it gets. Should I be more strict? Maybe I am being too strict. I shouldn’t have said that. I wish I had parented differently when she was younger. Maybe this is my fault. I just don’t know what to do or say anymore. If you find your mind being tossed about on a sea of doubt and indecision, reach out for the Anchor of your soul. Nehemiah and the workers heard the insults and mocking and funneled them right up to God. Ask Him for clarity and for peace of mind. Ask Him for the protection of your thoughts from the attacks of the enemy.
The people were tired. The wall was halfway finished but the threat of attack grew every day. Nehemiah created small family-based army bands that stood guard while others worked.
” From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall.” (Nehemiah 4:16-17)
God expects us to live in community. We are not supposed to fight life’s battles on our own. If you are feeling overwhelmed with the task of parenting your teen, get support. Support comes in all shapes and sizes: a friend, a mentor, a mom’s group, a prayer partner, etc. Find the type of support that works for you and ask them to stand guard over you as you work.
Hold fast to the sword of the Spirit
During the time of imminent threat, everyone had a weapon at the ready.
“Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.” (Nehemiah 4:17-18)
God’s word is a “double edged” sword, judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12). Keep God’s word as part of your relationship with your teen. Don’t check out from your role as spiritual guide and mentor. Your job is not over, it has simply changed. Instead of approaching it with a teacher-student mindset, dig into God’s word together as mutual explorers. You won’t have all the answers, so find them together. Here are a few resources that might help:
YouVersion (download the free app and search for daily devos to complete and discuss)
Got Questions (answers to tough questions about God and the Bible)
Stay engaged. Fight for your teen, not against him. You are on the same side.
[photo credit: jeltovski from morguefile.com]