Thursday, March 13, 2014

Adolescence Times Three: A Mother's Survival Guide

I thought having three kids in diapers at the same time was going to send me over the edge of sanity into a deep dark abyss of nothingness....It took me close. Having those same three kids going through adolescence at the SAME TIME might just finish the job!! 

Ok, I know I'm being a bit dramatic, but seriously! My kids are amazing kids, and that's not just mama bear talking. Ask anyone who knows them, and they will tell you that my kids are truly great kids. But when the hormones are raging high in this house, watch out! My son is turning 13 in a month, and my daughters are 10 and 11. Yes, you can say a prayer for me now. 

For the last 16 years I have worked closely with teenagers in some way.  I don't consider myself an expert by any stretch, but I have learned a lot along the way about how to communicate and relate to this age group.  I'm writing this post primarily as a way to remind me of all the things I was able to glean from youth ministry from a rational, outsiders perspective, so that I can look to it as I enter the more emotional realm of parenting my own adolescence.  If it helps someone else, that's awesome!   

I feel very well prepared for the teen years with my kids.  What I wasn't mentally prepared enough for, was the reality of having all three of my children in the prime of adolescence at the same time.  Girls begin this process a lot earlier than boys do, and when you have your children as close together as I did and the oldest is a boy followed by two girls... you get the picture!

So, here's what I want to remember:

1.  Hormones are real and have a very real affect that sometimes seems uncontrollable.  I know that some people put way too much stock into hormonal imbalance, using it as a crutch or an excuse for certain behavior.  I in no way support that.  I do, however, feel that a lot of Christian parents ignore the hormonal side of things completely.  It's not only important for us as parents to understand and accept that hormones play a huge role in our emotions, it is also important for us to teach that reality to our children as they are coming into this crucial growth time.  When your 8 year old daughter is unrealistically overwhelmed because you said she couldn't have an extra cookie and she has no control over her tears and doesn't know why she can't just get over it, it's time to talk about hormones.  Explain to her that those emotions are a natural part of our existence, but that we have to choose how we are going to treat others and react when these emotions creep up.  If she needs to just go cry it out, that's fine.  Tears are healthy.  But if she is going to scream and be downright mean to her brother and sister or even her parents, then she's just crossed a line.  Teach them appropriate ways to get their feelings out during these hormone outbursts.

2. Teens need a godly outside influence other than the parent.  Please, don't misunderstand me here.  Your role as parent is of highest value and necessity.  My kids need us to be their primary go to for counsel and support.  They know that we are always right here with them and we have great communication with our kids.  That's vital.  However, there is something very special about the relationship with a teen and his youth leader.  Let's face it, teens go through times when they need to vent about their parents.  I want my kids to vent about me to someone who loves them, loves the Lord, and will let them vent without turning the kids away from me.  The youth leader guides them in their spiritual walk and gives them a fun and safe outlet for some of those emotions that they are going through. 

3.  Barriers and authority are still necessary, but they also need space to grow into adults.  This is a very tricky balance, but it is so important.  We always say that we're raising adults, not children.  If we never give our kids room to make some decisions on their own, then we're setting them up for a very frustrating life.  As they progress through the teen years, they need more and more freedom and space to grow and flourish.  However, don't think for a second that this means they have no rules.  There are still certain barriers that teens should have in place.  A major area I have seen over the years is the issue of church attendance.  I've seen many parents give their teens the choice of whether they want to go to youth group, and in some cases even the choice to go to church at all.  I've got to just be honest again here.  There are times even as an adult that I would choose to stay home if it was a choice for me.  Sometimes, we just don't feel like going.  (I know, I'm a pastors wife and I totally just said that.  I know you've felt the same way, so don't judge me. LOL)  :)   My point is, that during the adolescent and teen years it would take only a small hormonal outburst for a teen to decide they are just never going to church again.  The wise parent will make them go anyway.  As an adult I have a non-negotiable rule that I will be in church.  (and 99% of the time I definitely want to go, just FYI for the curious)  This is just one area that barriers are necessary, but there are definitely more.  For instance, barriers in dating.... but that will require an entirely new post, or three.

4.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13
    "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."  I Timothy 1:7
"Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety." Proverbs 11:14
"The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble." Nahum 1:7
"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him." Proverbs 22:15.  (Don't ever use adolescence as an excuse to not discipline.  Sinful behavior must be dealt with even during these emotional years.)

I am realizing that I have way too much to write for one blog post, so I shall stop here and wait for more discussion from all of you!  Just click the link below and we can chat more.  I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas for practical parenting from a biblical world view.   

P.S. My kids behaved BEAUTIFULLY tonight with no irrational emotions surfacing at all.  It was awesome!

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