Immediately, memory swept me back to the always-challenging days when three of our four kids were teenagers. Sometimes I wondered whether I'd make it through. If only we had known at the beginning what we figured out by the end.
Nobody ever does.
The good news is that teen-age is a passage, not a life sentence for either parent or child. Remember that.
A new relationship lies just ahead. Today's mutual frustration passes and parent and child relate as adult to adult, actually enjoying each other's presence. Trust me, it can happen--and usually does.
Here's a bit of what we picked up along the way.
* There are no cookie-cutter teens
Every adolescent insists on steering through these years in his or her own way.
As parents it helps to start the day by asking God's blessing and guidance, then taking an "energy drink" from God's Word like Philippians 4:13:
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Repeat as often as needed throughout the day.
* Conflict is part of the transition process
I remember thinking, I can't say or do anything right! I felt overwhelmed by what seemed everlasting conflicts.
I learned it helps to step outside ourselves and walk a mile in our kid's flip-flops.
Those youngsters who now look us in the eye are as surprised as we are. They, too, are baffled by their mood swings. They don't understand themselves. That's part of what makes them so testy.
We never know what to expect of them, but neither do they.
*The closer adolescents feel to their parents, the harder it is to see themselves as separate individuals
One teen we knew, um, very well went to bed one night a sweet, loving girl. Next morning an individual who looked the same came to breakfast and slammed every door along the way--hard. This went on for a year and a half.
Hostility for no reason.
Total shock for parents.
Then a family counselor friend explained it's as if teens must "build a case" in order to give them courage to separate themselves from loving parents. That helped us get a better perspective.
We pledged to keep on loving, no matter what and this verse became our motto:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. -1 Peter 4:8
* Trying to exert tighter control usually backfires
Our child's rebellion makes us want to clamp down, just to show who's in charge. Adolescents with an ounce of spunk react by digging in even deeper. They think their moms and dads still view them as little kids and want to hold them back.
It's more effective to back off on what isn't harmful. As one mom put it, "I'm strict on what really matters, but I don't get upset over small stuff. If he wants to spray his hair green or go to school in holey jeans I let it go."
Young birds need to try their wings. So do teens, preferably before they leave the nest.
* Loosen the cords and slowly play out the line
Trot out a tested principle of parenting: With freedom comes responsibility.
Be clear that freedom is a privilege, not a perk that automatically comes at a given age. Taking the family car, for example, comes after proving oneself reliable and responsible.
Here's a verse to help you stand strong despite pressure:
(Jesus said) "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." --Luke 16:10
Hang in there. God gave you your children and He will carry you through these teenage years. Count on it.