In our life with five kids, we’ve been parenting teens for over ten years. We’ll be in the trenches for a while since our third daughter just celebrated her fifteenth birthday and our youngest is still in elementary school.
From the time our first child was in diapers, all we heard was doom and gloom about the teen years. The common assumption seems to be that young people are disrespectful. Rebellious. Impulsive. Distant. Selfish. Just as it’s unfair to label our adorable, curious toddlers as “terrible two’s,” expecting the worst of our teens can only bring hurt and harm.
We believe teenagers can be smart and capable, brave and generous, open and faith-filled. If we don’t see those kinds of young people around us, perhaps it’s because they’re fed the wrong message:
“After reading the examples of great men of our country’s past, we should recognize that there is no reason why a 13 to 18-year-old cannot behave as a responsible adult. History proves it is possible. Diverse cultures confirm its validity. The only thing holding young people back in America today is the twine of this perpetual recess called adolescence and the twig of lowered social expectations.” (Alex & Brett Harris)
Our kids have deep value and potential we don’t want to miss, no matter the unique and complicated issues they face. Today we want to celebrate the gift of teenagers. Here are six ways parenting through the teen years has been the best time of our lives:
Independence: The teen years usher us into a new season of freedom. We can delete the babysitter’s number from our phone and go out whenever we want. We don’t have to handle every little detail of our kids’ day since they can drive (woo hoo!) and manage their own schedule. They’re capable of their own self-care, taking on meals, errands, and laundry without needing us to do it all. It no longer falls on us to set up play dates or sort through back packs. Our daily work is lightened as teenagers shift more of the load onto their own shoulders.
Friendship: As our kids grow in independence and self-reliance, we can release some of the authority and control we held in the past. We can walk shoulder-to-shoulder with our kids, exchanging ideas and discovering common ground in our interests. (Honestly, I love going out for coffee together more than playing tea party!) While we retain our role of influence as parents, we can experience a taste of the friendship we’ll enjoy in their adulthood.
Variety: Our teens take us to places we might not go on our own. We’ve tried new restaurants and coffee shops. Our music playlist has doubled. The family dinner menu has been turned upside-down, thanks to our vegetarians. We’ve visited galleries, hiking trails, and concert venues we’d have missed without our teens leading the way. As our kids experience life out from under our wing, they stretch our boundaries and make our days a lot more interesting.
Accountability: Teens are honest. They let us know if we have bad hair, cringey social media posts, or a judgmental attitude. We can’t fake it with our kids; they hold up a mirror to our priorities, integrity, and worldview, exposing who we really are. If we have the humility to receive it, their feedback and opinions can challenge us to be our best.
Passion: Young people feel deeply and dream big. They’re fiercely loyal to their friends and ideals. The sky holds no limit to their hopes and possibilities for the future. Teens challenge us to shake off our apathy and rekindle our own imagination. We take a fresh look at our place in this world and do a little soul searching—are we bored? Have we settled? Are we playing it safe, walking by sight instead of faith? Where do we see ourselves in five years? Ten? Our kids’ passion can be contagious and breathe fresh air into our lives.
Prayer: Growing up is so. very. hard. Our teens face pitfalls everywhere they turn, whether it’s attacks on their innocence, intense pressure to succeed, spiritual confusion, loneliness, or anxiety and depression. They don’t always understand their own emotions or choices from day to day. Power struggles and breakdowns in communication keep us far apart. Parenting teens teaches us to pray like never before—God can reach them when we can’t. He gives wisdom to show us what to do. He truly is “our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) Prayer is the greatest source of power and help in our life as a family.
We’ve found each stage of our kids’ growth to hold unexpected blessings. The teen years are no exception, no matter the unique challenges and stressors they bring. We pray for every good thing for your kids and your family as you journey through these years together.