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PARENTS: Navigating your Teen through the Turbulent Waters of Adolescence

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Know The River:

Dr. Kevin Leman from the video parenting series “Running the Rapids” says that parenting your adolescence through life is a lot like whitewater rafting. It can be a scary experience at times.

He says your role as the parent is to be the helmsman or experienced guide and it is crucial. You know the dangers that lie ahead. You must carry a sense of trust for your teen that you’ve been down this river before. You have more influence with your teen than you realize.

Adolescence begins around the age of 10 for girls and 11 for boys and it could be even younger depending on the maturity of your child.

As their guide, we must pay attention to these 3 crucial elements as you navigate lifes treacherous waters.

  1. Major in the majors, not in the minors. Pick your battles. Not everything requires a debate.

  2. Speak positive statements to your teen. They are gifts from God (Ps 127:3). It’s easy to point out their mistakes and flaws. We need to make every effort to acknowledge them when they do make a good choice.

  3. Find something they’re good at. See this as a gift or strength and use it to help build your teens self-worth.

In other words, be a cheerleader for your teen.

Know The Raft:

Dr. Lehman states the raft represents your home. Home is where you transfer your values to your teen. It’s where you show mutual respect and value to all of your children.

We need to watch our voice and the words we use. Use non-threatening communication. But remember, it’s more than your words. It’s also your actions. Your teens are taking into account if your words match your actions. If they don’t, they probably won’t take stock in what you have to say.

Base home on the Word of God. Remember, your horizontal relationship with God will positively effect your vertical relationships with family and friends. Also, be sure to pray for each other and include Christian life activities every week.

Go to the wall for your teens but be careful. Parents sometimes are quick to bail their teens out of trouble. The tough lessons from bad choices can be where the best learning takes place. Be sure to give your teen freedom but hold them accountable for their actions.

If you are in a blended family, you may face turbulent waters as you navigate different family histories and issues. Be patient.

If you are a single parent, be as consistent as possible. Professional family counselors suggest to stay single until your teens leave your home.

Teenagers need affirmation, love and a piece of the action. Be sure to laugh when you can.

Know The Riders:

Lehman says teenagers today face pressures that we never faced growing up. We don’t have a clue as to how bad it is out there.

Find ways to spend time with your teen. Offer to drive to and from their different events. This offers opportunities for conversation and listening.

Do not endure “smart mouth” comments from your teenager. As parents, we hold the keys (example car keys) to withhold privileges or freedoms to help curb any disrespectful comments.

Your teen gets hammered at school by derogatory sarcasm from peers. Please do not hammer or constantly find fault with your adolescent when they are home.

There is normal teenage negativity but their is also inappropriate negativity as well. Draw the line whenever your teen crosses that line.

Teens who feel close to their parents are less likely to engage in destructive behavior. Create a healthy shield around them with your love, consistency, and involvement. Throw out a life preserver when they are facing problems. Show grace and mercy.

There’s something healthy about unhappy teens. A parents goal is not to make their children happy all the time. Your goal is to lovingly encourage and teach your teen how to be responsible and considerate of others.

Know The Risks:

Just like white water rafting, being a teen today has lots of risks. You will have a variety of emotions when your child messes up. Be sure that you keep yourself in check and are in control of them.

When you catch your teen doing something dangerous or inappropriate, be open with your child and have a frank talk with them.

The world has little consensus about what comprises sex these days. Teens are ridiculed for being virgins. Just check out any movie or teen TV show. According to Dr. Lehman, 50% of today’s high school students have had sexual intercourse. By their senior year, it’s 60% and by their 20th birthday, it’s 80%.

If your child is sexually active, let them know that their behavior is dangerous and wrong. Address this issue head on by setting up boundaries and curfews. Your actions speak louder than your words. No idle threats here.

A great method for talking about sex is to take your teen on a drive down the interstate. Much can be accomplished by a dad talking to his daughter how young men think and a mom talking to her son how young ladies want to be treated.

Know The Relationships:

Remember, your horizontal relationship with Christ is your number one relationship. Your horizontal relationships in the raft (or home) with your family are the most important relationships you can have after your relationship with Jesus. All other relationships must follow.

Lehman says your teen needs to know that you are the authority in the home and they need to have a healthy understanding of what that authority is.

Ephesians 6:1-4 says “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

Remember this parenting formula: Rules + Relationship = Harmony. It’s not fool proof, but does help.

Here are 3 pillars for healthy teens.

  1. Respect and obey their parents.

  2. As parents, believe in your teen, and. . .

  3. Expect the best life has to offer them.

If you love your child, you will discipline them. But remember, it can be dangerous to over do or under do your discipline. Follow through with what you say. Set realistic standards. Don’t keep badgering your teen or continually bringing up past mistakes. Don’t make life impossible. Show God’s grace and mercy. Accept each child where God has them. Respect their privacy.

Be sure to listen, listen, listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Improve your relationship by questioning less and encouraging your child more.

Respect their choices. Use ‘reality discipline’ by allowing your teen to live with the consequences of their bad choices. Use each opportunity to teach and mold your teen. Be sure to give them some slack to be a teen and mess up from time to time.

Know The Reality:

You don’t have to navigate the river of adolescence alone. Get the support from other parents if possible. See if your church has a parent group that you could connect with.

Work on gaining the ‘Home Court Advantage’. How do you do that? By having your child invite their friends to your raft (or home). Plan with your teen fun events. Be sure to include food for them. Provide the pizza, games or pick out a decent video. Make your home a ‘safe haven’ for your teen and their friends.

Below are 6 ways to provide a ‘Home Court Advantage’.

  1. Let your teen know that they belong in your family.

  2. Take time to know your teen’s friends.

  3. Be involved in the life of your teen.

  4. Create a warm loving inviting home environment.

  5. Provide stability in a mobile society.

  6. Become your teen’s excuse to say “No’ when they don’t want to follow the crowd.

Pay attention to any change in your child’s behavior. Be willing to talk to your teen about the change and be ready to listen.

Finally, be real with your teen. Let them hear about the times in your life when you screwed up. You don’t have to pretend to be perfect. They need to know that you are real and made mistakes too.

May God bless you as you navigate the treacherous waters of adolescence.

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