Please give a warm welcome to my first regularly contributing writer, Candace from Sacred Mommyhood. I am privileged and honored to have her support my endeavors at this blog to encourage moms in their journey, as it is indeed, sacred work. ~Brandy
By Candace Sabo, Contributing Writer
I don’t often write about raising teens. My primary focus at Sacred Mommyhood is encouraging moms with littles. However, I do have two teens (one of whom is married now…she’s 19), and would love to share a bit about our journey through ‘teen hood’.
Raising teens has been an absolute joy. I often think that God has been very gentle with us in this area. Our two older girls have pretty much been every parent’s dream. So much so, that I often get asked, “What is your secret?” That’s not to say that we haven’t had our bumps in the road, but these girls have gone pretty easy on us.
I often think about my seven little ones….and fast forward to when most of them are teens…at the same time. Then I panic! That’s seven sets of hormones, and unique minds, and opinions coming at us at once. YIKES! I’m already praying for God’s wisdom, grace, and mercy for those days ahead.
Scripture is our best guide. God gives us His word to guide and teach us. However, there are those areas where Scripture isn’t all that specific. We can take Scripture and mold it to our man-made rules….come up with formulas for raising godly children. I’ve seen even the godliest of parents deal with rebellion. We must trust God with our kids, and our goal should be to bring them to maturity in Christ. This may look different in every family.
With that said, I also understand that parents with younger kids want some practical advice, or things that they can incorporate into their family lives that can help lead and guide their children in a godly direction. When we were those young parents, we were certainly watching other families and learning what we could from them. So here are some principles and practical applications, along with God’s grace, that have grown our teens into God-loving young adults.
(Caveat: This is not a “how to”. There are many variables to consider: family dynamics, your marriage, your child’s heart, do they know the Lord, and ultimately, God’s plan for your teen’s life! We can do all these things and still, we can lose our child’s heart. So please just read this as our journey and what we’ve learned, knowing that God has directed our girls to be who they are.)
God is Foundation
This just means that we strive to honor God in all we do. We fail daily, but we repent and get back on the horse. We want our children to have a relationship with Jesus. We want to feed them with His word. We read His word together, we pray together, we serve together, we make worship and church family a priority, etc. We do these things individually as well…we want our kids to grow in their personal relationship with Christ. In all that we do, our desire is to keep our eyes on Christ.
Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Deuteronomy 11:19
Raising Young Adults
When our older girls were young, we would talk about those upcoming teen years a lot. A trend that Greg and I noticed was this ‘rite of passage’ that teens seem to have which gives them an unspoken permission to behave immaturely and act obnoxious. I’ve heard many parents say, “You know those teens” or, “I guess this is expected in these teen years” to excuse poor behavior. Well, Greg and I decided early on that we were not having any of that nonsense. We wanted to raise mature young adults, who aren’t focused on themselves 24/7. Our girls grew up knowing what was expected and what wasn’t allowed. There’s a difference between teens having fun and teens catering to the world’s low expectations of them. Thankfully, our girls saw plenty of examples of this type of thing and gained an understanding of why we didn’t want them to take the similar path.
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
Teach Them To Serve
One of the greatest things we can teach our children is to put others before themselves. As parents, we must model this, but we also need to provide opportunities for them to serve. Allowing and encouraging our girls to serve when they were younger has carried over into their teen years. They love opportunities to help others. This can look like many things: being a mom’s helper to a mom who has all little ones, taking a loaf of freshly baked bread to the neighbor, visiting with an elderly friend, cleaning a home of a mom who is struggling with morning sickness, volunteering at a soup kitchen, making a get-well card for someone, helping a sibling, mowing a lawn for a widow, going on mission trips, the list goes on.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…. Mark 10:45
Let service be an everyday event in your home. Always look for opportunities and ask your kids to think of ideas as well. Serving becomes inherent, and when they are teens, they are thinking of others, and less of themselves.
We love to talk with our teen girls. They are very interesting and funny. When they were younger, Greg would have “Sunday Talks” with them. Every Sunday evening, he would talk to each of them about whatever they wanted. It was just a special time for the girls with their daddy. As our family grew, that became more difficult, but it was a treasured time for all of them. Communication has always been a priority and we’re so thankful that our girls have always been able to come to us about anything. We like to discuss various topics ranging from current events to theology. We want to know their opinions, hear their hearts, and weigh these things against God’s Word. We also make a point of thanking them for their continuous hard work, and telling them how proud we are of them.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
Influences will certainly vary in families. As home schoolers, our kids are naturally protected from many of the harmful influences that other kids may face. But we think it’s important to bring balance when exposing our kids to various influences. We know parents who allow their kids to do as they please, setting no boundaries. And we know parents who won’t even let their kids play with their friends in the next room alone. Though we tend to err on the firm side of boundaries, we also want our kids to be kids! (There’s a lot I could say here, but for the sake of keeping this post a decent length, I will revisit this topic later, and just discuss teens now). With our teens, we trust that they have come to a point of maturity when considering influences. A point where they’re firm in their walk with the Lord. For example, when our oldest daughter was 16, she had the opportunity to enroll in the local college for dual credit. We did not worry about her getting caught up with the wrong people or being influenced by the wrong crowd. We knew God had brought her to a place of maturity and we felt confident that she would do well in this secular setting. She did. Not only did she excel academically, but she also gained courage to share her convictions if the opportunity arose. She even wrote a paper on abstinence and presented it in front of a bunch of older college students. That took a lot of courage. God was glorified! However, if you don’t feel your teen has reached that point of maturity, more protection from harmful influences may be necessary.
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 1 Corinthians 15:33
Encourage Them to Do Hard Things
We’ve always tried to encourage our teens to do something out of the ordinary and not be content with the status quo. If they’re going to rebel, let it be to rebel against low expectations! Let them start a business, or get involved in the political arena, send them on a mission trip, or raise money for a cause, or start up a neighborhood teen Bible study. Greg and I decided years ago, that Lord willing, we’d like each of our kids to go on some sort of mission trip (without us) around the age of 16 or older. We gently push them out of their comfort zone and provide tools and resources for them to experience new things. This builds confidence and gives them a greater sense of responsibility. It also reveals to them your confidence in them.
Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12
Pray for Them
We have been praying for these girls since our oldest was a baby, and from then on, praying for them even before we knew they would be born. We met a wonderful Christian family when I was pregnant with Cheyenne who became our mentors. They taught us so much. They told us how they began praying for their children even before they were born. This was revolutionary to a very young married couple. And so we did. We prayed for their salvation. We prayed for the lives, that they would love and serve God. We prayed for their future spouses, that God would provide godly spouses for each of our children if it was His will for them to be married. We continue to pray this daily for our children now….and the ones who may come in the future. God faithfully answered our prayers for our older girls. They know God, they love Him, and they desire to serve Him. And we’ve seen the fruit of our prayers for a spouse when Cheyenne and Nathan were married. God is so good, and He alone is worthy of all praise!
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2
Establish a Trust Relationship
When we know our teens are walking with Lord, we can trust that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide their decisions. This has definitely been easier for my husband than me. It’s not that I don’t trust my girls, it’s just that I want to protect them….maybe too much. My husband brought much balance to our home when they would ask to do things. Now that we’ve gone through one courtship and marriage, I’m finding it much easier with our second daughter to not over think things and just trust. It’s always the hardest with the first one, right? You know your teen best, and God gives us, as parents, the wisdom to make the best decision based on the knowledge of your teen and the circumstance. So trust that the Holy Spirit is leading you as parents, and your teen as a fellow believer and child of God.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
In Part 2, I will discuss some of the tough spots of raising teens. Those day-to-day challenges like hormones, disagreements, and flirting with the lines of disrespect. Click here to read Part 2.