By Jessica Kastner, Crosswalk.com
Raising kids in today's increasingly Godless world and confused culture is hard. Raising teenagers feels practically impossible. Out-of-control gender dysphoria issues, online dangers and addictions, an influx of social anxiety and isolation problems, and even more serious issues like the epidemic of self-harm and suicide running rampant amongst 13–18-year-olds are just some issues facing teens today.
As parents, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious while in the trenches raising teens, but meditating on these five truths will help us remain grounded and resolute in our belief that we'll get through this season.
Truth #1: You're Nothing But a Soldier
It's important to remind ourselves daily that our primary role right now is not a friend, Uber driver, cook, personal shopper, or even caretaker. As Christian parents trying to guide our teens through the formative years, we are first and foremost protectors, battling on the front lines of a spiritual war for the souls of our children. Period.
Our teens are simply too ill-equipped, underdeveloped, and easily influenced to be left to their own devices. It's so easy to lose heart facing a force field of eye rolls and the endless, stubborn refusals to join any sort of family time. It can be tempting to cave when they're begging to keep their bedroom door closed, assuring you they "just wanna be friends" with the girl at school, or lobbying for more lenient parental control settings.
But we can't bend. It's misery at times, but we just can't. Instead, we've got to Navy Seal it up every day and hold the line. We must intentionally engage in daily battles to win the war. This kind of rhetoric might sound hyperbolic to those with littles, but parents of teens are most likely nodding "Amen" in desperate solidarity.
Tough love is true love, and God disciplines those He loves. Our kids might resent us in the moment, but we need to maintain high standards and protective measures to ensure our kids remain emotionally whole and walking in truth. They'll get it someday, just like we do now as adults, which leads to my next point.
Truth #2: And if We're Soldiers, Our Greatest Weapon Is Prayer
Raising teens can feel beyond defeating, especially for the first-timers out there. There's always a new app to monitor, an iPhone hack to navigate, and some new digitized, perverted attack on our kids' innocence to grieve over.
But if we aren't covering our kids daily in prayer, casting down the work of darkness in their lives, praying that they'll resist temptation and maintain a thirst for truth, chances are no one else will be. We need to pray daily, asking for spiritual protection, good friendships, Godly mentors, and a deep sense of God-sourced confidence that repels peer pressure. And for purity and wholeness over their sexuality, just to name a few.
Sometimes, when things feel particularly rough, we can feel too hopeless, exhausted, or defeated to pray. Maybe we feel like we've already failed or guilty and undeserving of help. Do it anyway, because the enemy doesn't sleep.
Truth #3: Always Be Kind And Loving, Even When You Feel Like Setting Their X Box On Fire
We've all been there. As much as our hearts bleed for our teens, it can feel nearly impossible to stay patient, calm, empathetic, and loving when half the time they're carrying on like hormonal gremlins. We've all lost it from time to time. I still shudder remembering my recent temper flare after my 15-year-old son refused to hug me on Mother's Day. Let's just say my reaction wasn't very "maternal."
Our negative, emotionally charged reactions may stem from understandable pain and frustration, but we won't win our kids' hearts or maintain respect and authority if we let their ridiculous behavior derail us.
Instead, try emphasizing with what they're going through by remembering what it was like at their age. I'm not sure about you, but I wouldn't time warp back to middle school for the guarantee of a personal Hawaiian island. As much as we might assume we know what's going on in their psyches, we can't fully understand what it's like walking this cultural circus in their shoes. Pray for compassion, discernment, and gentleness. And if all else fails, think of how much grace Jesus extended during that season of your life when we most definitely didn't deserve it (we all have 'em!).
Truth #4: Conversations Are Key, Even When You Dread Them
Talking openly and vulnerably with our teens can be a huge challenge. If my boys even get a whiff of an impending convo, they scatter like cockroaches to a flame. But despite how unnatural it feels, how award it is, or how ardently our teens assure us there's "nothing to talk about," we need to push forward for two reasons: (1) they need to know we care and (2) once and a while, we strike gold. We've all found ourselves in the middle of a gut-wrenching, tear-filled, open-heart conversation that started out with a simple question at least once.
Another thing to remember is there's so much going on in our teens' hearts and minds. They're always navigating new emotions and unexpected challenges, and need a source of steady security, whether they admit it or not. And if they're not hearing our voices consistently, with us asking questions, checking in, and offering guidance, the voice of the enemy, their peers, or other influences vying for their affection and attention might drown out the truth.
Truth #5: Don't Let Fear and Worry Rob Your Joy
Sometimes I worry so much it feels impossible to fall asleep. I'm constantly fighting off feelings of anger and injustice that my kids are growing up in such a ludicrous world, and it's easy to focus more on hating the darkness than believing in the good.
It's an easy rabbit hole to slip into, but we can't allow fear and worry to steal our joy. Focus on the nuggets of good and the continual daily prayers that are truly being answered all the time. These years might be the last our kids spend under our rooves (sniff!), so embracing the season we're in is important. There truly is a way to rejoice, remain worshipful, and have faith, even when in the fire. We may not be achieving REM sleep for a while, but there's a ton to be grateful for and a way to remain steady when we keep our eyes on Jesus, and focus on His promises.
Truth #6: Remember God Loves Our Teens Even More Than We Do
God loves our teens even more than we do, so we should never succumb to the religious "works-based" trap of thinking our prayers and protective actions alone warrant God's protection. He's in control, no matter how jaw-droppingly insane this parenting season may feel. But when we adopt a prayer warrior mentality, we'll feel empowered, equipped, and supported on our teen parenting journey.
Just as we overcame and outgrew our difficult seasons, this, too, will pass. Someday, our teens will mature and become healthy, Jesus-loving adults who'll proactively hug us on Mother's Day (I claim it, Lord!). I'll even take an extra buoyant leap of faith and wager we'll even laugh together about all this ridiculousness…someday.
Last bit of advice. Don't go on the teen journey alone. Share your struggles with a family member and trusted Christian friends who'll partner with you in prayer. Seek out counseling or advice from church youth leaders or other Christian friends who've raised teens and lived to tell. The more we talk about our struggles, the more we realize we're not alone, and we really will make it through.