GUEST POST: Our Teens Need to Feel Secure by Anna Clagett


When my oldest child entered the teen years, I remember thinking, “Who took my sweet little boy and replaced him with this guy?” My son who liked to laugh, cuddle, talk, and just be with me had been substituted by one who would rather be with friends, listen to music, or just hide out in his room than interact with me.  As bewildering as that was, and even hurtful to my mama’s heart, I’ve since learned that teens still need you to engage with them, to initiate, and to keep connecting.

Teenagers are desperately trying to figure out who they are.  Their bodies are changing, their hormones are raging, and the pressures of life are increasing (grades, college plans, jobs, finances…).  The tumult going on in their world makes them even more eager for some sense of stability and security.  We as parents, who have known them and have loved them more and longer than anyone on this earth, must be the source of that security.  The tricky part of this equation is that we as parents need to figure out the best way to serve up that security in a way our teens can receive it. And lest you think there is a single recipe that will fill every teens needs, let me say that I have found the recipes to be different for each and every one of my five teens.

For example, my college freshman recently celebrated her birthday. She and I are very close, and I happen to know that for her, being in the kitchen speaks love to her.  She is the one who is famous among her friends for bringing to-die-for lemon squares, or homemade chocolates to their gatherings.  Needless to say, the freshman dormitory life has curtailed her culinary outlet, so I decided to prepare dinner for her and her friends in Knoxville that weekend.  She planned the guest list and the menu, which she also loves to do, I brought all the ingredients, and we had a great evening together.

Now, my other kids would not have appreciated that type of weekend nearly so much. But what are some general principles in communicating security and love to our teens?

  1. Be honest about your failures, both past and present. They want to know that you are REAL, and that you can relate to them as they muddle through these years of learning to be adults. Along with this comes asking for forgiveness from them as well as readily forgiving them!
  2. Step in with confidence to protect them and to cheer them on. They need to know that when they get into a bind, you will be the adult in their corner, that you believe the best of them, and that they are safe with you.  Does that mean you let them off the hook or back down when the situation calls for discipline or consequences?  No. But even then, make sure your love for them is clearly communicated.
  3. Be united as parents. Respect your spouse and deal with issues that arise behind closed doors at an appropriate time.
  4. Spend time in their world. Go to concerts, ball games, coffee shops, and the mall with them. Enter into whatever it is they love.
  5. Communicate! This is the time in your life where, much like the infant years, you may be sleep deprived.  Your child may really open up at midnight, so take an afternoon nap if you need one to be available to them.
  6. Ask questions. Your teen needs to learn to make decisions and come to their own conclusions, so we must bite our tongues when we are tempted to jump in with an answer (or a lecture!). These are the years to ask them and coach them in establishing their own world view.
  7. Don’t FREAK OUT! Be calm at all costs.  Your teen will likely throw you some doozies. Whether it involves tattoos, hair color, or a broken curfew, if you react emotionally, they will NOT feel secure being honest with you.
  8. Give them opportunities to try, and even to fail. These are the final years for your kids to get their “sea legs” before they sail off into the big blue shark-filled ocean. Walk beside them, but resist the urge to do it for them.
  9. Point them to Jesus, the ultimate source of security. From Psalm 62, we are reminded that God is our Rock, Salvation, Stronghold, and Refuge.  On Him our salvation and glory rest, and we can trust in Him and pour out our hearts to Him! Our teens’ heavenly Father will be present with them when we can’t be, and they couldn’t be in better hands.
  10. Play with them. They may not be into Barbies and Legos anymore, but they still want you to play with them.  Dancing together in the kitchen, verbal banter, practical jokes, cooking together, bike rides, and special family vacations are just some of the ways you can play with your teens. Playfulness shows them that you are fully present, that you like them, and like being with them.




  1. Marya Elrod said,

    March 22, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Anna, thank you! It is so good to be reminded that as our children are traveling the rocky road of their teen years, God is present when we can’t be…or when our presence seems unwanted. Giving them room to grow and figure things out for themselves means allowing the possibility for hurt and tough consequences but holding on to the truth of God’s arms around them is a solid place to stand…our Stronghold and theirs.

  2. Jenny Watson said,

    March 29, 2011 at 8:02 am

    I am learning now to take risks more and that failing is OK. Good idea to help my kids learn that way before I did. Thanks also for reminding me to play with my sweet Lily, the only one left at home.

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