GUEST POST: Helping Your Teen Make the Transition to Adulthood by Carol Worsham T-Moms

My family and I recently watched the movie 2012.  The movie is basically about Global Flood 2.0 (caused by sun explosions instead of God’s wrath this time), but the world’s leaders, who have been warned of the imminent cataclysm by scientists, decide to keep it under wraps for several years – while building massive “arks” to carry a chosen 400,000 people (smartest, strongest, richest) to start a new life somewhere.  This is not typically my type of movie, but I actually liked it because of the characters’ willingness to sacrifice themselves to save others: a father pushing his son to safety, losing the chance to save himself; a pilot helping passengers escape a crashing plane while he stays behind; a man flirting with almost certain death to save an arkload of humanity. The president of the United States himself—who, by virtue of his job, has a spot on one of the arks—elects to stay behind in solidarity with the rest of the country.  There are several poignant moments of family members telling each other goodbye over the phone or as they hold each other before dying.

I got to thinking about the last chapter of our For Parents Only book … if our teenagers knew we were about to die, what would they want to tell us most?  Do you wonder, like I do, if your teen really cares about you at all … your feelings, thoughts, opinions?  And what do you think he or she would say if asked what they would want to tell you if they knew you were going to die tomorrow?  Would it surprise you if they said “I’m sorry” and “I love you so much”?  I hope not, but I realize that may be where some of you are with your teens right now.  I encourage you to keep the faith, hang in there with unconditional love and fervent prayers, and keep trying to step into their world and understand where they are coming from and what is going on in their heads and in their hearts.  Even though it may not show right now, our children likely hold tremendous love, value and respect for us in their hearts.  One day they’ll be able to tell us so!  And it is so comforting and reassuring to me to know that as much as we love and want the best for our children, God infinitely more desires to see our children grow into amazing adults who fulfill His design and their callings to the fullest.

I am naturally a task-oriented person – as opposed to a relational one – so I often miss rich times with my kids because I don’t take time to formulate good questions (read: think before I speak) and really “interview” them.  My husband and children can also attest that my timing often stinks – I usually don’t choose the ideal time for criticism, even if it is constructive.  Thank goodness God’s ability to produce the amazing, fruitful adults my children may become far outstrips my ability to mess it up!  And His vision for who they can/will become is so much bigger than my own.  As I looked back over the book, here are a few of the highlights that I really want to remember:

*Understand that a craving for freedom is a natural part of growing up. Help them move from

fearing their parents to fearing God.

*Separating themselves from your identity to their own identity is a painful but often necessary part of growing up. Stay strong in your values while affirming who they are becoming.

*Be a parent, not a friend. Exercise authority in ways that build your kids up and promote personal responsibility.

*Be there for your kids. Make the effort to step into their world regularly. Let them know you love them unconditionally and truly want to understand them.

*Remember to be an oasis of calm in your teen’s life… don’t overreact – positively or negatively. Gently probe deeper to get past their surface answers and really listen.

*Remember that a bad attitude often masks insecurities … a fear of failure in boys and a fear of rejection in girls. Extend grace as you encourage and affirm them during these tumultuous years.

We have three children, and this year was the senior year of high school for our second daughter.  For those of you who have yet to experience this, along with the infamous 18th birthday, just get ready!  Most likely many of the things you thought you knew about your child are going to get turned upside down. Some in a good way and others… not so much.  Thankfully I had been somewhat prepared by some wonderful moms who have gone before me, but it has still been an emotional rollercoaster.  One of the moms in my small group surmised (wisely, in my opinion) that when the time to leave the nest is drawing near, a teen needs to make that nest feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, so that leaving it is not so hard or so bad.

Wherever you are on the spectrum, take heart.  The days are long but the years are short.  Enjoy the good days and rejoice in the growth in maturity and wisdom that both you and your teen are experiencing in the hard days.

1 Comment

  1. July 3, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Carol, I have read this several times since it was posted. I find such encouragement in these words. Thank you for reminding me that my teen holds “tremendous love, value and respect” for me. I really am trying to see through his words to his heart so I can better speak to his fears. Thankful for moms like you who have gone before me. Sure helps! 🙂

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