By: Delana S
A mom just entering the phase of parenting a teenager wrote and asked for advice: what would I continue doing and what would I do differently? My sons just came for a visit, and though I thoroughly enjoyed having them all around, I am thankful that they are no longer 13-15. Raising teenagers (and I have only raised teenage sons, so far) brought many wonderful things, such as youth events in our home, camping, long walks and talks, and thankfully still plenty of affection (even hugs in public). It also came with challenges as they became more independent in thinking. They each went through a phase of challenging authority, doubting parental wisdom, and seeking to find their own way (regarding what they believe about life).
What would I do again?
1) Follow the great advice I received that teenagers need at least 12 hugs a day.
2) Require each of them to take a flight with an airline escort service by the age of 12-14.
3) Require each of them to take a solo flight before they graduate high school.
4) Encourage use of public transportation.
5) Teach them cooking skills and laundry care.
6) Require each of them to take dual credit college courses at some point during their high school years. One did this over a summer at a community college between his freshman and sophomore year. He stayed with his grandparents for part of that summer. The second son took a couple of courses at a community college and worked a part time job, while also taking some online high school classes one semester. This son and our third son also took online dual credit college courses while living overseas. The courses taken while in the US at the local community colleges were covered by state grants.
7) Love them, love on them, and pray for them daily.
What do I wish I had done (or done more of)?
1) Required them to do all their own laundry earlier in their high school years.
2) Developed more of an environment for fostering independent thinking, problem solving, etc. This would include having them call to make doctor and dental appointments.
3) Worked harder at becoming a coach and helping my husband in this area. See: From Commanding Father to Life Coach: Parenting Teens the Biblical Way.
4) Set time limits for how long I listened to draining emotional conversation. I had been advised rather late in the game to say: “You may continue to share your burden (complaint, frustration, depression, whatever) for 15 minutes. Then, I will pray with or for you, and then I need to go to bed (or on to whatever I needed to be doing); and we can talk more about this tomorrow (or at some agreed upon time). When a teenager is angry or depressed or having a very emotional moment, he or she is not thinking clearly. Nothing you say during that time will be remembered, nor will it make much of a difference. I didn’t learn this soon enough.
5) Though it did not work for us to do this with two of our sons and I wish it had, we were able to be in our home country when our middle son was 16. We required him to go on job interviews and work a part time job. This was wonderful experience. He did not have a driver’s license and we were only there for one semester, but he found a place within cycling distance. The job interviewing experience in itself was highly valuable (that and the role playing his father and I did with him prior to going to the interviews). Many of the jobs required online applications to be filled out and submitted as well.
6) Wished I had known and applied this bit of wisdom from a much younger age: Fairness is not everyone getting the same thing, but everyone getting what he or she needs ( Check out this excellent article by Rick Lavoie on fairness).
7) Wished I had required more manual labor and physical fitness.
I am sure I could go on and on. Perhaps others will leave their comments on things they would do again and things they wished they had done or done more of when their kids were teenagers.
Though the roller coaster experience of the teen years has its ups and downs, the thrills are there, so hang on and enjoy the ride!
This article discusses: 1. Emotional Stability, 2. Identity Awareness, 3. Decision-Making Skills, 4. Responsible Behavior, 5. Practical Knowledge, 6. Spiritual Development, 7. Financial Responsibility, 8. Communication Skills, 9. Work Ethic, and 10. Time Management.