teen struggles

5 Areas Where Your Teen Needs to Struggle

We were so excited when our daughter made the select travel field hockey team. She had wanted it so badly—which is why we were shocked when she came to us midseason and said she wanted to quit. She was tired, felt stressed by the combination of studies and practice, and didn’t feel like she was close to anyone on the team.

At that moment, I wanted to rescue her with every fiber of my being. But I didn’t. Instead, I said, “That’s fine, honey, but you’ve got to finish the season.” She wasn’t happy, and I knew it would mean she’d have to struggle a little bit. But sometimes our teens actually need to struggle. When a teen struggles, she learns to persevere, to adapt, to grow in areas she otherwise might not. Here are 5 areas where your teen needs to struggle.

1. Finances

I know many parents who think it’s their job to ensure their child never struggles with finances. They feel obligated to cover everything from their child’s first car to his college education. Of course, you need to decide what’s best for your family, but I believe teen struggles around finances can serve them in the long run. If your teen can’t afford the car of his dreams (or any car, for that matter), he might have to learn to work, save, budget. These are key life skills that don’t come intuitively. They are usually developed through struggle.

2. Work

As much as your teen would prefer to sit on her phone all day, you know that there are some valuable skills she needs to learn from the challenges she’ll face in dealing with a boss, having to show up on time, working with customers, balancing activities… While it’s tempting to say, “But she doesn’t need a job,” having your teen work isn’t just about the money. When a teen struggles with the normal requirements of work and life, she is learning valuable lessons for the future.

3. Faith

For many of us, faith is about certainty. But there is much about our spiritual lives that challenges our understanding. Whether it’s concepts like the existence of God or questions about suffering, doubt is a natural response. Many of us as parents respond with easy answers in hopes to assuage any questions our kids might have. But what if wrestling with our kids’ questions could actually lead them to a deeper understanding? I like what theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich says: “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith.” When a teen struggles with doubt, don’t leave him to struggle alone, but don’t jump to giving easy answers. Rather sit with him in the questions and encourage him to keep wrestling.

4. Academics

You’ve probably heard people quip that students who have too easy of a time in high school struggle in college once the work gets harder. I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, but stereotypes exist for a reason. If the classes your teen is taking are too easy, it’s highly unlikely she is learning anything. Encourage your teen to challenge herself. When your teen struggles with academics, she is forced to come up with new strategies for learning, to commit herself to studying hard, and hopefully to put less value on a grade and more on the learning process.

5. Friendship

Most parents have experienced the pain of having their kids hurt by the actions of one of their friends. If you’re like me, your knee-jerk reaction is to tell your teen to stop hanging out with him or her. “Find new friends,” you might say. And while there are certainly times when finding new friends is appropriate, many times, when a teen struggles with friendship, it’s largely about misunderstanding, immaturity, and the highs and lows of teen emotions. It’s much more valuable to encourage your child to press into those friendships. He needs to learn to stand up for himself, but also empathize with others. Engaging in these moments can teach valuable conflict resolution and even negotiation skills. And let’s face it—if you’re going to maintain friendships, you need to learn to do conflict well.

Sound off: Are there any other areas where your teen needs to struggle?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is your biggest struggle right now?”