Moody teenagers who want nothing to do with their parents are so common it’s become a trope. Parents often assume that the best thing for our teens is if we have as little involvement as possible. Sure, they need us to pay for things and generally keep them alive. But other than that, we think our best move is to stay at a distance.
1. BoundariesWhile teens certainly need more freedom than younger kids, they are still not adults.
While teens certainly need more freedom than younger kids, they are still not adults. Their brains aren’t fully formed and they don’t yet have wisdom. This means they need you to set boundaries for them.
One of the things teens need is a parent who will provide boundaries. This will not be fun, but it’s critical for healthy development. As John Townsend says in his book Boundaries with Teens, “Guard rails get dinged up. But if they work well, they preserve the young lives that run up against them.”
If you want to watch a teen shrink, give him a big hug in front of his friends. Teens are in the process of differentiating from their parents, so it’s normal for them to want to avoid public displays of affection with you. However, while it may be appropriate for you to tone down the public displays of affection, you shouldn’t allow your teen to go without.
One of the things teens need is a parent who will continue to find creative ways to show affection, even while respecting the teen’s desire for physical space. This isn’t easy, but your child still needs appropriate physical touch, even though it will look different in these challenging critical years.
Wisdom and knowledge aren’t the same. Your teen has all the information in the world at her fingertips; she can quickly find out things you may be ignorant of. However, what she doesn’t have is wisdom. Wisdom moves beyond “what is” to “is it good, is it beautiful, is it true?”
One of the things teens need is a parent who will share wisdom with her when she thinks she knows it all. She needs someone who won’t just roll his eyes or shake his head but will help her see things from a different angle. Sure, she may not be ready to listen—yet. But when she finally is, the wisdom you give may be what she needs in that moment.
Most teens are mired in self-doubt and anxiety about making the right choices. At the same time, their need to prove themselves makes them unlikely to ask for advice. The result can often be some poor choices. On the one hand, teens need to make mistakes and learn from them. We can’t and shouldn’t save them from ever making a bad decision.
However, one of the things teens need is a parent who will correct them when they are wrong. They need to hear that the thing their friends may praise because it’s “cool” or “funny” is actually hurtful or destructive. Without correction from you, there is little left to guide them except popular opinion.
We all long for purpose. We want to know why we’re here and what role we have to play. Teens often seek that purpose in their social circles or in finding an identity that gives them a sense of meaning. However, what they find in these places is rarely tethered to reality.
One of the things teens need is a sense of being a part of something bigger than themselves. Helping teens cultivate faith in God, feel a strong connection to family, or just generally embrace a core set of values that serve to orient their lives can be critical in this.
Sound off: What else does your teen need that he or she won’t ask for?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s the best way for me to share ideas with you that you may not agree with?”