Dealing with the Difficult Teen Years
There is little in life that creates more anxiety than having a teenager who seems out of control. Watching your teen continue to make bad choices can leave you torn between wanting them “to learn the hard way” and being afraid of what they might do in a moment of irresponsibility. What steps can you take now to best help your child?
Ditch The Guilt
Our love for our children is strong, relentless, and unconditional. That is as it should be. However, sometimes this love can result in a parent expecting perfection from themselves as they raise their child. But if we expect ourselves to be a perfect parent, it causes a vicious guilt complex to develop in our hearts and lives. And this guilt complex keeps us in a rut of self-doubt, self-hatred, and self-obsession. The first step toward a healthy relationship with our children is to accept the forgiveness of God for our mistakes as a parent. There are no perfect parents. You are no exception. And while our tendency might be to blame our children, blame others, or take on all the blame ourselves, the only way to freedom is through forgiveness. You cannot love your child well unless you love yourself. And God loves you the way you love your child—unconditionally.
Be The Parent
Some parents interpret their child’s need for a relationship with them as an opportunity to be a good friend or “buddy”. This popular notion is not God’s vision for parenting. As the parent, you need to be lovingly authoritative—the one who brings stability and structure to the child’s life by setting boundaries and expectations. Showing authority can be difficult for some, but it is an essential role of parenting. It can also be challenging to direct your teen in a way that doesn’t exasperate him or her (Ephesians 6:4) when you feel disrespected. As the adult, you need to sacrifice your hurt feelings and anger to do what is best for your teen. You are called as the parent to lovingly direct your teen through the challenges leading to adulthood. Ephesians 4:15 directs us to “speak the truth in love.” Ask God to show you when it’s important to be tough and when you need to lead with gentleness and compassionate love.
Focus On The Relationship
As Josh McDowell has said, “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” Considering that your teen’s emotions and behavior are being affected by a surge of changing hormones, it’s vital for you to maintain as strong a relationship as possible in the midst of whatever they may be going through. Like the father in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), your unconditional love and forgiveness can draw your teen back home to God. So ask yourself several questions to evaluate the status of your relationship with your teen, such as…
- Is our relationship generally healthy with a few bumps, or generally unhealthy with rare moments of connection?
- Am I spending time with my teen doing things we enjoy together to create a solid foundation for when tensions occur?
- Does my child feel deeply loved or heavily criticized? (1 Peter 4:8)
- Are my spouse and I on the same page – or is there increased tension because we are giving our child mixed messages?
- Has the relationship deteriorated to the point we need pastoral or clinical guidance?
Seek Professional Help If You Need It
In this church body, you are surrounded by parents who have raised teenagers—many of whom faced challenges similar to yours. There’s no reason to be embarrassed by the challenges you have or to strive to keep the veneer of a perfect family. You need the support and wisdom of those who have been where you are. Do you find yourself asking any of these questions?
- How can I find out if my child is using drugs or alcohol?
- Is my child having sex, and if so, what should I do?
- Why does my child seem so depressed?
- I think my child is looking at online pornography. What do I do?
Problems such as alcohol or drug use, pornography addiction, sexual experimentation, severe depression, and other challenges may fall beyond your understanding and require the help of priests, counselors, and other experts who can bring biblical wisdom along with professional understanding to your situation. You do not need to wait for a crisis to reach out for help.
For Young Persons
God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance to learn true humility, without which they cannot see you. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 829 with additions
For the Care of Children
Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 829
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 828
- See Also the Bringing Faith Home Resources
• Intentional Parenting
• Your Child’s Relationship With Christ
• Preparing Your Child for Adolescence
- Feeding the Mouth that Bites You By Dr. Kenneth Wilgus
Outlines a great method for safely and effectively meeting your adolescent’s need for autonomy.
- Boundaries with Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No By Dr. John Townsend
Offers advice on how to deal with disrespectful attitudes and irresponsible behaviors in your teen, how to set healthy limits and realistic consequences, how to be loving and caring while establishing rules, and how to determine specific strategies to deal with problems, both big and small.
- Yes Your Teen Is Crazy By Michael Bradley
Explains that the most advanced parts of brain development aren’t completed until adolescence is nearly over. As a result, teens can appear unstable, dysfunctional and unpredictable, with temporarily impaired judgment and decision-making processes. The good news is that parents do make a difference, and Bradley clearly explains how parents can encourage and guide their kids through these tumultuous years.
- The “Teen Rebellion” topic on Troubledwith.Com
Site offers helpful articles and resources for parents struggling with a teen. TroubledWith.com
- Beyond the Birds and the Bees By Dr. Gregory Popcak
Explains how to teach sexuality in an age-appropriate way from a Catholic perspective.
- Preparing for Adolescence By Dr. James Dobson
Is a standard evangelical resource for this season of transition.
- Good Discipline…Great Teens By Dr. Ray Guarendi
A psychologist, radio talk show host and father of ten who provides parents with the tools they need to navigate the teen years.
- How to Really Love Your Teenager By Dr. Ross Campbell
Teaches parents effective communication and relationship-building techniques.
- The Five Love Languages of Teenagers By Gary Chapman
Explains how to communicate with your teen.
- Raise Happy Children: Raise Them Saints! By Mary Ann Budnik
Is a step-by-step guide to develop your child’s character through the Sacraments.
This site offers ideas to create a Christian culture in your home. Domestic-Church.com
- The Book of Common Prayer
The BCP contains all of our services, prayers, and many resources for private devotions. It can be purchased on Amazon or at the Incarnation Bookstore. See especially pages 301–308 for insight into how our tradition thinks about children and parenting. bcponline.org
- Children & Family Ministry
Incarnation has a thriving Children & Family Ministry (birth–grade 5) and Student Ministry (grades 6–12). There are many opportunities to connect with other parents and families in the same season of life as you. For more information, visit Children & Family Ministry or visit Student Ministry.
- Learn about 6th Grade Confirmation.
- Get Connected.
Join with other parents and families from our church who are meeting together to study and connect and pray. Go to the Growth Groups web page for more information.
- Get Involved.
Use your gifts! Take our Spiritual Gifts Assessment to discern ways to get plugged into the life of Incarnation.
- Serve the Poor.
Visit our local outreach page to find out how your gifts can change lives.
- Talk with a priest.
If you would like to talk about anything related to parenting and the spiritual formation of children, feel free to schedule a meeting with one of our clergy. Any of the priests on staff at Incarnation are happy to meet with you for direction, counsel, or simply just to talk. Email a priest to set up a meeting. Or call the parish office at 214-521-5101.