Why Parenting Teens is hard: a message of hope

Christian parents need hope in raising teenagers

Parenting is the thing we MOST want to get right. But raising teenagers reminds us we are NOT in control. Here’s HOPE and a message you are NOT alone!

Life and this blog have taught me how desperately we need to hear others admit to the struggle.
Once the first person breathes a word of it, you can almost hear the collective exhale of others finally letting go of holding their breath.

This is true whatever the struggle.
But there’s something about parenting that magnifies the response.
Maybe it’s because this is the one thing we most want to get right.

And when they are young, we are lulled into thinking we might actually BE getting it right.
Ah, the illusion of control.

But then.

One month you are tiptoeing through the tulips with your child, holding their hand as they look up to you with complete admiration.
Just a few months later … Boom. That landscape has become a minefield.
You’ve exchanged holding hands for “you aren’t going to stay are you?
And that look of admiration has become eye-rolling.
Yep, congratulations, you’re the parent of an adolescent.

If this is where you are, this message is for you:

Why Raising Teenagers is Hard

(a message of HOPE!)

 

It’s not always rough.
There is SO. MUCH. GOOD mixed with the hard.

Those moments …
… when he comes up from behind and hugs you spontaneously and then doesn’t ask for money.
… when she responds with more than “fine” after you ask about her day and you actually get a glimpse into her heart and mind.
… when you sit on the sidelines or in the audience at a concert and watch them reap the reward of practice, perseverance, and obedience to someone in authority.

They give us so many reasons to smile.
Except when they don’t. Because sometimes they won’t.” (Dr. Seuss)

Teens are like a Chinese buffet: Lots of sweet and sour and as rational as the inside of a fortune cookie. The mixture of indescribable joy and unspeakable sorrow throws you for a loop. It’s a lot to keep up with.

Raising teenagers is hard because Teens are like a Chinese buffet: Lots of sweet and sour and as rational as the inside of a fortune cookie

The Good ‘Ole Days

When my oldest two were toddlers, I met on Fridays with a group of other mothers from church. We brought food and kids … and laid it all on the table. The issues, that is.

~If your child had a rash, there were three other moms who could identify it because their child had the same thing last week. (Yours likely got it from theirs.)
~If you needed advice about a toddler who kept getting up during the night, you wouldn’t lack for input.
~If you were on your last nerve, they were there to sympathize and say, “It will get better; you can do this.”

As the kids got older, not only did our time shrink, the range of issues expanded.
It’s not so simple – or accepted – to talk about the struggles at this stage.

Thanks to social media, we can still keep up with each other. But on that screen, we see the PR version – the highlight reel – of our friends’ lives.

(That’s how it should be, btw. “Praise in public; criticize in private,” is a cardinal rule of parenting teens. )

If only we could get back together for a playgroup.
Put all the teens on the floor as we sit in a circle around them and talk. (Great idea for a skit, don’t you think?)
Just like when they were young, we’d observe each other’s chaos. Let the eye rolling commence.

Seriously, though, it’s just so backward. Raising teenagers is the parenting season when we really need to know we aren’t alone. It’s the stage when we are craving hope. And sadly, it’s the one where we feel most isolated and lonely.

A Roller Coaster of Emotions

It’s so easy to begin to believe that you (the parent with fears, doubts, and heartache) are in the minority, but you are not.

When I was a young mom with two in diapers, exhausted from just trying to keep the oldest safe and alive, a sweet lady at church looked at me and said, “Huunneeeeeee, (Honey), this is the EASY part.”

Seriously? Who says that to a frazzled young mom? I thought she was out of her mind.
Turns out, she may have been right. Two in diapers versus two in their teens? I’m taking bets.

Raising teenagers can leave you just as weary as endless nights of teething.
But whereas those exhausting baby days were also full of heart overflowing moments, this season sometimes brings a sense of loss and empty spots. As your kids begin to separate, they take a piece of you with them.

How can you feel both full and empty at the same time?

You ride a roller coaster of emotions – your own – while your teen is on one of those horrid “amusement” contraptions that takes them up 400 feet in the air and then drops straight down at 90 mph.

Art Imitates Life

I watched a show explore this exact dichotomy as the television teens were growing up and away from their parents. At the end of the program, the parents looked at each other and said:

Dad: “They are growing up. They don’t need us as much.”
Mom: “Well, that was the plan. I just didn’t know it would hurt so much.

Fade to black.
Art imitates life. Well done.

It was the kind of episode that makes you wonder if your home has been bugged.
Just when you think, “You can’t make this stuff up,” someone does and puts it on screen.

I am captivated by shows and movies that are so well done that I see my struggle on the screen.
But they are over in less than two hours, with some version of resolution and release of tension.

And that’s where art’s ability to imitate life truncates.
Because life is full of transition periods that we can’t just insert into a video editing program, apply morphing effects, and create the illusion of time all in the span of minutes.

The Long Transition

Transitions take time. Transitions are hard work.

We see it in nature.
… Going from winter to spring doesn’t happen in a day.
… The caterpillar must struggle to exit the cocoon, for it is in the struggle that the wings grow stronger.
… The pearl emerges from an oyster’s healed wound.

These raising teenagers and young adult years are no different. They are a transition time.

In effect, you are giving birth again. Only there’s no epidural for this one.
Ok, so maybe the birth analogy is a little much. Or maybe not. Think about it.

Whatever you decide about that one, think about this: You are a veteran at this transitioning stuff.

That teen of yours is walking – even driving – right? He’s not still crawling. You helped that happen.
… She’s dressing herself, right? Oh, maybe we shouldn’t have gone there. But you get the point.
… And the toilet is mastered. You get credit for the assist on that.

Now granted, those younger transitions were short-lived. (Well, maybe that toilet thing took a while if you had boys.) But in general, you got through them in the course of months.

This transition will be the longest of all because it is the most important of all. And that’s because this is kingdom work.
Really, really, important kingdom work.
And that’s good news because kingdom work carries kingdom promises.

It doesn’t fade to black from here

Our heavenly father knows how hard it is to raise mature children.

Scripture speaks to our need to know that this is all worth it, that God is the one working, and that He provides supernatural hope.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
– 1 Cor. 15:58

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
– Phil. 1:6

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
– Rom. 15:13

And finally, I love this promise. It is relevant to so much of what we attempt in life, but I think raising children takes a top spot in its application.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
– Gal. 6:9-10 (NIV)

Dear comrade, unlike that sitcom family, it doesn’t fade to black after you realize it is hard and it hurts.
You have hope and you aren’t alone.

And although you can’t rush through this transition, there will come a time when your memory will morph and resemble a sweet montage showcasing only the best moments from these years.

Most of the hard work of parenting
will fade into the distance
and you’ll be living life alongside
these adults who look like you
and who even begin to believe you know something.

Book Recommendations:

{This post contains affiliate links for your convenience and to support this blog. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.}

Five of these books are still on our bookshelves. Most of them are tattered from loaning them out over and over.

We used Life on the Edge as the basis for a Junior High retreat. It’s SO good!

Yes, the books are older. If you want advice on restricting cell phone usage or limiting internet time, there are plenty of blog posts out there. But if you’re looking for well-seasoned advice that speaks to the heart of the issues, these are the books I recommend.

  • Parenting today's adolescent
  • Life on the Edge - parenting teens
  • Why do they act that way? Parenting teens
  • 5 love languages of teens
  • Age of Opportunity
  • Parenting teens with love and logic

Notes:
Why do they act that way is NOT Christian, but I have loaned and recommended it to many junior high parents looking to get a little understanding into the changing world of teens.

Parenting Teens with Love & Logic is worth checking out, but it’s not a personal recommendation. I’ve heard good things about it and place it here for you to check out.


Keep Reading: More Posts Like This parenting-teens-raising-teenagers

Launching teenagers into young adulthood is not for the faint of heart.
Parenting teens is hard.
You’ll be reminded you’re not alone in this stage.

.

Christi

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This short guide:

5 things Parents of Teens Need to Hear
is the launching manual I wish I had
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16 Comments on “Why Parenting Teens is hard: a message of hope”

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  3. Thank you for the hope you have given me from listening to your podcast. I have three teenagers now. And they are all so different, which is not a bad thing. My ultimate prayer for them all concerns their relationship with Christ.

    Needed to hear your words.

    1. I know that hope and prayer well, Erica.

      Raising teens is not for wimps (smile), and will send you to your knees often. Remember God is always working, even when you can’t see the fruit.

      Thank you for taking the time to encourage me by letting me know this helped in some small way. I am glad you are here.

    1. I am so sorry for the need but thankful it brought a little hope. This time of parenting is unlike anything we were ever prepared for. Hold on, sister. I promise it gets better.

  4. So beautiful! I am a new mother to a 14 month old boy. I always find myself worrying about his teen years because I am really enjoying him so much right now and I cry if I think about how it will all change, likely before I’m ready! Thank you for sharing!

    1. One step at a time sweet sister. You don’t have tomorrow’s grace and perspective and God will meet you when that day comes. Thank you for being here.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this. I needed to read this words and be reminded that I’m not alone in this. I am a single mom to two teenage boys and a preteen girl. They are good kids, but this natural transition and all that it presents can be very painful at times, especially with the continued animosity from my kids father. It helps to be reminded that I am not alone in this journey and to be encouraged that God is watching over and in control. God bless!

    1. You are so welcome and you are so right. We need to know we aren’t alone, especially at this stage of the journey! Thank you for letting me know this touched you. Hang in there, sweet sister!

  6. I found you via the grace and truth link up and ended up here on this post. Thank you for your encouragement and especially for the scriptures you shared. I needed the reminder…”This transition will be the longest of all because it is the most important of all.”

    1. Hi Angela,
      It’s always a double-edged set of emotions when I hear a comment like yours. I am thankful for the sweet affirmation that these efforts matter. But if they matter, that means someone is down and needs the encouragement.

      And when it’s in the realm of parenting, I know firsthand how deep that need runs.

      So thank you for letting me know. Praying for you as I respond…that you would be filled with reminders from the Word of how our Father cares about your needs.

  7. Another great post, Christi. So real, honest, and funny. A word of advice about that rollercoaster: don’t get on it. Be there when they get on, and when they get off. But don’t ride that ride. That’s something I read when mine were teens (the last one just turned 19 – she’s practically out of that era) and I had to remind myself every. single. day. during certain stages and personalities!
    And Chinese Buffet – GENIUS!!!!
    YES. God knows how hard it is to raise mature adults. Ouch. Again – so good.
    Thanks for sharing on Tuesday Talk.

    1. I just left a comment for you on your blog, but will say it here again. Your wisdom about staying off the roller coaster is so good. There are many times I found myself on it, never having intended to be there (must have been sleep-walking!)

      Thanks for the encouragement! Enjoying the chance to get to “meet” so many new, wise, gifted people out there!

  8. I loved this. It brought back so many memories of our kids through their stages. Now they are all grown up and there are so many empty spots in the heart. They make their own traditions which are so different from the traditions they were raised in. Many of those transitions don’t include you. Many holidays that were always a family gathering now have them traveling to distant places to make their own memories. John & I often say that it may take the death of one of us to get all four kids here when they live from West Coast to East Coast and now one is moving to Jerusalem. I praise God for Skype and multi media to keep up with my expanded family. They still roll their eyes at us at times and they are all past 40. LOL You just love them through the stages. Hang in there, Mama. You are doing a good work!

    1. Hearing from you is such sweet encouragement … but then that is the very essence of who you are. Keep speaking words of life and love. They matter coming from someone like you!

You have something worth saying!