We are in the middle of a short mini-series called, “Navigating Well through the Transitions of Adulthood.”
Many of you have mentioned challenges you are facing right now. I won’t be able to cover all transition areas in this short series, but I’d like to highlight a few:
Week One – Navigating into and through the Teen Years
Week Two – Navigating into and through the Empty Nest
Week Three – Navigating into and through Retirement
It’s been called, “The Dark Side” by many.
It’s that stage between elementary school and graduation from college.
All children and parents will go through it.
For some, it will be a little blip on the screen. For others, it can be a long, hard season of change.
Whatever the case, let’s look at life with children before and after “The Dark Side” descends.
Before the “Dark Side” hits, life is sweet. Really sweet.
Children adore their parents and think they can do no wrong.
You are loved, clung to, and followed around – almost like royalty.
Your children listen to you, want to spend time with you, and love to be with you.
For the most part, preschool and elementary years are sweet, without much rebellion, challenge, or conflict.
And, then, around about age 11-12, things began to change. For some children, it’s gradual. For others, it can happen overnight.
That sweet, saintly little child can go to sleep one night still walking in the light, and then overnight be taken over by the “Dark Side.”
When I taught 6th graders in school, these changes usually occurred about halfway through the school year.
Overnight, the sweetest kid would be affected by the “Dark Side.”
What is the “Dark Side” and what does it look like?
Honestly, it almost feels like an “alien” overtakes your child when the “Dark Side” hits.
They can seem like a completely different child.
Some will change for years. Others will go through a few months of darkness.
Here are a few things to look for and expect during the “Dark Side.”
Mood Swings & Sassiness –
Your precious baby may turn into this bundle of emotions during this season. Crying, temper tantrums, and almost “preschool-like” behavior can occur during this time.
You may wonder some days if you are going through the terrible twos again – only this time they are taller and know many more sassy words to say to you!
Greater Independence –
We are raising our babies up to become independent adults. If we do the job well, they will grow and go out into this world to succeed on their own.
Remember… we are working ourselves out of a job! Parenting will not last forever (at least not such extensive parenting.)
Your child should begin to become more independent at this stage. This is a GOOD thing!
More Secrecy –
The hard side of independence is the secrecy part. Your baby will start to keep things from you. They will not want to tell you or show you everything.
This is normal as well. Your challenge is to determine how involved and how invasive you will need to be.
If you tend to be a “helicopter mom,” you may need to fly at a little higher altitude at this stage. You may have to back off a bit!
Starting to Date/Be Interested in Opposite Sex –
We were once there as well. Usually, those boy/girl issues start popping up at this stage.
Expect the drama, the hormonal changes, and the awkward and crazy world of relationships.
The interest will usually begin as early as 6th grade. This is a great season to teach your kids about God’s plan for sex, for marriage, and for relationships.
Start to Test the Boundaries –
One of the greatest challenges in the teen years is the testing of the boundaries. This may come in the form of quiet rebellion or outright defiance. Our children have each done this much differently, but they have both tested and pushed the boundaries.
Be ready. I don’t know of any teenager ever who didn’t push the boundaries a little!
Care more about what their peers think –
Peers and friends become huge at this stage.
Teenagers care what their friends think! They care what the cool kids think. They want to fit in, be accepted, and be included.
This is a wonderful time to talk over friendship issues and peer pressure with your kids!
Being Silly, Stupid, and Almost Ridiculous –
There were days as a 6th-grade school teacher that I really thought I’d been transported to the preschool classroom. Teens and pre-teens can be absolutely ridiculous at times.
They seem to revert back to early childhood at times. Living with teens is much like a rollercoaster ride. One day, your 13-year old son will be brilliant. The next day, he will act like a total fool. This is normal.
Be ready for things not to be completely logical!
Think they know more and are smarter than you –
It’s true. You lose your “standing” a bit during the teen years. Our kids wake up one day and think they know everything. They will usually let you know this as well.
But, don’t despair, you will become wise once they start living out on their own, marry, and have children of their own. For most kids, this is just a phase.
May began to question their faith –
There are many children who will question their faith during the teen years. They need to embrace Christ, the Bible, and the faith as their own. Some of the struggle is needed.
You can walk alongside them, talk with them, pray with them, and pray them through this season.
So, how do you respond and how do you navigate through these waters?
Remember – Parenting is a marathon!
It is not a sprint, and there are no shortcuts.
The Goal – is to make it through — not unscathed — but still attached and connected to each other.
Think of it as river rapids – bumpy, but survivable.
And, you as a parent have a choice:
You can be right all the time, be pushy, be controlling, lecture constantly, bark like mad, and lose the hearts of the kids. Or, you can follow some guidelines and hang on to the hearts of those kids.
If you’ve ever been white-water rafting, you’ve gone through the pre-trip rule list. Your in-raft guide will run through a whole list of rules, suggestions, and tips to keep you safe while you’re in the rapids.
Those white-water rafting tips come in handy each time you hit another series of rapids.
I so appreciate the wisdom of the guides each time I raft on the rapids. Why? Because I know they’ve traveled these same rapids hundreds of times already. They know where they are going, and they know what they are doing.
Like many who have gone before us, my husband and I have traveled the crazy years of the teenager rapids. We’ve made it through to the other side – young adulthood.
Can I share with you some tips that have helped us along the way to better navigate the teen years?
Tips for Navigating Into & Through the Teen Years:
1] Win their HEARTS as little children and keep their hearts through their growing years.
Do everything you can NOW to win over their hearts, their trust, and their love. Every investment you make in them now will help those teen years go better.
Spend time with them. Talk to them. Invite them to share their hearts with you. Laugh with them. Hug them. Pray with them.As a parent, pour your life into those children before they ever get to the teen years. Click To Tweet
2] Make a HUGE DEAL out of prayer in your home!
Maybe you already make prayer a priority – make it an even bigger deal.
Maybe you haven’t been praying much in your home. It’s not too late to start.
Possibly you have never been a praying family. You can begin today.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 instructs us to, “Pray without ceasing.”
Praying parents and praying families navigate better through the teen rapids than those who do not pray.
3] Learn, learn, learn all that you can!
To win and keep our children’s hearts from birth until our last day on this earth, we need to gain as much great insight into our kids and how to connect with them as possible.
Read great parenting books. Listen to parenting podcasts. Attend parenting conferences.Become the very best parent you can possibly be, and you'll navigate better through teen years. Click To Tweet
4] Seek out some OLDER, wiser friends who can give you insight and perspective.
There is so much you can gain and learn from those who have walked a little further down the road of life – and survived.
- Men need older men to talk to.
- Women need older women.
- Couples can learn from more mature couples.
To survive the teen years, it helps to have some older, wiser mentors to cheer you on and to give you wise counsel.Ask God to give you some wonderful parenting mentors to help you to navigate the teen years. Click To Tweet
5] Quit Barking at Your Kids!
People don’t want to have their faults pointed out–especially when done loudly & without grace.
Adults don’t like to be barked at.
Kids don’t like to be barked.
Our children don’t want to be barked at either — especially not by us!
Try to lose the parenting BARK before the teen years!
Otherwise, your home is going to be one loud shouting match after another!The teen years are loud enough; parental shouting never helps during this stage! Click To Tweet
6] TEACH Your Children When They Are Most Teachable.
We cram and push and lecture when we should be serving, inviting, sharing and discussing.
For years, wise school teachers have known about a little thing called, “Teachable Moments.”
Teachable Moments are the moments in which our children experience life events and become open and receptive to learning.
If you can learn to instruct when your kids are most open to instruction, you will navigate better through the teen years.Pray now to be a wise parent who will teach & instruct their teenage children well. Click To Tweet
7] Choose your BATTLES wisely!
Not everything necessitates a fight.
- Carefully select what you want to make a BIG deal out of with your kids.
- Say, “YES” as often as you can.
- Say “NO” when you must.
- But don’t say “NO” to every single thing!
This is one of the hardest areas for parents of teens. But, you can do this! You just must decide which issues matter most to you. You may want to start thinking and praying over this now so that you will be more prepared when the teen years come.As a parent of teens, you will want to choose your biggest battles very carefully! Click To Tweet
8] As parents — and especially as Christian parents — we need to continue to allow and enjoy humor, wit, fun, and laughter in our lives.
We need to keep our senses of humor into the middle school and young adult years.
It is SO easy to become serious, sad, unhappy, somber, and sober with our children.
But, they also need to see and hear us laugh. They need to see us smile, enjoy life, and be playful too.
Especially as parents, you will need to have a sense of humor. They are going to give you plenty to laugh about!!Don't lose your sense of humor as your kids become teenagers! You are going to need it! Click To Tweet
9] Key to it all… Never stop LOVING them and encouraging them.As a parent, keep on keeping on no matter what happens! Click To Tweet
Do not give up on them – ever!
Just determine now that you will bull-headedly and doggedly stick by that child no matter what they choose to do as a teenager.As your kids move into the teenage years, decide to love & support them no matter what! Click To Tweet
If you’d like more help, information, and instruction, I’ve got a resource to share with you.
It’s a parenting guide that I think can help and encourage you.
It’s called “How to Win Your Child’s Heart For Life.”
For more about this resource, you can link HERE.
Whether you are expecting your first baby or sending your baby off to college, these strategies apply and can still work for you!
As parents, we have not done everything perfectly.
However, we have two children in college who both live at home with us.
And, we still have their hearts.You can win and keep your children's hearts through even the darkest of days! Click To Tweet
It is possible!
And, it is possible for you and your children!
I pray that God will bless you and your home.
May He fill your halls, rooms, walls, doorways, yards, porches, and tables with much joy, laughter, connection, sweetness, and conversation.
I pray He will give you the hearts of your children beginning today, and grant you the grace to hold onto them through the “Dark Side.”
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