October 3, 2010

Preparing for the Teenage Years

More from my Q&A with Dayna Nichols, mother-extraordinaire, on the subject of parenting teenagers:

How can moms prepare themselves for the teenage stage of parenting?
I don’t know if you can really prepare for parenting teenagers.  I have three and they still perplex me.  The third is not proving easier to raise because of having done this twice already.

I’ve read the books.  I have surrounded myself with friends that lend support and wisdom.  I’ve prayed.  I recommend all of these things, but I still have three puzzles.  Each one of my children is different.  I NEVER feel prepared, but I do have peace.

What I do consistently is give them back to God.  Especially on the days I’ve had enough eye rolling and really don’t want to see it anymore. They are His. He blessed us with the responsibility of raising them, but they are HIS.  When I feel unprepared or caught unaware, I call on God.  He has held my hand while I wait on our oldest to drive home from a football game.  He has calmed my inner mama bear when someone was cruel and insensitive to my daughter.  He has helped me realize that He is still in control even though my daughter struggles with a learning disability.  I, as the parent, cannot control what others do or how they react or how my children will feel, act, or react. 

You cannot sufficiently prepare for every specific situation.  You can consistently turn to God when you find yourself in one. 

Looking back, what were some things you did in parenting during their earlier years that helped the transition into the teenage years?
We were and are very consistent.  This is easy to say but harder to follow through with and execute.  The years of discipline and training when my children were younger have paid off.  I watch my girls’ friends whine and complain and beg when they are told ‘no’.  My girls may present a point to make sure I have all the information I need, but they know that once we say ‘no’ the decision is made.  They might not like the answer, but they do not ask again.  I believe this is a training that was instilled when they were younger.  It does matter how you parent when your children are young.  They do develop a respect for you that will continue through the teenage years.  I see it daily.  My children respect us.  We respect them.  That is a necessary part of parenting teenagers that begins when they are very young.

We have also tried to find many opportunities to say ‘yes’.  Having fun with your children is vital.  You need to create opportunities to engage your children at every age and stage of their life.  Interaction is invaluable.  By the time you have teenagers you need to know them well.  We have taken family trips, planned activities for a day, and enjoyed a surprise evening out as a family as well as spending intentional one-on-one time with each of our children.  It is important to know your children well before they become teenagers because once they reach that stage they aren’t sure they even know themselves.  They need you to gently remind them who they are.

Check back tomorrow for more of Dayna's wisdom on maintaining good relationships with teenagers.