Maximizing Time with the Teenagers in our Lives
During our morning commute, I asked my youngest son Cooper, “how do you know I love you?” He mumbled the typical responses kids say, “you provide for me, you give me shelter and food, you have high expectations…etc.” I proceeded, even if we didn’t have a home to live in, nor enough food, how would you know that I love you?” He said, “because you are always there for me.” His response totally melted my heart. In the bigger scheme of things, its being emotionally available for our children that matters. Are you present? Not physically present, but emotionally tuned in to their needs?
We’ve been taught from a very euro-centric perspective about adolescent development. Yes, teenagers desire more independence as they transition into adulthood. The march toward autonomy can manifest differently: less overt affection, more time spent with friends, contentious behavior, pushing the limits—the list goes on and on. This simply means, we adjust our parenting style. We don’t stop asking and knowing what’s going on and give them all the space in the world because they desire so much more privacy. C’mon now! Does that even make sense?
I’ve seen a pattern where parents are super involved in their children’s education and school activities during the elementary years, but slowly this involvement dwindles as they approach middle and high school. If you don’t believe me, compare parent participation groups from elementary to high school. This is probably because we bought into the idea, to respect their autonomy and independence. Our teens need us even more so.
I remember a college admission counselor was frustrated with me because I was present with my daughter. I’m glad I was there because she lacked the ability to understand her needs when developing a student education plan. What’s wrong with parents helping their young adults navigate the educational system? There is a difference between guiding and supporting & controlling and overbearing. Let’s not get it confused. That old saying, “the helicopter parent, ” doesn’t apply to our children.
Our teens need our guidance even more so because of the times we live in. Its important to continue to advocate on their behalf, teach them to advocate for themselves, be available, know when to step back, when to say less, and allow them take risks. Its a different time people. Kids nowadays, especially children of color get suspended for rough housing. Yes, Cooper was suspended for playing. I have the email from the assistant principal. Yep, the school to prison pipeline and charter schools are the worst offenders. Zero tolerance policies are intentionally designed to keep children out of the classroom, so they do not learn. Our kids are not allowed to test limits , to see how far they can go, they immediately get suspended. Some are training robots, not cultivating thinkers.
Pouring words of Affirmation into our Sons
Cooper has an amazing calling on his life. He is a son of the Living King! I get excited writing about it! Lately, I’ve found myself, reminding him of his WORTH and VALUE. I tell him, the world needs your contribution. The Lord told me to speak the WORD and pour into him so he believes what God says, who he is. There are too many messages on media, in school, and in this world that tell our precious sons, their lives don’t matter. They read about it. They see it. They feel it. Pour into your children. I cannot stress this enough. The tongue has the power of life and death. Being hard on them doesn’t work, the world is already hard on them.
Cooper shared with me about two years ago, he wants to be a judge. I’ve been thinking a lot about his aspirations and I’m praying this will come to fruition. Cognitively, younger teens’ inability to consider the long-term consequences of their actions is real. Some may act without thinking first because of their inability to do so. There is science to back up this concept. When I think about his behavior objectively, its simply foolishness. None of his offenses are with malice or hate. His behavior is normal, not atypical. It’s racism that keeps kids out of college and careers, not their grit or resiliency. Its not that something is wrong with our kids, but its all about what’s wrong with the system.
Lately, I’m finding my heart is in a place of worship. I’ve been lead to simply worship. Worship with my mouth, my behavior, my body, and my food choices. Worship Him for his goodness, faithfulness, mercy. When we worship, God moves. He is the creator of Heaven and Earth. He holds his handout and feeds all living things. He’s our provider and nurtures each of us. Try simply worshipping him for his greatness and just rest in the Lord.
“I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord GOD. Ezk 34:15.