From the first moment you bring your newborn home you realize things will never be the same again. Sacrificial hard work is here as is unlimited love. Each stage of parenting is filled with its own navigational hazards and that is no less true at the onset of the teen years.

New pressures and challenges will now test all the hard work you’ve invested in establishing values, limits, boundaries and freedoms. By now you’ve tried to establish a pattern of thinking that you hope will assist in the decision-making maze from peers, media and alternate authorities. At the same time a father is hitting what society calls a mid-life crisis he may be facing the reality of a teen who needs him more than ever. A mother may be grieving the loss of her little one.

Ephesians 6:4 warns fathers not to exasperate their children but instead to train them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. The teen years may be too late to start this if you haven’t done so from early days. Tension mounts and the same scripture book encourages a keeping of short accounts. Ephesians 4:26 says “in your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Prayer and discernment on how to protect, provide and be present for family members is a huge responsibility.

Taking the initiative to establish standards agreed on by both parents is crucial as is the joint oversight of those principles and values. Neither parent should be left to manage these alone. If a single parent is involved in raising their teen it is good to recruit someone to support your efforts and to talk them through to ensure their reasonableness.

My oldest daughter’s oldest daughter just turned thirteen yesterday. She was given a cell phone to call and text friends but not given internet privileges. Limited screen time is part of her regimen. With new privileges come immediate testing of limits. She’s an excellent gymnast and so has plenty of physical output to keep her focused and engaged in life. Daily family devotions are still part of the family practice and she memorizes and reads a lot in addition to keeping a spiritual diary which she shares occasionally with her grandmother. 

There are so many things happening in the mind, body, emotions and relationships of a young teen that they need strong allies and models to guide them through all that is happening. A parent’s unresolved anger can create an overload that can have significant long-term impact. Making things right must be initiated over and over by the parent regardless of who is at fault.

Relationship with your young teen is not about what is right, just or fair. It is about securing a love relationship that will steady them through the uncertain times ahead. Forgiveness has no limits and reconciliation has no stopping point. Confessing your part in the wedge between you is a starting point that may open up the closed door between you. “I’m sorry. My reaction was over the top. I didn’t listen long enough to really hear your heart. I got out of control. I’d like you to forgive me.”

It may not work the first time, but you never give up. A relationship with a teen is a long-time investment that will affect generations to come. Sometimes your prayers may be soundless groans of empty frustration and directionless hopes so you can’t be in this alone. Surround yourself and your child with community members who have like values and goals.

Here are six questions that can help keep a conversation open. 

  • What’s been on your heart lately?
  • What’s most meaningful to you about…?
  • How can I best support you with this?
  • What inspires you to…?
  • How was that for you…?
  • That makes sense.

Before you try these on your teen, try them out in your marriage relationship if you’re in one. Learning to listen is vital in all our relationships.