I vividly remember the feeling of fear and helplessness when we brought our first child home. I wasn’t sure what to do next. How would we handle all the firsts that would come at us? Is she breakable? Will she like me? Now that she’s nearly 14, I’ve found a lot of the same fears stirring inside me. What are we going to do with all the challenges that the teenage years bring? How do we handle the firsts that come as she approaches adulthood? Will she still like me?
I’ve found adolescence to be a mixed blessing. Yes, she has a stubborn streak in her and we often find ourselves at odds over the most trivial things. But it also often seems like the teenage years are among the best parts of being a parent. Despite what you may have heard about parenting a teen, it can be pretty amazing. Here are the 5 best things about the teenage years.
1. Great Conversations
The developing minds of teenagers make them capable of incredible and deep conversations. The questions they ask may leave you unsure of what to say. Little by little, you’ll notice that this once small boy or girl is becoming a young woman or man who is thoughtful and compassionate. This will come up in a variety of circumstances. While driving somewhere, out for a walk, or at the end of the day, you can find a treasure in the discussions you’ll have about what’s going on in the world, about your teen’s future, and even about faith.
2. Hard Questions
Another great thing about the teenage years is actually one of the hardest: All the questions teens will ask. Our younger kids either do what they’re told, ignore us entirely, or ask “why” far too often. Teenagers, on the other hand, are ready to challenge us. Sometimes the questions are rooted in stubbornness or defiance, but often, beneath the attitude, there is some deeper question. Sometimes this will come up when they ask us about our past failures. On other occasions, they’ll test the limits on specific standards or give us a gut-check on the example we set.
3. Influencing Younger Siblings
There’s no way around this: Younger kids often look up to the oldest in the family. They want to mimic their older siblings in the way they act, the way they dress, the media they consume, and the privileges they have. Obviously, if there are behavioral or attitude issues, this can be a negative—but you might also find that one of the best things about the teenage years is that a teenager can impact his or her younger siblings’ play, attitudes, and interests in a positive way. And if your teenager is an only child, it is still a tremendous gift to see him or her grow in virtue among friends, classmates, and coworkers.
4. Shared Interests
While my husband and I have many things in common, the fact is that there are certain interests we don’t share. I’ve been to geeky movies with him and he’s had to watch a few cheerleading competitions on TV with me, even though neither of these is a shared interest. A great thing about the teenage years is that if your teen shares some of your interests, you get to experience these activities with someone who actually enjoys them. And, to be honest, even if they don’t, it’s still a good opportunity to spend quality time together and share one of your own loves.
5. Built-In Babysitter
From the time you become parents, certain things get more complicated. It is harder just to run to the store when you have small children. The process of packing up kids isn’t worth it when all you need is a gallon of milk. Many parents have watched date nights get sabotaged by the needs of small children. As you enter the teenage years with your child, you’ll discover that your teen has the ability to be your go-to babysitter whether you want to run to the grocery store or head out on a date. And if your only child is a teenager, it’s a moment to celebrate that your child is old enough to be on his or her own.
What are some of the blessings you’ve found in parenting your own teenage children?