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Teen Talk 2022.04

by Tammy Zumbusch
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Newborns aren’t identifying themselves by their political affiliations, gender roles, religion or culture. They are just existing. That changes dramatically during the teenage years. Adolescence usually brings with it the exciting realization that maybe, just maybe…they can be anything they want to be.

This curiosity usually promotes a massive craving for autonomy and space to figure it all out. The challenge comes when our teens’ desire for autonomy clashes with our craving for control.

You may be saying, “But I don’t want them to make the same mistakes I did!”

Karen Young is a world-renowned psychologist. On her website ‘Hey Sigmund’, she writes; “The most valuable thing we can do is allow, even encourage mistakes in our teens. We’ve got to teach them it’s okay to fail. It’s through making mistakes that they will learn who they are, what they value, and who they want to be.”

Sounds scary to just let them screw up, but there are some things we can do to keep them on the right track.

  1. Live our own values explicitly. This will teach them by example, to live outwardly in harmony with what they value on the inside.
  2. Encourage autonomy and self-governing. Your teens’ inner moral compass is what will keep them moving along in a positive direction, long term. Empower them and teach them to trust themselves.
  3. Ask open-ended questions. “What are you passionate about?” “Who do you look up to and why?” “When do you feel the most at peace and why do you think that is?” This will help them find not only their identity but their purpose.

Most importantly, exude acceptance and love. During the teen years, our kids aren’t only asking “Who am I?” But also asking “Will you love me no matter who I become?” Research suggests that parental acceptance and unconditional love for their children is a critical protective factor in their lives. You will also have far more influence, as they will gravitate towards that acceptance and love you provide.

Don’t forget to get support yourself! Parenting teens can feel lonely, as some of their stories (even though they still affect you) aren’t your stories to share. So find your tribe. People you can trust to share the joys and the struggles that come with parenting teens. You deserve love and acceptance, just like your teen does.

“And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Colossians 3:14

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