A special welcome to the Moms that joined us for the first time: Sara, Jill, Michelle, Kim, Lisa, Sandra and Debbi.
Welcome back to all of our returners. And we missed those that couldn’t make it yesterday due to transportation issues, illness, surgery recovery, teen illness, and various other obstacles. We get it. We prayed for you and hope you will join us when you can. That goes for everyone…we are flexible group … please come when you can, reading done or not, invite someone to join at any time.. we are always welcoming.
We started with a group photo…which makes this “photo girl” happy.
We sold all of the books that we had in stock. For those of you that do not have a copy, you can order a used one from Amazon or can download a digital copy for $3.99.
There are 2 editions that look different but the content is the same.
The first chapter is provided below for those that do not have a book yet.
Yates, Susan Alexander (2001-08-01). And Then I Had Teenagers: Encouragement for Parents of Teens and Preteens (pp. 15-30). Baker Publishing Group.
Chapter 1: The Fearful Parent
Help, what if they…? What if I…?
We were sitting at the local Starbucks sipping hot cups of special coffees and talking about our kids. Each of us was in various stages of raising teenagers. One had a twelve-year-old son, another a nineteen-year-old daughter. One had two stepteens, and another was a single mom. As we chatted, several other moms pulled up chairs to join in the conversation. “When you think of raising teens, what’s your main emotional response?” I asked. “FEAR,” one mom immediately responded, and others quickly agreed. “I want my daughter to make wise choices, and I’m so afraid that she won’t. Oh, I know she’ll make mistakes, but I’m afraid her poor choices might harm her or someone else for life,” one mom said anxiously. “I’m frustrated,” added another mom. “I’m the controlling type, but now I sense I’m losing control. My son always has to have the last word. And he makes me feel so stupid.” “I’ve made so many mistakes as a stepmother, I’m afraid that my stepdaughter will never forgive me,” chimed in Cary, as tears began to trickle down her cheeks. “I’m feeling lonely,” confessed Beth. “My daughter and I have always been so close, but now she seems to be pulling away. She doesn’t confide in me the way she used to. She wants privacy. She tells her friends things instead of me.” “I was a rebellious hell-raiser, and I’m so afraid my daughter will do what I did. Even though I know I’m forgiven, I still experience such sadness for the pain I caused my parents, and I still carry painful scars myself,” Shelly lamented. “My son is eighteen and uncommunicative. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with church or youth group. He’s hanging out with kids I don’t like, and I’m scared. I feel like we’ve lost him,” another mom commented. “I have a good relationship with my two teens,” said one mom who seemed uncomfortable. “But everyone keeps saying, ‘You just wait until . . .’ So now I feel anxious because I’m not having problems. And I’m confused. Do the teen years have to be awful?” Fear, frustration, guilt, loneliness, confusion. And those What ifs. What if I’ve already messed up my kid? What if she turns out like me? What if he rejects God? What if he gets into drugs? What if . . . ? It is a scary time. A lonely time. A confusing time. We may have fears we’re afraid to admit. We may have unresolved issues from our own past that are rearing their ugly heads. There may be tension in our marriage over how best to handle a teen. Or we may be single parents feeling very lonely. When we realize, I’m not the only one who feels like this, we will be comforted.
Having raised five teens and having talked with numerous other parents of teens, my husband, Johnny, and I have come to see that there are many common challenges we all encounter as parents in this new season. Articulating these challenges can be encouraging because it helps us realize that someone else is dealing with the same issues we are. It can be refreshing to talk through these issues and discover that many of them have practical solutions. Finally, these challenges and issues can help us become people of deeper faith. We can experience God’s hand in our lives in an even more profound way as we all, parents and teens alike, grow through our children’s teen years. In the next few pages we will identify ten common challenges of raising teenagers. Each chapter that follows will highlight one of these issues and suggest practical solutions. At the end of each chapter you will find focus questions you can use to enhance your study. You can benefit greatly if you use this book in a group study, allowing these focus questions to become a springboard for discussion.
A Quick Look at Ten Common Challenges
What’s Normal, What’s Not?
“How was your day?” I asked my son John, who was seated at the kitchen table for an after-school snack. “Fine.” Period. Silence. “Anything interesting happen today?” I continued. “Oh, Mother, I feel like I’m at an inquisition. You’re so nosy,” he remarked as he grabbed his books and headed to his room. Again, my once talkative, affectionate, fun-loving son had shut me out. At thirteen he expressed himself by acting ultracool and uncommunicative. He wasn’t much fun to be with, and he certainly did not seem to enjoy my presence. Why, I wondered, do I even make the effort to be here when he comes home from school? It doesn’t seem to make any difference to him. Is his behavior normal? Is it a stage? Will it pass? Am I overreacting? How should I handle this? Everything I thought I knew about parenting flew out the window when our first child hit the teen years. I seemed to have had answers for toddlers, but for teens I didn’t. At least with toddlers I had a sense of what is “normal.” I knew most would rebel at having to go to bed, most would bite, most would not want to pick up toys, most would whine, most would defy. It was an easier time because I had a sense of what was to come, and I could plan. But it’s not so easy with teens. Hormones, personality, and gender can combine to make the most experienced parents feel like fools. Just because our first teen responded in a certain way, there was no guarantee the next one would. What is normal during this season? Why do different kids respond so differently? How do we discern what is a normal teenage problem and what is a genuine concern? How should we handle a particular child? What do we do about our own feelings of inadequacy? How can we parent our teen with confidence instead of fear?
Walking on Eggshells?
We were trying to have a nice family dinner—good conversation, encouraging words, lots of laughter. After all, that’s what strong, happy, loving families do, don’t they? Only it wasn’t working in our house. Allison, at fourteen, was in a funk. Nothing had gone right in her day. She didn’t like the dinner I’d fixed. She didn’t approve of my outfit. She especially didn’t think her younger brothers were at all funny. And she absolutely did not want to talk. She just wanted to sulk and pout. No one wanted to talk to her either. That would just be asking for it. We felt like we were tiptoeing around a huge snake that might bite at any moment. Conversation became forced. We finished eating as soon as we could. It was not a warm, cozy picture of a loving Christian family. What is going on? I asked myself. My family is being held hostage by the roller-coaster moods of a self-centered teenager. It is not a fun place to be. How should we handle this? Do we ride it out or confront it head on? Who is controlling the atmosphere in our home? Is it our moody teen or her parents? How can we provide an encouraging atmosphere in our home during the turbulent teen years?
You Just Don’t Understand!
Amy, seventeen, was in another verbal battle with her mom. She’d lied about where she’d been last night, and her mom had found out. Once again they stood eyeball-to-eyeball. Amy ranted, “You don’t understand anything. I just wish you’d get out of my life!” “God gave me the job of raising you,” Amy’s mother calmly responded. “Then why aren’t you doing a better job of it?” Amy quickly shot back. Round and round went their conversation. There were no winners. Only casualties. And once more Amy’s mom felt like a failure. It was so easy to talk to our young children. We understood them. We could give straight answers. There wasn’t a communication problem. They shared their secrets with us. But not anymore. Now when we try to understand, they “don’t want to talk about it.” Too often we get a cold shoulder, evasive answers, or just plain personal criticism. Our best friend may have a child that tells her everything, and since ours doesn’t, we feel like a bad mom. Nearly every teen and every parent puts “Better Communication” at the top of their wish list for their relationships with each other. How do we communicate in such a turbulent season? How can we understand one another better? When do we push to communicate, and when do we give space? How do we grow closer instead of drifting apart? How do we adapt our communication styles in the midst of so much change?
Why Can’t You Just Trust Me?
Nancy, thirteen, came running in breathless. “Mom, there’s a Halloween party at the community center. My new friend, Alice, and I are going to go as witches and wear black miniskirts. Then we get to have an after party at Alice’s house with some other kids and watch horror movies.” “I don’t think so,” her mom responded. “Why can’t I go? Nothing will happen. Don’t you trust me? You never let me do anything!” Every issue with our teen seems to turn into a major debate. Things aren’t as black-and-white now. Often their arguments are so much better than ours. It was so much simpler when they were two and just had a temper tantrum. Then we won the battle. Now they present logical arguments. Are we really the strictest, most unreasonable parents in town? we ask ourselves. What are reasonable limits? We need to be letting go, but how do we decide what to let go of? What are swing issues to let slide, and what are crucial issues to hold to? Our decisions become more complicated when our best friend doesn’t agree with our parenting style. She thinks we’re too strict—or not strict enough. And there doesn’t seem to be one right way for Christians to respond. How do we set limits and let go of our children? How do we discern what is best for our unique child?
Help! How Should I Handle . . . ?
Sex, dating, curfews, drinking, drugs, grades, driving, money, TV, movies, the Internet, music. Help! Won’t somebody please tell me how to handle all these “Hot Topics”? Is there one right formula for protecting my kids? No. Is it possible to handle these issues and avoid conflict? No. Is there any parent who feels he or she has done an adequate job in all these areas? No. Do teens have to rebel? No. There are no perfect formulas for raising teens because there are no perfect parents and no perfect kids. Even Joseph had a conflict with Jesus. When He was twelve, Jesus didn’t show up where He was supposed to be and didn’t let His parents know where He was! God Himself understands the challenges of raising teenagers. Even Jesus, the only perfect son, managed to perplex His parents. As parents we feel woefully inadequate as we face the challenges of today. There are so many more BIG issues, so many more temptations. And many of the issues our kids face can have life-threatening ramifications. In our postmodern culture, we wonder if we are too backward, too conservative, or if we are buying into the standards of our excessive culture without even realizing it. We feel confused. We feel alone. Our teens are more informed, more advanced technologically, overwhelmed with options, and under tremendous stress. We too have pressures. Pressure to provide financially, to succeed in a career, to care for aging or ill parents, to grow spiritually, to raise kids who turn out to be useful, responsible adults. In the midst of all these challenges, how do we handle these “Hot Topics” with our teen? Can we have reasonable discussions together? How? Where do we find practical advice for real-life situations?
But All My Friends Get To . . .
“Mom, there’s a big concert out at the fairgrounds Saturday night, and a bunch of us want to go. Can I take the car and drive everyone?” “Honey, you’ve only had your license two weeks, and you know our policy on driving others in the car. You don’t have enough experience yet. I’m sorry, but you cannot take the car.” “Annie’s mom lets her drive anyone anywhere, and she just got her license last week. She even has her own car! All my friends get to drive wherever they want. No one else has your stupid rules. You’re so unfair!” Driving. Licenses. Highways. Cars. Any one of these words will strike fear in the heart of the sanest parent. We know the dangers involved. We read the papers, watch the news, and we know, it could have been my child in that accident. For us it’s primarily a safety issue; for our child it’s a peer pressure issue. It’s a right of passage. It signifies another step into the adult world. It isn’t just cars. It’s parties, grades, money, extracurricular activities, and many other issues. And our child isn’t the only one who feels peer pressure. We too feel it from other parents. Our best friend lets her daughter drive anywhere, but we don’t. Are we being too restrictive? Is she being too lenient? How do we handle these pressures? Who is right? What is right for our child? We want to build good relationships with our teen’s friends and their parents. How do we do it? Does peer pressure always have to be negative? Can’t it be positive? How?
I’m Not Sure I Believe . . .
“I’m so scared,” my friend confided. “What if my son rejects the faith? What if he goes in another direction? He’s seventeen now, and he’s showing signs of disinterest. He doesn’t want to go to the guys’ Bible study. He doesn’t like to hang out with the Christian kids anymore. He won’t talk to me about what’s going on inside his head. I’ve prayed for him since he was born. He accepted Christ when he was young, but now . . . ? I keep praying for him, but I’m frightened. Why doesn’t God answer? Where is God in this?” It’s a season of questioning. Why should a teen believe what he has been taught? Will he embrace his parents’ faith and make it his own? Tough questions—necessary questions. With few easy answers. What can we do to prepare our teen for taking ownership of his faith? What do we do when he doesn’t believe? How can we grow in our own faith during this season? I Never Thought “It” Would Happen to Me Alex had always been independent. He’d take what his folks said and then put his own twist on it. And he liked girls—a lot. In sixth grade his dad found him making out in the last row of the movie theater. By sixteen he was a popular boy, one all the “cool” girls wanted to date. His parents were strong believers and had talked with him about sexual purity. And his parents had clear, firm house rules that he knew. One was, “No members of the opposite sex allowed in the house if a parent is not home.” His junior year he started hanging out with a very “hot” girl. Alex’s mom prayed hard for her son. Often she prayed that if he was doing anything wrong, he’d get caught. One summer day she felt compelled to go home from her office immediately. When she walked in the front door, she noticed a girl’s purse on the chair. Marching up to Alex’s room, she found the door locked. “Son,” she called, “you need to come out right now.” When he appeared, she asked, “Is anyone in there with you?” “No, Mom,” he replied, completely flustered. “No one is here. Not willing to be misled, Mom marched straight into the room and found the “hot” girl struggling to get her clothes back on. Alex was demoralized. His folks were devastated. Their son had lied; he’d violated house rules. He’d gotten himself involved in a wrong relationship. There were guilt, shame, and endless questions. How could we have prevented this? his dad and mom wondered. How did we let him get this far down the wrong path? How did we get here? We never thought something like this would happen to us. But it had, and now the family had to decide what to do. What should their response be? Could God redeem even this? Could He use it for good in their son’s life and in theirs? What is our worst fear? What do we do if our fears are realized? What if our child gets into drugs, runs away, has an accident, gets pregnant, rejects the faith? What if “it” happens to us?
How Am I Supposed to Know Which College or Which Job Is Right?
The subject of college was really on Mary’s mind. A single parent, she felt a bit overwhelmed as her son, Jeff, got closer to graduation. Am I pushing him too much or not enough? she agonized. It’s such a big decision, and once again I have to handle this by myself. I wish I had a partner to help me make wise decisions. I feel like a one-armed paperhanger. When I try to talk to my son, he just changes the subject or he says he’s not ready to talk about life after high school. I know the competition that’s out there for the good schools. We have to talk about it. I need help! Andrew, seventeen, was competitive and intense. By the beginning of his junior year in high school, he’d researched colleges on the Internet and was already “stressing” over the fifteen applications he had decided to fill out. A driven overachiever, he was determined to pursue every possibility. In the process he became irritable, anxious, and depressed. While his parents applauded his initiative, they became concerned with his obsessiveness. “How can we support him and yet help relieve some of his stress?” they asked. Alice came up to me at a conference where I had been speaking. “Susan,” she said, “neither my husband nor I went to college. No one in my family has ever gone, so we haven’t really expected our daughter to go, but now I’m wondering if she should consider it. She makes good grades in school, but I don’t know how to go about this college idea. It’s so foreign to me. How do I know if she should work or go to college? I want to do what’s best for my daughter. How do I find out what that is?” We all have so many questions. There are either too many possibilities or too few options. And our child is either not interested enough or way too stressed about the issue. Often we don’t know how to go about making the decision. How do we begin? When do we begin? How do we discern what is right for our unique child? What should we look for in a school, in a job? How do we walk through this important decision with our child? How involved should we be, and how much do we leave up to our teen?
Leaving—Is My Child Ready? Am I?
I was sitting with two young men, one twenty-five and one nineteen, in a corporate dining room with a publishing executive. The executive was a girlfriend of mine who’d graciously agreed to have lunch with these boys, specifically to talk to the older one about job possibilities. His young friend was just along for the experience. I was surprised as I observed what began to take place. The older boy took very little initiative in the conversation. He did not ask any questions. He seemed to have very little knowledge of the company. He had a hard time looking the executive in the eye, and his lack of manners seemed to make him ill at ease. I felt sorry for him. His young friend, on the other hand, had read up on the company. He asked good, specific questions. He stood to seat the executive. He offered to get her more coffee. He was fully at ease and engaged in the conversation. Wow, I thought to myself. This young boy is more equipped to move into the world than is his older friend. His parents have obviously trained him well. How did they do it?
Watching this scene, I asked myself how my son would have behaved in this situation. Would he have been able to carry the conversation? Would he have had good manners? Would he know how to make those around him feel at ease? This incident caused me to ask other questions as well: Am I equipping my child for living in the world? What other things does he need to know before he goes? Are there life skills that I should intentionally teach him? What are they? How do I do it and when do I do it? As I thought about my teen’s leaving, I also had to ask questions about myself: Am I ready for him to leave? How do I get myself ready so that this transition will be easier for him and for me? How do I prepare to let go? So many challenges, so many questions, so many people with so many different answers. Perhaps you have home schooled your kids and haven’t had many problems, but now things are coming up that you didn’t expect. Or you may have an only child, and with no others to compare her to, you wonder if she’s normal. You may be a single parent, and you can’t tell if you are overreacting or not taking something seriously enough. We all second-guess our responses to our teens. And we often feel so responsible for the mistakes we see them making. There are no easy answers, no quick fixes, but there is reassurance in knowing other parents face the same challenges. Most of all, though, there is reassurance and comfort in remembering that our heavenly Father understands our teenagers, and He understand us and our challenges and joys as parents. He knows what is best for our kids—and what is best for us.
Meditate on Psalm 34.
Get a new notebook or journal to use for your own study as you read this book. What you read will have far greater impact when you make your own notes. In the first section of your journal, write the following:
1. What are my fears as I parent teens (fears for myself, fears for my child)? Make a list of your fears. Be as specific as you can.
2. Look up the following passages and write down what each one says to you personally: Psalms 34:4, 17–18; 86:15–16; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25.
3. Write out your own personal prayer to God. Tell Him your needs and desires for yourself and your teen. Ask Him to encourage you specifically as you read this book and as you share insights with other parents.
4. Leave several blank pages in your journal to record the specific ways that God answers your prayers during this study. As you read each chapter, write down practical things you learn that are helpful to you.
Meditate on Psalm 139. Insert your name and then your teen’s name for each pronoun, making it your personal prayer.