Until, these past few months. Now I know that teenagers need to explore their limits, test the waters, and challenge their boundaries. I know this is God's way of helping us parents, 1-practice our patience, and 2-look forward to them leaving for college! However, is any parent ready for the change that creeps into their structured, neat life? Maybe after the first one has been through these years, it gets easier, not to go through, but, easier to recognize the signs that okay tomorrow is going to be the day that my teenager wakes up and becomes someone I have never met!
Well, the past few weeks have been such a lesson in life for the Gary family. I am not going into the details of the situation, so for some of you, you will stop reading, because that is what its about. knowing someone else' problems so that it makes yours somehow seem smaller or less significant. Or maybe, so you can judge my parenting or lack their of, and feel puffed up that,"at least that has never happened in our family". So, no the details, are not even a necessity for this post. But, for you curiosity seekers, I will tell you it is probably worse than some of you have dealt with ,and minor compared to what others have endured. This post is about what we have learned as a family, so that maybe all you parents who have not yet traveled down this road may be able to learn something from it, or for those of you who have,"been"there, "done" that ,could remember what it was like and pray for us, knowing this too shall pass.
1.Do not be so quick to judge another parent for something their teenager has done, is doing or may try.. because most likely you just haven't caught yours yet.
2.Have all of your teenagers codes, to facebook, instagram, twitter, tumblr, phone,email, and text,but its not just okay to have them, use them,check on them randomly.( also know what all of these are, and keep up with the latest,greatest trend on the internet)
3.This is the time to have more family time, not less. Family dinners is a great way to ask questions, not the generic, but the hard ,direct questions. However, don't just stop at a dinner, BE a FAMILY, movie nights, board games(yes, they still make them), card games,whatever to engage your teenager, but spend quality time and if you don't have time, MAKE it, this is not an option, its a requirement.
4. Know their friends, and their friends parents. Have them over ALOT! I know you have to deal with one teenager and now I am asking you to deal with ten, but you need to be involved in knowing what they are up too, how they act, speak, but most importantly they need to know your rules, expectations and beliefs. However, do not include yourself so much, they think you are part of their "group", because you are not their friend, you are the parent,."THE PARENT", they don't want to try and test,and they should be a little scared about.Because, like I tell my teenager, I can do crazy, and I do it really, really well!
5. Have days that NO ONE is allowed on the internet, including yourselves.We recognized that when we are home, we all have had too much time alone on our computers, phones, ipads, ipods etc. we began to see how we were all starting to live separate, because lets face it, its easier,when we are all tired and what ever other excuse you got.. This is DANGEROUS, let me repeat DANGEROUS. Too many times that is when your teenager starts slipping away, when they don't have to interact with you on a daily basis, who are they interacting with? If you are not their main influence, who becomes their main influence? that's right their friends, who are stupid teenagers too!
6. Another thing,the internet can be a wonderful tool, however, most teenagers will and have abused it. There are so many easy ways to access the information on the internet,and there are no filters.The computer should be used in an area where anyone can walk by and see it. However, with ipods, iphones, and any other smaller device they will have access. You need to teach your children about YOUR rules on the internet , and if that is abused the internet will go away. Yes, we are going to feel like we are being punished also, but I FIRMLY believe, we are in battle with the media, you- tube,and advertisements that want to expose our kids earlier and earlier to things that are inappropriate, and desensitize them to the way of the "world".
7. Just because, they are a "good" kid, a "christian" kid, a "straight A student" kid, a "star athlete" kid ,they are still a teenager, with all the same curiosity,and have all the same peer pressures as any other kid. Do not be fooled and have the "it won't happen to me" syndrome, because it will, unless you can keep them on complete lock down until they are 18(which I did consider)anything that occu their time.
8. Peer pressure is a real thing. You spend all these years raising your kids, pouring into their lives your values and morals, then they meet one person and in 15 minutes, they have more influence over them than you did. It sucks, but its true. It doesn't mean you stop giving them guidance, it means you fight even harder for them. And if you think its not a fight to keep your teenager from getting through all of this, your a fool. We have to fight for them, now more than ever.
9. Talk about the hard stuff. Don't be embarrassed to ask the tough questions. Most likely, you will learn more from them, than the other way around. Your kids know about sex, drugs, drinking, and probably in detail(thanks internet) too. Don't let them take the easy way out either, make them look you in the eyes when they are talking about it, educate them and educate them some more.
and the most important thing:
10. Pray for them daily, ask God for guidance,patience and wisdom. Pray before you talk with them. Do not be reactive, be proactive. Be their biggest advocate ,be firm. Let them know they can come to you without judgement or condemnation, they need to know its safe to do that. AND Love them, love them unconditionally,and never give up or become complacent, after all your raising a teenager now, life is just getting interesting!