Teenagers are fun.
That statement draws a lot of attention. Some parents are afraid of their teenagers, while others enjoy the time their children are in their teens. It takes courageous parents to guide their teenage children through the pitfalls and bumps in their early life. Teenagers are hanging on the eve of adulthood and it’s their last-ditch effort to fulfill what they consider being “themselves.” Many have passions about what they do and it shows in their actions. Others pass through quietly and contribute thoughtfully. One thing is for sure: there is a lot more activity with a house full of teenage children than with a house full of two-year-olds. Reflection and words of wisdom can help parents understand their teenage children so life runs smoother and safer, especially those families with Christian ethics. Here are a few ideas!
Parents Can Lay the Foundation
Children between the ages of 13 and 19 keep homes very invigorated (and keep their parents young!) since during adolescence, great changes take place in body and mind. Parents should pay particular attention to what their teens do instead of turning a deaf ear to their activity. Granted, a two-year old will try to please his parents, and for the most part, they go along with clothing choices, foods to eat, and bedtime rules. But a teen causes parents to think through religious beliefs, moral judgments, and why we should eat nutritious food for lunch instead of potato chips and soda pop.
Teens who are grounded in righteous endeavors typically will be more successful in this difficult world. Words of wisdom could never be truer from the late Elder David B. Haight, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, in a talk he gave in 1979. He said:
“Though the world is becoming more wicked, the youth of Christ’s church can become more righteous if they understand who they are, understand the blessings available, and understand the promises God has made to those who are righteous, who believe, who endure. All of our youth are entitled to and need this knowledge to combat the forces of deception that would lead them captive into darkness.”
Teens might think their parents are too strict with high morals, but adolescent children know where they stand and that their parents care enough to enforce sensible values.
Teens Need Attention, Too
Some might consider teenagers very immature, but there is a fine line between immaturity and just being fun. A common characteristic of teenagers is the fact that many times, the whole world revolves around them and any negative situations they experience will go down in the history books as the worst occurrence of their lives (even if they were the cause of it). Yes, they are the “drama queens and kings” of life, but their perspective is an interesting one. Granted, some of our teens have had to endure some pretty awful experiences that did go down in the history books as the worst ever — for example, the Columbine High School shootings — but for the most part, teens overreact in their quest for adulthood.
Parents need compassion and fairness in dealing with the lives of their teens as well as attention to the details of their lives. They are not done with parenting a child after 13. This is where the courage to be a good parent comes in handy, as we are entrusted to train our children to put their best foot forward. From another Latter-day Saint Church leader, President David O. McKay, “What must the Lord think, then, of parents who, through their own negligence or willful desire to indulge their selfishness, fail properly to rear their children, and thereby prove untrue to the greatest trust that has been given to human beings?” The teenage years can be some of the most difficult for a child and parents can be a great source of strength during those demanding times.
Don’t Let Age Fool You
Even though adolescents are old enough to take care of their physical needs, they are not always old enough to take care of their emotional needs. Ideally, parents should be home when their teens are home. Be there before school and after if possible. (Many parents, of course, need to work to provide for their children; if it is not possible to be home with them as often as you’d like, make sure to carve out special time to be with each child individually.) That gray area of life between childhood and adulthood takes a good listening ear and the foresight of a prophet.
Recent studies have shown that depression and suicidality is increasing in adolescents. During the teenage years, there are such feelings of inadequacy and awkwardness that sometimes it’s hard to know how to handle life. Additionally, there are often many external difficulties like parents divorcing, separation of family, or a death of a loved one. It’s no wonder teens have a hard time coping! From another Church leader, President Ezra Taft Benson, we learn, “The family is the most effective place to instill lasting values in its members. Where family life is strong and based on principles and practices of the gospel of Jesus Christ, these problems do not as readily appear.”
Teens in their own right could be a great influence for doing good or a bad influence for getting into a lot of trouble. With the help of parents, Church leaders, teachers, and friends, the life of a teen can be a positive experience for everyone involved. As everyone should know, teenagers are fun.
This article was originally posted on MormonFamily.net in 2011. Changes have been made for consistency and clarity.
Valerie Steimle has been writing as a family advocate for over 25 years. As a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she promotes Christian living in her writings and is the mother of nine children and grandmother to twelve. Mrs. Steimle authored six books and is a contributing writer to several online websites. To her, time is the most precious commodity we have and knows we should spend it wisely. To read more of Valerie's work, visit her at her website, The Blessings of Family Life.