The Complex Journey of Parenting Teens

My mom always used to say, about parenting us girls, that she loved each year more than the previous. She swore parenting just got better and better as we got older.

All I have to say is, we must’ve been some angels! Or time has blurred the reality of how it all went down because, in my experience, these years of mothering teens and pre-teens has been some of the trickiest to date. And that’s saying something because I was a hot mess when the kids were babies. In those days, Scott would barely walk in the door from work and I was already throwing the parenting baton like a flaming hot potato at his face. “Your turn,” I’d declare. “I’m tapping out!”

Although the ticking of the clock can often be scary as we march on towards the end of life, maybe it graciously brings much-needed perspective as well. Time has a way of softening certain memories. Of showing us how we are capable of walking through hard things and reminding us, this too shall pass.

I would love some sweet words of encouragement from you mamas out there who have walked this road a tad longer than I. Or maybe from some of you ladies who remember what nasty beasts you were to your mothers during the teenage years and now you are face-timing BFFs who call each other “girlfriend.”

Either way, I need me some perspective and encouragement.

As of late, I’ve come to realize parenting in any season (like most things in life) is a delicate mix of learning valuable lessons from the past, staying patient in the present, and graciously holding the long view of the future with (VERY) open hands. 

I understand most of the disappointments our kids will face are just par for the course. Rites of passage, if you will. Most of us who’ve lived even one day as a teenager know the deep pain of heartbreak, the sheer madness of feeling like we got “robbed” of some accolade we thought we deserved, the sting of rejection from a best friend or varsity coach, but watching my own kids walk through some of these exact same things just flat hurts. I’m pretty sure mama bears are wired to protect and defend, but many times, that’s not what these years call for. 

Teens need to spread their wings, not Mommy micro-managing every decision.

Teens need a listening ear, not an endless litany of unwanted (often unasked for) advice.

Teens need to be given opportunities to try and fail so they can learn to get up again, not parents who smooth the road ahead every step of the way.

My head knows these are important life lessons. My head knows my kids will bounce back — that struggles create resilience. But knowing the truth in my head and feeling the sting in my heart often seem mutually exclusive. 

As adults, we know hard times are often momentary and fleeting. But with the teen suicide rate being at an all-time high, I have to say having the long view doesn’t always help when I’m afraid the short view might just overwhelm in the present. 

I don’t know about y’all, but my flesh wants to just plain BATON DOWN THE HATCHES. Lock the doors. Shut down YouTube and chuck the whole internet into the ocean. Pick up my whistle and have the kids follow my orders like Mr. VonTrapp, believing if they could just listen and obey no harm will come. 

But alas, I hear that’s probably not the best. Or healthiest. Or even a remotely reasonable option. At least the internet part.

So where does that leave me? 

Quite honestly, it leads me to the end of myself (apparently the plan all along if you read even ten words of Scripture) and desperately into the arms of a loving God (and amazing hubby). Thank you, Jesus, for this man that continuously breathes sanity into my crazy. Bless his ever-loving heart!

I don’t know where you guys are in your journey of parenting. Perhaps you’ve got it all dialed in and the plane is on autopilot, in which case I would LOVE to hear from you. Seriously. But I’m going to hedge my bets and presume many of you are a lot like me. You have some days that come off like a Martha Stewart Living magazine (yeah, right), but more often than not, you’re nostrils are floating just above the water line, in which case we both need a little saving.

If the second option resonates in the slightest — I want to direct you to two interviews* I listened to recently that have ministered to and encouraged my weary, wandering soul, putting so much of this into perspective. (*You do NOT need to be in the throes of parenting to enjoy this podcast. It will bless ladies of any age/stage.)

The delightful, Jamie Ivey, hosts a podcast called “The Happy Hour” (that title had you at ‘hello’ didn’t it??) in which she interviews women from various walks about “the big things in life, the little things and everything in between.” This podcast has become one of my new favorites! Each episode is worth a listen, but two, in particular, caught my attention because they highlighted mamas who have gone through some rough patches with their kids and lived to tell (and even testify!) about them.

Episode 125 featuring Renee Swope and Episode 107 featuring Deidra Riggs are AWESOME! And if you want to throw in some “preach-it-sister” for good measure, don’t miss Episode 123 with Lisa Bevere. Oh. My. Word. 

Let me just leave you with a little taste from Renee Swope who tells the story of her teenage son announcing he was an atheist. 

She said, “I never want to get my identity [as a mom] from how my kids are doing… Our kids are BECOMING. They need to know what matters more to us than anything is that their faith journey is THEIR faith journey. It’s not something they just inherit from us. They need it to be their decision… We do the best we can with what we have. Our kids are God’s kids, not ours.”

During a particularly rough patch with her son, he said to her, “Mom, if you believe everything you say you believe, none of this would scare you.”

Perhaps that’s the mic drop right there.

When my flesh gets scared, my natural inclination is to reach for the reigns. I’m all, “Move over Jesus, I’m taking the wheel!” But this boy’s words speak life and conviction into me today. Sometimes tightening the reigns makes the horse anxious, confused and desperate to run the other way. That’s the last thing I want for my kids. (Or any horses out there…)

My prayer today and always is that their journey would lead them one way or another into the arms of Jesus who really is better than anything else! Even better than me and “my” way. 

How would your life look different if you whole-heartedly lived like you believe God loves your kids more than you do — and His promises are real?

PS — I really do love my kids!! And even enjoy them many days of the year. Just in case you were concerned. Smile. There are things that definitely get better and more fun the older they get. But that’s fodder for a whole other post. 

Holly’s Take:

Oh gosh!  You are speaking my language. How I wish I could just get them to do everything I say and then they would be safe and fine and happy and lovely. And part of what I would say is to actually throw youTube and the entire internet into the ocean!  I can’t even imagine how I will do this parenting thing when my kids are teenagers.  Yikes!  My kids have already been through so much that sometimes I feel like if they can handle what they have already gone through, then they are going to be rock solid with the smaller stuff.  But other times I think, they have been through so much, how much more can they handle . . . they are going to crack!  It’s probably that I’m going to crack long before they do. I can’t wait to listen to those podcasts.  I’m quite positive I need to hear them.   

Christina’s Take:

This post makes me want to get women in our age and stage more deeply connected to one another! I feel this, too! I have one who is thriving, activated, encouraged and seemingly making wise choices and another who fell apart last night due to exhaustion and worry. We need perspective and this is a time of life when these most precious resources (community and perspective) are in their most limited supply! I know too that when we are our mothers’ age, this will all feel like a wispy, faint blip. Time marches on. And our kids are more resilient than we think they are. Often I am problem-solving internally about something my kiddo is no longer even considering. Oy! Thankful for your wisdom and your plea for help. We’ve got this! (Right?!?)


2 thoughts on “The Complex Journey of Parenting Teens

  1. This is so good and so very honest. Fostering an environment in which our teens become the young adults God has designed them to be is such a terrifying notion for the type-a lover of control lady that I am. I have recently been trying to remind myself against and again of how far surpassing God’s love is for our kids. In our own limited capacity we too often grasp for the wrong thing, aim at an off centered mark all of course in an attempt to care deeply and well. My prayer is that I will spend far more energy sitting at the feet of Christ than fixing, cushioning, demanding and even directing my girls. He’s got this – in the most terrifying and beautiful of terms.


    1. Cari! That is so good! And such an important perspective. Thanks for connecting and encouraging me in this way. We are not in this alone. We have God and we have each other. ❤ Megan


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