I have three boys very close together in age. Over the years I have heard a lot of unsolicited comments about my three sons . . .
“You sure do have your hands full.”
“I bet your house is loud and rowdy.”
“I wouldn’t want to clean your toilets.”
But the comment I heard the most was more of a warning . . .
“Those boys may be sweet and cute now, but just wait until they are all TEENAGERS! I feel sorry for you.”
They would spit out the word, “teenager” as if it were some dreaded disease – something horrendous that I would never want.
I started to fear the teen years . . . convinced that my boys would turn into hideous monsters that locked themselves in their room and only thought about sex and alcohol.
No, I was not looking forward to having three teenage boys in my house.
But the years went by and before I knew it my three sweet boys had grown into 6-foot tall, gangly teenagers.
I held my breath . . . waiting for them to turn into monsters and for the rebellion, the cussing and the aloofness.
Waiting for slammed doors, teenage angst and bad choices they were sure to make.
I had been warned for years and just knew this season of life was going to be challenging. I was prepared for gray hairs and stress and the need for lots of wine, chocolate and coffee.
Can I be honest?
Teen years are hard, but it hasn’t been nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
In fact, overall, I think these teen years have been pretty fun.
But parenting teens is different and I have learned a lot having three teens in the house.
By no means am I an expert and I’ve made plenty of mistakes parenting my teens – just ask them – they will tell you!
But this is what I’ve learned with three teens in the house…
1. Teens need to be hugged. A lot.
They still need to be held – no matter how old they get. I hug my teens good morning and I hug them good-night. I hug them when they come home and when they leave.
They need it – and so do I!
2. Teens need to talk about the hard stuff.
These conversations aren’t fun. They are awkward for all of us. But teens need to hear the truth from you and not their friends. Plus, these talks open the door for communication. Sex, drugs, drinking, gun safety, bullying, love, cheating, depression, online safety, how to treat girls, “No means No.”
The list of topics is endless – but so very important.
3. Listen to them and truly be interested in what they are saying.
Teens need to feel like what they are saying is important. Put down the phone, make eye contact, smile at them and ask questions. The better you listen, the more they will talk.
4. Pray for them (and yourself) every day.
Pray for their safety and their happiness and their success. Pray for their hearts to draw closer to God. Pray for their teachers, their friends and their future.
5. Teens are going to make mistakes.
They are going to fail a test, forget their homework, and miss curfew. They are going to back into the mailbox with the car, roll their eyes when you tell them to clean their room and jump into the pool with their cell phones. Your reaction to these mistakes is important. It is so easy to get angry, to yell, to punish. But they need some forgiveness, some guidance, some grace and some firm consequences.
They are still learning.
6. Pick your battles when living with teens.
Sometimes teenagers are a lot like toddlers and you have to pick your battles. They are discovering who they are and finding their way. As long as it is not dangerous or breaking any laws . . . let them express their individuality. That may mean weird clothes and loud music . . . but that’s okay.
7. Teenagers are moody.
It is hard to keep up with their emotions. Happy, sad, angry, excited – it is a roller coaster some days and you never know what you will get. Some days I find myself riding that roller coaster with them, when their emotions are all over the place, they need you to be a constant, reassuring, calming voice in their life.
8. Worries are much bigger when they are teenagers.
Driving, dating, going out with friends, college . . . you have to hope and trust that they are going to make good decisions and do the right thing. There will be lots of sleepless nights . . . pacing the floor . . . praying for their safety.
9. Teenagers are smart and funny and lots of fun to be around.
I love being with my guys. I love hearing their views on life and stories about their day. They can always make me laugh and I truly enjoy being around them
10. Car Insurance is EXPENSIVE!
Three male teenage drivers . . . Yikes! This is what people should be have warned me about.
Now is the time to encourage them to get their first job.
11. Remember that this too shall pass.
No matter how hard the days are . . . this season of parenting teens will end before you know it. Soon, these teens will be graduating from college and starting their own lives. These years will be over in a blink of an eye . . . so enjoy every minute of these teen years.
12.Teens want to hear that you love them. So say it often.
Every single day – because they still need you, even if they won’t admit it.
Teens can be challenging and complex . . . they are dealing with hard stuff. They are learning to navigate the world of social media, dealing with peer pressure and figuring out how to interact with the opposite sex. They face the stress and demands of school . . . AP classes, sports, SAT’s and GPA’s. And I know some teens are in the trenches . . . battling even more painful & serious challenges like drugs, depression, alcohol, eating disorders and anxiety. Parenting teens . . . it ain’t easy!
But it can also be such a fun and rewarding time . . . you are going to have moments of connection and love to make it all worth it. You are going to have moments when your heart swells with pride and days that are so special you tuck them away in your memory bank.
And one day, you will wake up and realize what an amazing experience it has been to watch your kids grow into pretty cool adults.
Heather Duckworth is wife & mother to 5 awesome kids, 4 on earth and 1 in Heaven. From having triplets, to losing a child to cancer, to adopting – she has experienced about every joy, challenge & heartache of motherhood. She is beautifully broken and perfectly flawed – saved by God’s grace every day. She often writes and shares about her faith, family, parenting, grief, teenagers and the crazy chaos that is her wonderful life. On her Facebook page: Love, Faith & Chaos.