Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Parenting Teens in a Pandemic

Since my teens returned to school I have been rapidly consuming adolescent development, Christian parenting, and positive mental health resources through books, podcasts, articles, and conversations with trusted people.

Here are a few that have spoken the most to me this week: 

Love Her Well by Kari Kampakis

Java with Judi podcast (a ministry of Authentic Intimacy)

All About Boys podcast by David Thomas (based on his book, Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys)

The 2020 Back-to-School List for Teens' Emotional Well-Being by Dr. Lisa D'Amour

As a result, I have a few reflections: 

1. One of the things teenagers value most is honesty and authenticity. Being able to honestly say to my people, "I have never done this before...I am learning right along with you," seems like a great place to start in maintaining my credibility with them. It invites grace with integrity. 

"Whereas you cannot provide certainty, you must provide clarity. Parents, leaders, influencers, mayors, senators, you can be uncertain! You can be uncertain but you cannot afford to be unclear. Our mandate, as leaders, is to be clear even when things are not certain. Clarity is honest and clarity, as we're gonna discover, is enough. And here's why I say that; clarity is actually perceived as leadership. Clarity is actually experienced as leadership. Clarity, in the midst of uncertainty, creates its own influence, its own momentum." - Andy Stanley, sermon "Leading with Clarity"

2. While much is written about the challenges of those virtually/hands-on homeschooling little ones-- and the parents doing this have my deepest empathy-- sending my adolescents back out into the world after a cozy bonus few months in the nest has its own unique set of considerations. 

I have been hovering over them trying to make this COVID season special and safe for five months. Developmentally, this is the time when my teens really should be individuating--learning important and lasting lessons socially--and finding their footing with budding independence. COVID precautions stunted that growth. 

“The work of mothering a son is mostly about stepping aside with precise timing. I want my sons, both of them, to learn from me that they are free to be rooted in home and still be abroad in the world as men." Gina Bria, The Art of Family

My introvert is thrilled to have excuses to retreat to online games and forums, my extrovert has to negotiate with us over the risks and precautions for every planned outing, and my teen that hasn't found their social footing is struggling with how to do so in these unusual times. How do you make new friends and form an intimate group when groups aren't allowed? 

In normal 16-year-old circumstances, youth leaders would be present as healthy and trusted voices to navigate these decisions. A typical sophomore year of high school would present many social opportunities to develop these skills. Alas, this is 2020 where developmental and mental health concerns must be weighed against community health risks and mandates. It is exhausting!

3. After a 3am wrestling match with the Lord and my worries this morning, I feel like I left with a mantra:

  • Parent with the LONG VIEW in mind...character, faith, foundational truth...not just behavior management.  
  • LISTEN and LOVE more than lecturing. Now more than ever, home should be a safe place.
  • Let the Lord have His way in His time with the hearts of these His children. He loves them more than I do. He sees the big picture and the deepest places in their hearts. I can trust Him. 

I still have so much to learn, but I am grateful for what the Lord is revealing to me and how He is growing me in this process. I hope some of these lessons are encouraging to you as well. 

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." Matthew 6:34 MSG

One day at a time. 

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