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Preparing for the Teenage Years So Your Child Can Thrive

Is it difficult for you to picture your child as a teenager? Although the teenage years may seem far off, time goes by fast. Preparing for the teenage years in advance can spare both your child and yourself from a great deal of the typical heartache families experience during their children’s teenage years!

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I’ve spent plenty of time day-dreaming of what my children’s faces will look like, how their voices will change, what they’re personal convictions will be, and everything in between honestly!

I’ve wondered whether they’ll roam when they’re grown or if they’ll stay close to mom and dad. I’ve thought endlessly about the role I’ll have in my grandchildren’s lives!

When my brain finally snaps back to the hear-and-now I have to remind myself that today is today and that since I won’t get it back, the best thing I can do is be the mom my kids need in this moment by intentionally preparing for the teenage years now!

mom and daughter holding hands on railroad tracks while preparing for the teenage years

Preparing for the Teenage Years Starts Years Prior

I’ve been focusing child development studies lately on teens. Somewhat because I am about to have a teenager and somewhat because that’s just where God has me right now. Lately, it seems, everywhere I turn a sweet mama is knee-deep in trying to walk the tightrope of the teenage years.

Dr. James Dobson says (something to the effect of) “Ask me how to raise a child and I’ll tell you. Ask me how to parent a teen and I’ll pray for you!”

It’s true that the teen years can be quite a firestorm of insanity for parents and children.

And although I DO believe moms like you and I have a lot of power at your disposal to successfully navigate the turbulent waters of the teenage years, nonetheless, it’s different, and foreign, and scary, particularly if you’re not armed with truth and ready for the challenge.

Some children seem to steer through the teen years smoother than others but make no mistake… it’s still a tumultuous time. With hormones calling the shots most of the time, and the logic and reasoning parts of the brain working hard to form and function, obstacles have no choice but to come up!

Struggling desperately through my own teenage years (almost not making it through,) raising my younger brother during his teens, the study that I’ve done on the matter, and the parenting we’ve applied to our almost-teen has revealed some important truths about preparing to parent during the teen years that I want to share with you today!

Because even though your child isn’t quite there yet… she will be someday and being emotionally, mentally, and physically prepared will be a huge step toward making it through with joy.

Secrets Your Future Teen Will Keep

Knowing these truths now will help you be proactive in preparing for the teenage years to solidify a healthy relationship with your child.

#1. Teens DO want to be with their parents.

When I was alone and isolated as a teenager, I would sit and cry, wishing that someone would save me. I started telling my mom to leave me alone before my teen years even arrived and so she did.

When my brother and I were living together during his teen years, we were together a lot. Although I could have done a far better job guiding him during that time, I am confident, my semi-constant presence played a positive role in keeping him out of trouble.

Research by child therapists, counselors, and psychologists shows again and again, that although teens may reject their parent’s attention verbally, that’s not how they actually feel on the inside!

Teens want to be pursued by their parents. They need to go on dates with mom and dad. They need alone time together. Even if they go kicking and screaming. Read about early childhood dates here.

That requires some thick skin!!

So what can you do RIGHT NOW to make it easier on you both then?

  • Make parent-child dates a priority and a requirement. Set aside time every week (or every month – depending on how many kids you have) and spend time alone with each of your children. This time can be completely free. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate. Just get alone together. Listen, far more than you speak and don’t ever stop.

My rule of thumb for this is, “You can stop dating me when you have a spouse to date instead!” I was honored to share my insight about this with USA Today, in their piece “Raising Better Boys.” Check it out here.

#2. Teens experience severe stress and pressure that leads to depression as a result of expectations and workloads.

When teens are asked by their therapists what the number one source of stress is, the answer is almost unanimously “pressure and workload!”

These teens are suffering depression at the hand of too many extra-curricular activities, difficult/strenuous academic courses, parental expectations, lack of down-time, and a busy schedule.

I’ve heard this referred to as the “Caterpillar Life.” If you picture a caterpillar in your mind you see a long, fuzzy, wormy little guy. He bunches up, arches in the middle, pulls his backend toward his front… just to have the front end move far away again. He repeats the process over and over, but his poor backend never can catch up to his front.

Life can get this way fast if we’re not intentional to kibosh the busyness!

What can you do right now to prevent this depression inducer later?

  • Keep life simple. People’s lives are not made better by adding more “things to do.” This rings even more true for kids.

Set parameters for your children with regards to limiting the amount of extra-curricular activities he’ll be allowed to participate in. Be obnoxiously involved in his schoolwork/life. You’ll be far more inclined to notice if/when he begins to struggle if you are tuned in well, to begin with!

Lastly, schedule downtime for your child. One therapist, I’ve had the blessing of learning from says it’s crucially important to have time set aside for your child to read, take a bath, write, draw, or just sit!

mom and son talking while preparing for the teenage years

#3. Teen depression looks different.

One of the most difficult elements of teen depression is that it can cloak itself. A Doctor I recently listened to stated that while teen drama is real, many symptoms of depression can present as drama when they are in fact warning signs.

Warning signs such as fatigue, feelings of overload, moodiness, venting, headaches, frequent sickness, and sleep problems are easily dismissed due to their commonplace nature. However, during the teen years (and sometimes before) keeping a close watch on those behaviors is vital.

What can you do right now to more easily spot symptoms of depression later?

  • Get to know your child really, really, really well!

Knowing my child is a wildly important element of parenting for me. So much so that this notion is included heavily in my parenting course, “Parenting with T.R.U.S.T.”

Understanding your child’s strengths, weaknesses, sin nature, tendencies (both good and bad,) and love language will help you more easily recognize changes that need your immediate attention as your child grows.

Albert Einstein said, “Any fool can know, the point is to understand…”

I feel this way strongly with regard to my children. A lot of people “know” them. They’re special kids. But I “get” them.

Learn more about connecting with your child through conversation here.

To What Extend Can You Prepare for the Teenage Years?

You’re uniquely armed to help your child navigate through the turbulent waters of life, both today and in the emotionally messy years to come. The time you spend with your kiddo is never merely time. It’s an investment. An investment with a ripple effect that will last beyond your own life that can’t even be measured.

You can’t look into the future and predict what will come. You can, however, use everything within your grasp to prepare, be proactive, be intentional, and parent on purpose now, so that you can stand in faith and solidarity that you and your child will weather the storms together. You do not have to accept that the teenage years will be miserable. They can be great. And I, for one, believe they will be!

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