Sexing Up Our Teenagers

I sit in my sun porch as the warm breeze caresses my face. It has been deliciously warm and sunny the last couple weeks. The birds sing their lovely melody, the trees rustle in the wind, and the smell of freshly cut grass fills the air. And life emerges once again.

As I breathe in the delightful air, I think to myself, “What could spoil this perfect spring day?” And then my teenage daughter walks in and tells me she wants to go swimsuit shopping. And it hits me. “Oh yeah . . . swimsuit season, that’s what!”

I dread swimsuit season. And not just because I am a middle age woman who has birthed 2 kids (that’s another post altogether!), but because I have teenage daughters.

I don’t need to tell you that modesty is not a culturally popular concept in this country. Anyone who walks the streets, watches tv or social media, or goes in the juniors department of a clothing store, can see it.

Much like chivalry, modesty is a lost art. Super sexy, super skimpy swimsuits and shorts fill the shelves at stores where teenagers shop. And the sexy stuff is always in the juniors departments. Is it just me, or is this totally backwards?!

Why does our culture want teenage girls to be super sexy and show as much skin as possible? It doesn’t make sense.

Most people would probably agree that we shouldn’t be encouraging teenagers to have sex. Yet, the message that we put out there says the exact opposite. Why do we market the sexiest things to teenagers?! It’s crazy!

Being a conservative Christian family, we talk about God’s model for sex in marriage. Let’s go a step further and say that “sexy” not just “sex” is for marriage too.

“Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.”  1 Timothy 2:9-10

Teenagers flaunting their sexuality just invites trouble.  Let’s not encourage our daughters to hang out on the cliff of temptation.

The last thing parents want to do is create an environment where teenagers are constantly thinking about sex. But, that is exactly what we are doing.  Young girls in skin tight jeans, ridiculously short shorts, and yoga pants that leave nothing to the imagination are the norm. This only creates distraction for the boys and objectifies the girls.

What does God’s Word have to say about modesty?

pig-nose-ringLike a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.  Proverbs 11:22

I don’t think that any teenage girl would appreciate being compared to something in a pig’s snout! Ha!

Most teenage girls have adorable, cute bodies. Ahhh, I remember those days! Perfect time to show it off, right?! Wrong! We want our daughters to become women of character. And modesty will get them there.

Teenage girls need to learn that even though they could wear the shortest shorts or the string bikini and look sexy, it is far more valuable to be a young woman of character.  “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” the old adage says.

Wearing skimpy and provacative clothes can lead to a misguided self-worth.  If girls are getting a lot of attention because of their bodies or their pretty face at a young age, they may never really learn their God-given value. And they may struggle with their identity for the rest of their lives.

This has been a huge struggle in my life. And, to this day, I have a really difficult time feeling like I have value beyond my appearance. It is sad. And I don’t want my girls to struggle like I have.

Teenage girls need to know that they don’t have to show off their bodies to be OK.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”  Proverbs 31:30

My daughters, however, see what the stores sell and what most of their friends wear. They wonder, “Why shouldn’t I be able to wear a bikini when everyone else is?” I wonder, “Why aren’t there modest choices?”

As a parent of teenage girls, I feel like David and Goliath when it comes to modesty. And I’m not sure the slingshot is going to do the trick.

In the midst of our sex-crazed society, how do we teach our daughters the importance of modesty?

Passing On Our Faith: The Danger Of Complacency

I was recently talking with a good friend of mine. I wanted to get her thoughts on the issue of passing on our faith to our children. She is a great mom, which is evident if you look at her kids. Not only is she a great mom, but she is a single parent. I have great admiration for people who parent alone, yet still parent well. Parenting is hard enough without having to do it alone.

She comes from a long line of faithful people in her family. Her parents raised her to value her faith. But more importantly, to live her faith. They raised her to treasure scripture and to spend a lot of time on her knees. The legacy passed from generation to generation in her family was a legacy of a strong and active faith.

A couple years ago I was doing a Beth Moore Bible study. The topic of the study had to do with breaking strongholds. One particular section was talking about family legacies and how to break free from them; family legacies that included things like abuse, rage, alcoholism, and unforgiveness.

We were asked to think about what our family legacy was.

Although my family history included some brokenness and dysfunction, it did not include abuse, or problems with drugs/alcohol, or anything quite so extreme. The legacy that my family passed down from generation to generation was a legacy of complacency. Basic faith may have been passed down through the generations in my family, but not a radical surrender to a living God.

Although, not as obviously destructive as some of these other strongholds, complacency is a detestable thing.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16

Satan has many tools in his toolbox. Obviously, he is pleased with the abuse, neglect and dysfunction of so many families across the country. However, maybe even more dangerous are the tools that we don’t see or recognize. The ones that lurk just under our radar. Ones like complacency.

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.   Ephesians 5:14

I very much desire to pass on a radical, deep, surrendered faith in Christ to my kids, but have felt woefully unequipped in the past. I had the legacy of complacency in my family of origin. I wasn’t mentored, or encouraged to be a disciple, and I certainly wasn’t shown how to pass on a legacy of passionate faith to my children.

Many of us were not brought up in a passionately faithful family.

Is it possible to change a family legacy? Is it possible for people with my family history to raise kids who radically and passionately seek Christ?

With Christ, there is always hope. With Christ, anything is possible.

There are two aspects of passing on our faith to our kids that we need to address. First, what are we speaking into our kids’ lives? And second, what they are hearing and perceiving?

The following is a student quote from David Kinnaman’s book, You Lost Me.

I want you to be someone I want to grow up to be like. I want you to step up and live by the Bible’s standards. I want you to be inexplicably generous, unbelievably faithful, Untitled design (28)and radically committed. I want you to be a noticeably better person than my humanist teacher, than my atheist doctor, than my Hindu next-door neighbor. I want you to sell all you have and give it to the poor. I want you to not worry about your health like you’re afraid of dying. I want you to live like you actually believe in the God you preach about. I don’t want you to be like me; I want you to be like Jesus. That’s when I’ll start listening.  -Emma Smith

Doesn’t this quote just say it all? How does such simple truth evade us? She is telling us the very way in which we get our youth to listen to us. And not just listen, we want them to hear the truth.

Will we listen? Will we respond? Will we choose to be. . . .

  • radically committed to Christ?
  • radically generous?
  • radically faithful?
  • radically committed?
  • unconsumed with the worries of this world?

In short, we must be like Jesus if we want to pass on our faith to our kids.

Complacency in our faith is a dangerous thing. We must fight it, if for no other reason than the spiritual fate of our children. And in Christ, we have the power to change our family legacy to one that passionately follows Christ.


This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Pouring In, Instilling A Personal, Passionate, And Permanent Faith In The Next Generation due to come out this fall.

To Date or Not To Date

Just when you think you know what you are doing as a parent. Just when you think “I’ve got this.” Just when you think you are a decent parent, your kids start dating. Then everything you thought you knew goes out the window. And you start over from square one.

Should we let our teenagers date? How old is old enough?

Kids in this country often start dating at such as young age. Kids are “dating” in middle school and even elementary. And by high school, they are playing house.

American culture has defined dating for teenagers as kissing, having sex, and using the word “babe” after every sentence. They try to act like they are practically married. It’s scary that this is the “norm.”

The emphasis of dating is on the physical not the relational or the spiritual.

A girl should get so lost in God, that a guy has to seek Him to find her.
~John Piper, Desiring God

There are two reasons why teenagers shouldn’t date in high school.

First, the obvious reason of teens and sex. It is hard to think of how many years my girls have before they will likely marry. If they get married at the same age I did, it will be in eight to ten years. That is a long time not to have sex in this culture.

Unless you live under a rock you probably know that most teens are having sex. And that includes those in the church. A significant number of kids from Christian households are growing up and deciding to have sex before marriage.

“80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18 to 29) said that they have had sex.” ~John Blake, CNN, “Why young Christians aren’t waiting anymore”

We are such a sex crazed nation. We have so perverted sex that it doesn’t seem to even resemble what God designed it to be. How do you come back from that? Is there any hope for our kids to remain pure?

Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.  Song of Solomon 8:4

If our kids awaken love at an early age, they may do things that they will later regret.

Second, we shouldn’t let our teenagers date in high school because it takes their focus off of God, family and school. Our kids’ jobs as teenagers is to love and obey God and His Son Jesus, to love their family, and to learn a skill or trade (go to school!). That’s pretty much it!

Same sex friends and church are also an important part of our teenagers’ lives. They need to be learning how to love others and participate in a community.

Anything else is pretty much a distraction at their age.

However, each parent has to decide what is best for their kids and their family. You know your teen. If you don’t let them date, are they likely to withdraw from you and sneak around? Or, will they be upset at first, but basically obey you? We should consider these things when making our decision.

We must weigh the risk of a breakdown of communication with our kids. Fostering open communication with our teenagers is crucial. Parenting teens requires a delicate balance. It is like walking a tightrope over a very deep canyon. If you get it wrong, you can fall to your death.

I am not saying that we should parent out of fear. However, very few of the issues parents face with teenagers are black and white.

Sometimes I miss the days when my girls were little and right and wrong was clear and obvious. I was an awesome parent then! But now I realize, even though young parents are physically exhausted and don’t have much time for themselves, it is much easier to know what to do. My husband and I have faced so many gray areas in our parenting lately that we have forgotten what black and white look like! It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting.

I am in no way judging parents who do let their kids date in high school. We did. However, I am realizing that the ideal would have been for our kids to have waited to date. That would have been the ideal.

However, how much of life is ideal? Not much, I find. Especially in parenting teenagers in America in 2017! We do the very best we can, and realize that we are not perfect parents. I am not even close!

Ultimately, only God knows what twists and turns our kids will make on their way to the cross.

But, we can pray, and teach them that there isn’t anything that can separate them from the love of God. And that there is nothing they can do to earn, or lose, the grace that has been freely given to them.

A man 2,000 years ago hung on a cross, bloodied and beaten, for your kids and mine. Their sins have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb. That is all the hope we need.


Kim Kurtz is writing a book called, Pouring In: Instilling a Personal, Passionate, and Permanent Faith in the Next Generation, due to come out this fall. A majority of Christian kids leave the faith after they leave home. She explores why this is happening and what Christian parents can do differently to change the outcome for their kids.

 

5 Life Questions Teenagers Need Help Answering

Parenting is an awesome responsibility; awesome in the fact that it is joyful and rewarding, and, awesome in the fact that it is an enormous undertaking. It is beautiful, breath-taking, frightening, intimidating, overwhelming, terrifying and wonderful all at the same time. What can I say, it’s awesome!

My kids are fourteen and sixteen. Finally, they are leaving the house wearing clean clothes that match. They no longer get knots in their hair. And, for the most part, they shower and wear clean underwear everyday.

Ahhh, the sweet, clean smell of success! And, like Nanny McPhee, I am tempted to walk off into the sunset satisfied with a job well done.

 . . . . but, wait! The job isn’t done yet!

It ain’t over until the fat lady sings! And she ain’t singing until my kids graduate from high school and leave home.

Much of our kids’ character and direction in life is forming during their teen years and into their twenties. As Christian parents, we mustn’t lose focus or parent on autopilot.

Our kids hit a fork in the road during adolescence. And the critical decisions they make at this juncture will determine the trajectory of their life.

1) They will ask questions of IDENTITY. Who am I?
  • Am I a beauty queen?
  • Am I an athlete?
  • Am I nerd?
  • Am I worthless?
  • Am I a child of God?

Teenagers are questioning their identity now more than ever.

Not only do they have to decide whether they will be the the criminal, the athlete, the basket case, the princess or the brain; and, what college to go to and what they want to be when they grow up. But, our kids are also faced with questions like, “What gender do I identify with?” and, “What is my sexual orientation?

The questions that young people are facing today are confusing at best and dangerous at worst.

If they don’t have guidance when answering these questions, they are likely to be overwhelmed by the lies of the world.

2) They will ask questions of PRIORITY. Who will I live for?
  • Will I live for myself?
  • Will I live for everyone around me?
  • Will I live for the person I love?
  • Will I live for God?

Kids will naturally answer the question, “who will I live for?” with a resounding “Me, of course!”

In a culture obsessed with self-esteem, we are told we should focus on ourselves. We should love ourselves. Because . . . “you’re worth it!”

Nowhere in scripture does it say to love yourself. The greatest love of all is NOT inside of you. The greatest love of all is the love of God.

How our kids answer the question of priority will determine the relational aspect of their future. Will they grow up to be in abusive, or codependent relationships? Will they be people pleasers? Will they be all about themselves?

It is up to Christian parents to model a life lived for God.

3) They will ask questions about REALITY. What is truth?
  • Is there one truth? or, . . .
  • Does everyone have their own truth?
  • Which religion is true?
  • Is God the author of truth?

Truth is what grounds us; morally and physically. Truth is what keeps us from floating around in space. The truth of gravity that is.

Establishing that truth is not relative but absolute is essential to passing on the faith to our kids. Without truth, everything else flies out the window.

“What’s true for me may not be true for you” makes no sense.

Belief can vary from one person to another. Truth cannot. Can a fact apply to one person and not apply to another? Of course not. Neither can truth.

4) They will ask questions about CONTENTMENT. Where will I find peace?
  • In relationships?
  • In substances or things?
  • In achievements or successes?
  • In God?

Coming out of the holidays, the phrase, “peace on earth,” is still fresh on our minds. We are told in scripture that when the truth of God is our foundation, peace is our reward.

The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.  Psalm 29:11

However, peace can be tricky. Peace within a family or between nations is not a guarantee in this life. How can our kids be content in Christ and have peace in such a troubled world?

As our kids trek into adulthood, they will need to learn contentment. Our kids will have to answer the questions, How will I be ok with ‘what is‘? and, Where will I find peace?

5) They will ask questions about SUFFERING. How will I cope with life?untitled-design-75
  • With alcohol?
  • With medications?
  • With relationships?
  • With God?

So many kids today don’t have any coping skills. This is evidenced in the high number of school shootings we have witnessed in the past 10 years, and the growing number of teen suicides.

When trials come, and come they will, life goes on whether we want it to or not. Kids need coping skills and they need to know where to go for comfort.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  Psalm 147:3


Teenagers need input from parents when deciding the answers to these critical questions. They need a voice of truth regularly pointing them toward God.

We hope and pray our kids will answer these questions in a way that puts their life in God’s hands.

  • Who am I? . . . . I am a child of God (Galatians 3:26)
  • Who will I live for? . . . . I will live my life for God (Romans 12:1)
  • What is truth? . . . . God is truth (John 14:6)
  • Where will I find peace? . . . . I will find peace in God (Psalm 46:10)
  • How will I cope with life? . . . . God will get me through (Isaiah 41:10)

Our role does change when our kids become teenagers. But we still have a role.

We cannot stop having input in our teenagers lives. Because the noise of the world will never cease. And, the pull of the world is strong.

So, just before your kids become teens, take a short breather and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Then, prepare yourself for the hardest stage of parenting.

If you have teenagers, then you are almost done with the race. Almost. Don’t give up so close to the finish line.

Is Your Church Growing Young?

growing-young-book-3d-transparent-e1474419441508I recently had the opportunity to be a part of the launch team for a book called Growing Young by Kara Powell, Jack Mulder, and Brad Griffin based on research from the Fuller Youth Institute that addresses the vitally important issue of young people and our churches.

Across the United States, churches are losing both members and vitality as increasing numbers of young people disengage.  ~Growing Young

Church attendance is declining. Congregations are aging. According to the research found in Growing Young, “no major Christian tradition is growing in the U.S. today.”

After researching the topic of young people and their faith for my upcoming book Pouring In: Pouring The Passion Of Christ Into Our Kids, the sobering truth was undeniable. Though the numbers varied slightly from one study to the next, they all came to the same conclusion—we are losing our kids.

The decline in overall church attendance is linked with young people’s religious practices or lack thereof.   ~Growing Young

According to Ken Ham’s 2009 book  Already Gone, “A mass exodus is underway. Most youth of today will not be coming to church tomorrow.”

Seven years later does the picture look any different?

According to David Kinnaman in his book You Lost Me, “Most young Christians are struggling less with their faith in Christ than with their experience of church.”

So the problem we face is two fold; first, our kids are abandoning their faith; and second, our kids are walking away from the church.

Why is it so important to focus on bringing young people back to our churches?

Aside from the obvious reason of winning young people to Christ, there are great benefits for the church as well.

If your overall hope and prayer is to have a vibrant congregation, there is arguably no better starting place than the contagious passion of teenagers and young adults. ~Growing Young

For the church to thrive and be healthy we need young people. We must understand that young people are vital to the health of Christ’s church.

And knowing that Christ’s disciples were likely young, how can we be satisfied knowing that teenagers and young adults are extremely underrepresented in our churches?

Growing Young identifies six essential strategies to help young people discover and love the church.

The Warmth Factor

I have been feeling tension about the ‘American church’ for years. Something didn’t feel right. Something was missing. For a long time I couldn’t put my finger on what was troubling me.

When I got to chapter 5, Fuel a Warm Community, of Growing Young, I almost jumped out of my seat and shouted, “That’s it! Warmth . . . . that’s it! That’s what’s missing from our churches!”

The qualities of a warm church include authenticity, hospitality, caring, welcoming, accepting, and belonging.   ~Growing Young

As I ponder the welcoming and inviting qualities of warmth, I think about church greeters.

I guess it is nice to have someone shake your hand when you walk in a church building, but do the greeters really care about who they are greeting? My guess would be probably not. And if I were a greeter at my church, I probably wouldn’t either. There’s too many people.

Greeting people verses warmth is the difference between shaking someone’s hand and looking into a person’s eyes and seeing their brokenness.

Going through the motions to check ‘served the church’ off of our list doesn’t count as warmth.

Could the lack of warmth in our churches be repelling young people? Warmth radiates out of authentic community. It can’t be faked.

One pastor said, “We can hire and buy cool, but we can’t hire—or fake—warmth.”   ~Growing Young

Warmth provides a fertile atmosphere in which love and relationships can grow.

Warmth is really caring about the answer when we ask, ‘how are you?’ Warmth says, “I see you” and “I want to know you.”

Warmth says “you are welcome here and you belong.” Warmth says “you don’t have to have it all together to be loved and accepted.”

Come As You Are

“Come as you are” is a popular catch phrase in churches today. Many of us claim this platitude. But do we really mean it?  Is “come as you are” the feeling that people get when they walk through the doors of our churches?

If we say “come as you are,” we had better mean it. Because if young people “come as they are,” but everything around them screams, “not good enough,” we will lose them. It’s that simple.

Young people won’t tolerate judgement. The church instead needs to offer them acceptance. The church needs to offer them a family.

Warmth is more than superficial community. It’s like family.   ~Growing Young

It’s Not About Being Nice

I don’t think anyone in the church would characterize Christ as nice. I certainly wouldn’t.

By suggesting that churches need to grow warmer, we don’t mean adults should be nice to young people. Nice does not cut it.  ~Growing Young

Jesus went far above and beyond nice. Jesus was all about love and relationships. He was about truth. And warmth radiated from His spirit. Maybe that is why so many people were drawn to Him.

If we want to get young people back in our churches, warmth and connection in relationships are key.

Today’s teenagers desire real relationships that are characterized by depth, vulnerability, openness, listening, and love—connectedness in their disconnected, confusing, and alienated world.   ~Walt Mueller, Youth Culture 101

Young people today are starved for authentic relationships. And they don’t have the time or relational energy for nice.


Teenagers and young people matter. Church matters. And teenagers and young people matter in the church.

Are teenagers and young people a priority at your church?
Is your church welcoming and warm to young people?
Does your church have a good number of teenagers and emerging adults?

These are great questions to ponder within the context of your church and of mine.

Thanks to Kara Powell, Jack Mulder, and Brad Griffin and the Fuller Youth Institute for bringing us Growing Young. This book could revolutionize the American church as we know it.

5 Elements that are toxic to the faith of our teenagers

Dark, ominous clouds rumble overhead. Tornado sirens go off in the distance. Torrential rain starts to beat down on the skylights overhead. I look at the radar, and red, everything is red!

There has been a storm brewing in my soul. Every time I start to relax and have a little peace, the raging winds of the storm blow it away. Like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, I look out the window into the funnel and see the wicked witch riding her bike, laughing and saying, “I’ll get you my little pretty!”

Raising teenagers is tough—tougher than I ever imagined. The hearts of my teenage girls are fragile and tender. And teaching them to ‘guard their hearts’ in the world they live in seems like an impossible task.

The more I talk with my kids lately, the more I realize that between school, all their devices, texting, and social media, they are living in a toxic world.


There are 5 elements that are toxic to the faith of our teenagers.

1. Toxic Friends

My daughter showed me a group text she got from a friend while I was cooking dinner the other night.

The text read, “If you are going to the football game on Friday, say, ‘I            .”

I can’t write the three words it said. I can’t even allude to what it said. It was so vile and repulsive.

I was shocked and had to see it for myself to believe it. I started to feel sick as I leaned over. Yep, that is exactly what it said. The room started to spin so I sat down.

I couldn’t believe I had just read those three words on my fourteen year old daughter’s phone! I was filled with disgust and then I got really angry.

“Mom, I hear that kind of thing everyday at school, it’s no big deal. I didn’t say it back.” 

2. Toxic Culture

“The world’s gone mad,” I was thinking several weeks ago.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know what I am talking about. The depressing state of the world is undeniable. This summer has been especially dire. Every time you turned around something awful had happened somewhere in the world. 

If it was a good day, meaning no mass killings, then it’s the Trump/Hillary debacle plastered all over the news and social media. Could we have picked 2 worse candidates? A rich playboy who has a god complex and a criminal. What is wrong with us?!

It’s no doubt that the world needs a good laugh right now. So I guess it’s good for something!

So, what is wrong with us? The answer is simple—we’re human. Left to our own devices we will thoroughly screw things up pretty much every time. And the more that God is removed from our culture, the more depraved our society will become.

3. Social Media Addiction 

As if drugs, alcoholism, and sexual addictions aren’t enough to worry about with our kids, we have to add social media addiction to the list.

The use of social media and smart phone technology is a great experiment. Our kids have so many devices at their fingertips everyday. They are the first generation to have contact with their friends and the world available 24/7.

How will they fare in 20, 30, or 50 years from now? We just don’t know.

My parents divorced when I was 9 in 1981. Divorce in America was at an all time high in the early 80’s. I call it “The Great Experiment”. Couples were divorcing left and right and no one knew the long term consequences it would have on kids.

Well, 20 and 30 years later we discovered that divorce is devastating to children. Ripple effects can be seen long into their adult life.

What will we say about social media when our kids are grown? How is technology going to affect their future?

4. Liberal Schools

God has been kicked out of the public schools. This is not news. We’ve been watching it happen slowly for decades. Each year our schools are becoming a less safe and nurturing environment for our kids.

The number of school shootings that have occurred since Columbine in 1999 is alarming. And through the years we have been hearing about violence in schools more and more.

Kids are lost. Kids are mean. And kids don’t know how to cope with life. Put a weapon in the hands of a young lost soul and tragedy will surely follow.

Schools are becoming more and more liberal. And the educational system is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity.

Are our kids being taught the truth in school? Are our kids being taught the truth in colleges and universities?

5. Lukewarm Churches

The church is the vessel of hope to this wretched world.

However, instead of infecting the world with the love of Christ, are we letting the world seep into our churches?

When the ship is in the ocean, everything’s fine. When the ocean gets into the ship, you’re in trouble.  -Mark Yoder


So, what hope do we have?

We have hope in Jesus Christ. He is our only hope—but He is a big one! And, we have the joy of knowing that we will spend an eternity in glory with God the Father.

But what about the here and now? Can we find hope in this life? 

Hope is found in our families. Families are the building blocks of the church. And the family unit has power.

Taking back our families can change the world. Take back your days, don’t let every minute be filled with this sport or that activity. Spend time together as a family. Talk about the issues of the day and what scripture has to say about them.

You and I as Christian parents possess the antidote to this toxic world. We can’t save our kids, but the blood of Jesus can!

Tension on the tightrope; walking the fine line of parenting teenagers

I bumped into a friend of mine while dropping my daughter off at church the other day. She seemed visibly stressed and tired so I asked her what was going on.

My friend has been divorced for about ten years, and she and her ‘ex’ have joint custody of the kids. Her daughter doesn’t want to go to her dad’s anymore. He doesn’t pay much attention to her and she feels lonely and out of place with his ‘other’ family.

When she is at her dad’s there’s a lot of conflict and strife. She doesn’t get along with her step siblings. There is constant turmoil, and her dad and stepmom are on the brink of divorce. There isn’t much room in this family for her.

Amidst the chaos, she is invisible.

“The postmodern family is often so concerned about the needs, struggles, and issues of parents that the emotional and developmental needs of the children go largely unmet.” -Chap Clark, Hurt 2.0; Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers

Boy, could I relate! My dad remarried shortly after my parents’ divorce and started a new family. It was a loving home, but I never really fit in. And I never got the time and attention that an adolescent girl so desperately needs.

The teenage years are tough enough. Hormones are raging and emotions are confusing. Bodies are changing. Teens are awake when the world sleeps, and sleeping when the rest of the world is awake. It’s a strange time of life.

When you pile on family chaos and neglect, their chances of successfully getting through adolescence are significantly diminished.

Teenagers need their parents more than ever.

“There is a hunger for genuine and meaningful relationships so pervasive among teenagers and young adults today that experts now cite “relational deprivation” as one of the marks of today’s emerging generations” -Walt Mueller, Youth Culture 101

Parents today seem more interested in their own pursuits, finding love or finding themselves, or living their own dreams, than actually finishing what they started when they had kids. We, as parents, have become very self absorbed.

I often wonder – Where is the sacrifice in parenting? Why do we feel entitled to have kids, yet not feel compelled to sacrifice for them?

Later that day, as I thought more about my friend’s daughter’s situation, I wondered, ‘how did we as parents become so selfish?’ How did we stray so far from how parents were many generations ago?

My mother-in-law grew up in a family that over-parented her. They were oppressive. Her childhood was filled with fear, and a lot of guilt and shame. It was not OK to question mom or dad. Conflict was just swept under the rug. And, there was no freedom to learn, explore, or express yourself.

How did we come from a place of overbearing parenting, to a place of neglectful parenting? From being helicopter parents to ones who neglect to parent at all?

It blows my mind.

Society is like a pendulum. We find ourselves too extreme in one direction so we swing the pendulum the other way.

However, instead of stopping in the middle, the pendulum picks up speed as it flies right past the point of healthy balance. Before we know it, we find ourselves on the other extreme, and we are no better off.

Why can’t we live in the middle? Why is moderation seemingly unattainable?

It is a fine line to achieve and maintain balance in parenting. We experience tension as we keep ourselves from going too far one way or too far the other way. It is a juggling act. It is the tension of parenting. And, it’s part of the deal.

Tension will always be part of the process, because our tendency will always be to go too far. We just want to keep that pendulum swinging! It’s in our DNA.

Both my teenagers have recently gotten their first boyfriends. Right when I thought I had this parenting thing down . . . . BAM! . . . they start dating! And, I am a bumbling idiot!

I have found the trickiest part of parenting a teenager with a boyfriend is finding balance. It seems as though I am walking a tightrope, and I could fall to my parenting death at any moment!

My girls are young women, but they still need parenting at 14 and 16 (despite what they may think!), and they still need limits. They need a lot of guidance at this age. The issues are substantially bigger and scarier, and the consequences more drastic.

The lines of communication must remain open. I fear the day that my girls stop talking to me about their boyfriends. I know that if they don’t value our relationship, it could be very bad for them. We could lose them to a dark, painful path.

It is important to share their excitement and celebrate in their joys of life. They need to be able to talk through the many new experiences and feelings they are having with their mom. And, I want to laugh and rejoice with them.

However, I can’t just be their friend. I have to be their parent. My husband and I are the only parents they’ve got. And we could be the only voice of truth they hear in their social media world.

I recently met my mentor for coffee. She told me about a friend of hers who worked outside the home until her kids were around 10 and 12 , then she quit her job and stayed home with them. She believed that kids need parents more during their adolescent years then when they are little.

“Christ Frappier, an investigator with Vermont’s state public defender’s office said ‘What I am seeing in recent years is a total and complete alienation of youth. And it is not coming from them; it is coming from the adults who aren’t bothering to reach out to them.'” -Chap Clark, Hurt 2.0; Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers

Unfortunately, many people quit parenting when their kids reach the teenage years. They think they are done.

Kids need involved parents during adolescence more than ever.

The world speaks loudly to our kids. It speaks through absent fathers, broken families, and childhood abuses. The world speaks loudly through public schools, movies, and social media. The world speaks loudly about the issues of pain, suffering, and morality.

Our kids will listen to whoever is speaking the loudest to them, whether it is truth or not.