I said from the beginning this was going to be a blog for EVERY mom. I am a mom and a stepmom. I have friends that are adoptive moms. Bottom line…we are all moms! We all strive to raise great kids. We all want to honor God through our efforts. We all pray for our children. We love our children. We also all struggle with our children! One of the toughest experiences I have gone through so far is raising a teenager. I hear people talk about raising teens all the time, most of which talk about the struggles. I have read numerous articles, blog posts, etc. on how to raise a godly teenager. However, I have to say, none of which take it from the perspective of a stepparent or adoptive parent. So I am going to try!
There is no doubt raising a teenager is hard! Being a teenager is hard so you know trying to guide one is going to be! In my little bit of experience, it is even more difficult when you are not the child’s biological parent. Don’t get me wrong, our oldest is a teenager, and he is a good kid. However, he still has a lot of teenage characteristics that radiates from him at times. So here are my tips for adoptive parents or stepparents that are raising teenagers.
- Let God do the Changing.
Letting go is hard! Relinquishing control is something I have prayed and prayed over. I’ll go ahead and tell you, my “prayer closet” is my back deck when the weather is lovely. More time than not during the summer, you will find me out on my back steps just praying. The kids are out of school, no activities going on, and they are all home. As much as I love having them around more, it requires A LOT more grace! I find myself crawling back into my Father’s lap more frequently during those days because I need replenishment more than one time a day. I NEED GRACE so I can give it!
When our teenager finds himself letting his “teenage tendencies” override his upbringing I have to take it to God. It is so easy to want to fuss with them, show them how wrong they are for giving you attitude, etc. However, it typically results in your raised blood pressure and their hurt feelings. When I bridle my tongue and go to the Father, He always reminds me that it is my job to teach, and His position to change and mold. As hard as it is, we have to realize that all we are capable of doing is giving the information and leading by example. We CAN’T change our kids. It is up to them what they choose to do with that information, and it is their consequences. Basically, it is between them and God. It is hard letting go, isn’t it?
- Bridle Your Tongue.
I already mentioned this, but placing a bridle on your tongue is so important yet so hard! As much as our teenagers battle pride so do we! We want to tell them they’re wrong! They are young and don’t have as much wisdom! You want to shout, “Listen to me!” However, that is the wrong approach. We have to bite our tongue. By biting our tongue, we are ensuring that we are not lashing out in our pride and causing emotional damage to them that they will carry! Please don’t think I am some saint of a woman that accomplishes this without any issue. Oh no! I fail at this miserably! I find myself asking for forgiveness all the time just because I spoke when I shouldn’t have. However, I am learning to go talk to Jesus before I talk to my kids. It is okay to say, “I am angry right now. You need to go to your corner while I go to mine. When I’m done and can talk to you the way I should instead of out of anger I’ll let you know.” You have no idea how many times I have to say this to my older kids. Don’t be afraid to put yourself in a timeout before speaking with your teen. If you sit down to talk and it gets heated, call for another timeout. Just don’t give up!
- Don’t Stop Talking and Don’t Give Up!
I have discovered, as I get older I am developing a nasty habit of not talking things out like I did in my earlier days of marriage and blended family. Building a blended family is hard! It requires a lot of change and with that comes conflict. I think we all hit a point where we just get tired of conflict and so we start avoiding it. Wrong! The conflict won’t evaporate. It just sits around and festers. Even if talking to your teenager takes days….do not give up and don’t stop talking it out! I had a run in with our teen just last night over his driving. Oh yes, I have a teen cruising around town with step mommy dearest in the front seat while he is rocking his permit! Though he cracks on my minivan he sure tries to hot rod it! (Isn’t it funny when you are young you think you can even make a minivan look cool??) Anyway, we had a conflict because in his seven months experience driving he ALREADY knows more about driving than I do! Isn’t that amazing?? (Note the sarcasm) He would not keep two hands on the steering wheel and that is a huge pet peeve of mine because honestly, I don’t want to die just yet. My first instinct was to get frustrated and revoke his driving privileges because naturally, I was met with attitude. However, after we got home, I took a moment in my prayer closet and realized I had to talk to him because the conflict was deeper than just driving. The actual issue was the disobedience and disrespect. I had to speak bluntly and let him know that this conflict would not just evaporate between us. We had to discuss the real issue! I am blessed with a great husband that helped mediate between the two of us so no further disrespect took place, and we were able to work it out. I wish I could say the “teenage attitude” evaporated after the conversation. Sadly, it didn’t, but I have to respond in grace because as hard as it is guiding him, I have to think what it must be like to be him.
The bottom line….we can’t give up! I know there are days we want to! We want to say, “I can’t do this! They are mean to me when all I do is love them!” But we have to keep up the fight.
- They Answer For Them.
This is a hard one. I have to realize that my children are their own persons. As much as I want to answer for them and base my parenting skills on who are they are…I can’t. All I can do is try my best. Eventually, these kids will have to stand on their own two feet and answer for all they have done. Children need to learn responsibility now, or they never will when they are adults! It is hard, but we have to realize not everything is our fault, our bad parenting, etc. We have to allow our teens to take responsibility for their actions. It is better they learn now than to grow up and have a higher authority teach them in a devastating way. So in my previous example with my teenage stepchild, I have to realize that his disrespect and disobedience is not something I can carry around. I can’t beat myself up and say, “Gosh, Jennifer. He has lived with you for three years now full time! Why is he this way? You must be failing!” In actuality, I want to do that! I want to carry the blame, but I can’t. Sometimes their choices are simply that….their choices! You may have tried to teach them everything to the best of your ability, but they still get in their flesh. Don’t we all? Why are our kids any different? They battle flesh the same as we do. The old man within us dies hard and often rears its ugly head even when we don’t want it to! So just as we say and act in ways we know are wrong at times because our pride shows up….our kids are the same.
- When All Else Fails, Team Work!
As I’m reading this post, I realize these tips would work for probably any parent. However, I know when you are a step-parent or maybe even an adoptive parent, the kids don’t always show as much respect to you as you probably deserve. I have faith that one day they will kick themselves in the hind ends for that! They will realize you loving them was a choice, not something you are required to do! However, we can’t get up on our high horse because we are making a RIGHT choice! And at the end of the day, it is OUR choice! Our kids owe us nothing because we made that choice. As we realize how blessed we are now to be chosen for the positions we have, one day they will realize how blessed they are!
However, the more people who gather around this young person together and try to reach out and explain things to them the better off you will be. There might be someone who can get through to them better than you can. It is okay to ask for help! I’ll admit…I hate that I do all of the running, cooking, cleaning, etc. for our kids but our teenager would still rather receive correction from his dad instead of me. It is one of those stinging moments but still when he has a problem and needs advice, who does he come to? Me! It is just a tradeoff. So we have to drop our pride and our expectations and realize this is about helping a child who is transitioning into a young adult to make it through rough years. These years come with many choices that can impact the rest of their lives. So the more we can meet them with grace and guide in love the better off they will be and the better off our blood pressure will be!
I know this may not be the “fix it all” post some were hoping for. To be honest, raising kids is not for the faint of heart, the lazy, or the sane (I think sometimes…LoL!) There are hard moments! There are moments you just want to quit! There are moments of depression and prayers of desperation! There are moments we wonder if we will survive. Trust me, whether you are a biological, adoptive or stepparent the work you do today will matter in the future. Just seek the Lord with all your heart and do not depend upon your own understanding. The words I feel the Lord impressing on me, almost daily, is keep moving forward. Many prayers for all of us who are tackling raising teenagers! Our work and struggles do matter. God is using each step to not only mold our teens but ourselves.
Until next time, keep looking up!