The awesome thing about being a Christian is that we can have a relationship with God. In many places God refers to Himself as our Father. How incredible is it that we get to call the most powerful, most loving, and most knowing person in the universe Father?
We can be in a relationship with God because of what Jesus has done for us. Dying in our place, Jesus paid our sin debt; rising again Jesus defeated sin and death. I love what I John 4:19 says: “We love because he first loved us’. We love our family based on and because of God’s love for us.
For the next couple of blogs I would like to encourage you with the experiences of the very best parents of teens I have ever met. It’s not that they are perfect, it’s not that their teens never had any problems. In fact, in lots of ways these families are very normal. These families that enjoy close relationships have one common piece that I have seen over and over. They have invested in their relationships. They are intentional about being there, knowing, living with, praying for, and loving each other. These teens grow up in homes that clearly communicate “you matter”.
Let me start with this encouragement to intentional relationship with one of the biggest pieces we all have to think about in our families: devices. Cell phones, tablets, laptops, Social media, YouTube, and on and on. Devices can be great but they can be a disaster.
Allow me this opportunity to share I’ve learned personally and what I learned from others:
- Your teen knows 1000% more about devices than you do – accept it and embrace it! This is coming from the one in our family that has spent hours in the last few weeks trying to activate new phones and fix a crashed PS4. My kids know way more than I do. It’s so important that you live in that reality. Don’t be naive – it could cost your teen dearly.
- Understanding a device can be a great to keep entertained and connected. But devices can also be more dangerous than a loaded gun. So many times I’ve met with parents shocked by what their precious teens have done with their devices. But those same parents don’t have the first clue about what their teens are doing with their phones. I heard this question a while ago and have borrowed it many times: “Would you give your teen a loaded gun and say they can do whatever with it, they don’t have to have any training, no accountability and no partnership with you?” Every parent I’ve asked that question says a quick “no”. I would argue that an unlocked cell phone without training, equipping and partnership is even more dangerous than a loaded gun! Please trust me on this point and invest in doing what you can to help your teen enjoy and not be in bondage to their devices.
- In my experience one thing is universal – they will struggle. That might be massive or small. Some will struggle with porn, others with harsh comments on social media, others searching for something and still others becoming addicted in every sense of the word. I don’t think the solution is to not allow them to learn but I also don’t think you want to shove them into the deep end of a pool and tell them to learn to swim. This season is when you can draw on that relationship that you have invested in. They will come to you or you will see it in their face when they are struggling. Sometimes you need to lock the device away for awhile and other times you can talk and pray together.
- It takes a tribe to raise your teen. The older they get the more important it is that they have other voices speaking into their lives. Be secure enough to know it takes a tribe to raise your teen. Be secure enough to know as they get older others will start to guide and direct them. Do your best to invest in those friendships and relationships so you can invest in guiding them towards God-honoring connections. We are so grateful to strong families we know in our community and strong families in our church. I don’t know how I could parent without all of their investment in my kids.
- Spot checks are our reality. This is our starting point. Our 13 year old just got an iPhone. But he has no open internet or app access. I can spot check his phone at random times and if he deletes conversations he loses his phone for a while. The next stage is software that flags Accountable2You.com
As I finish, let me remind you of this truth: There is no verse in the Bible that says the teen years have to be nasty and hard for your family. It’s true the stage of the teen years involves so much for your precious son or daughter but God doesn’t say this stage is any harder than any other stage. The same realities exist as you parent teens as they do with any other stage of your life. God is with you. You need His help. The Gospel changes our lives. “Sorry” is one of the most powerful words in relationships. God has called us to love sacrificially and selflessly.
If you only have the opportunity to teach your teen 2 things let them be this:
They are loved by God.
They are loved by you.