I am raising two girls, Brooklyn who is 15 and Avery who is 10 and our house has “ALL THE FEELS!” This season of parenting is very different from babies and toddlers. There is less concrete and so much more abstract! When my kids were little the objective was to keep them alive, keep them safe and teach them to understand and respect authority. Can I just say that it really is so important how you parent your children from the start. The temper tantrum that you think is cute with your two year old who’s fighting to get her way is not nearly as funny in your 13 year old down the road. And that adorable little boy that likes to tell you NO is not a force you want to reckon with at 16. If you can love that sweet little one you’ve been entrusted and teach them first time obedience, kindness, respecting authority and that the world does not revolve around them; you are laying the best foundation for their elementary and teenage years!
As a young mom, I was physically exhausted and now I’m just mentally exhausted! I’m no longer teaching my kids how to sit still, not to hit or how to share their toys, the lessons now are all about the heart! I thought I would be really ready for this season of parenting after being youth pastors for 12 years but I’m not sure much can prepare you for the tweens and teens! I’ll never forget a day when my oldest was 10 and I asked her to do something simple like, pick up her clothes. She melted to the floor in tears screaming about the hopelessness of life! Our family has a flare for the dramatics! I couldn’t figure out what had possessed my sweet, agreeable, responsible child so I did the only thing I knew to do, I bought myself some time. I insisted she take a nap because sleeping was all that I could come up with to fix her and save me. She screamed and cried that she was too old for naps but I kept my cool and scratched her back and said… “I know but you are going to feel so much better after!” I’ll be honest I did not want to scratch her, I wanted to slap her but I realized this was not a temper tantrum. Something new was happening in my daughter and I needed to figure out what it was!
As the house grew quiet, I remember asking God…what is going on? I grabbed a book on raising girls by Dr. James Dobson and began to devour it. I read chapter after chapter until I discovered a statement that we have adopted in our home as “ping pong” emotions. Dr. Dobson explained that kids coming into adolescents have so many hormones raging in their body. If they are young women these hormones will eventually settle into a cycle, still real, but not as surprising! But for now, the hormones inside of our tweens and teens are like a ping pong table. They are bouncing around all over the place. When I read this, I realized I can identify with that. Sometimes my hormones are crazy and my husband thinks I’m possessed! I decided that Brooklyn just needed language to explain “all the feels” she was feeling!
I think one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is our time. I had a conversation that day with Brooklyn that I have since had with Avery and we talked about identifying feelings and being brave enough to have conversations about them. Our teenagers need to know that all of the ideas, doubts, hurts, joys and confusion that they have rolling around in their amazing heads of theirs are valid and valuable. They need a safe place to process and know that they are accepted and loved. That takes time! It takes more patience than I normally have. I literally lose my mind with the answer “I don’t know.” However, I’ve learned if I sit long enough and pay attention close enough, I’ll find out what is rolling around in their minds.
A great tip for getting conversations rolling is understanding your child’s “love language.” There are a million resources online for figuring this out! My oldest is a quality time child. I know the conversations probably won’t start until we have spent a significant amount of time together. One day I took her with me to a coffee shop so I could work and she could do homework and after about 30 minutes of sitting there quietly working, she just started talking. It fully interrupted what I needed to get done, but I closed my computer, listened and asked lots of questions. I didn’t offer advice until she asked for it! If you know me at all, you should be impressed!!! My youngest daughter is all about physical touch. If I crawl in her bed to cuddle her at night, she fully opens up her heart! Girls tend to talk a little more than boys but I would encourage you to search for the keys to your young person’s heart and keep doing the work hear what is going on in their head and their world.
All things start with our thoughts before they become actions, so I believe one of our greatest jobs as parents is learning how our kids think and helping them to re-frame their thoughts from a biblical perspective. It involves validating feelings, asking questions and teaching tools. Philippians 4:8 is a scripture worth memorizing in your house.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
This scripture teaches us that we get to fix our thoughts. We ultimately are the decision makers when it comes to what we choose to think about! I have to be reminded of this as an adult and I assure you this is one of the greatest lessons for your child. Feelings follow focus. I find that when my girls are having “all the feels” I have to help the learn how to refocus. This is parenting to their heart! It is exhausting but so rewarding!
If you find yourself in a season with your teenager and you don’t know exactly what to do, pray for wisdom. James 1 promises us God will give it. Ask God to help you know how to get your child talking and sharing what’s going on inside their head. For some of you, you might need to model this as well because you might be guilty of stuffing your feelings. When they share, listen. When you think you have listened enough, listen more! Ask lot’s of questions. Validate their feelings. Then, help them learn how to reframe all the feels with the word of God. It is one of the greatest tools we can equip them with!
I’m cheering you on! I’ll pray for you and you pray for me! We are in this together!