You become a parent, so full of hopes and dreams for your child. Those fat little baby hands reaching for you, the awkward toddling steps that seek you out, the insatiable curiosity of the growing student that so trustingly soaks up your answers and advice – you wonder what you ever did without that precious child. Then somewhere around age 14 you wonder who that strange person is that kind of resembles your son or daughter.
Gone are the days of you being so wonderfully wise and amazingly beautiful. Gone are the days of hugs and kisses and strolls in the park. They’ve been traded for head bobs, attitudes and even sometimes, “I hate you’s,” which are quickly followed by entitled demands for you to drop everything you are doing and drive her to the mall. Oh, and hurry up, you need to go pick up Britney! The little boy who prayed his prayers with you each night suddenly looks more like a praying mantis tapping away on his mobile phone, the one you pay for which is never cool enough and always seems to be off when you call and would like him to actually, incredulously, answer it and talk to you.
OK, even if it’s not exactly like that, parents of teenagers struggle. You want to be their hero, but because they are growing and learning to naturally be more independent, they change and turn outward to learn about the big world. What do you do? How do you stay connected? Where do you draw the line? Well, look to the example of the Holy Mother Church. Here are five reminders that will keep you grounded during confusing times.
Be a parent, not a buddy. Imagine if the Church tried to be everybody’s buddy, and a life of faith was all about feel-good undeserved praise and uncritical acceptance of anything people did. Don’t risk hurting any feelings, just let people do what they want to do, and tell them they are all wonderful no matter what. Right? No, the pews would be empty and souls would be lost. Just like we crave guidance and authority, so do teenagers even if they don’t show it. They need mothers and fathers more than ever. They can get their own buddies, and they’ll learn soon enough that buddies come and go – but family is forever.
Be a rock in any storm. The Church guards 2,000 years of Truth and it is there for anyone to access. She proposes, not imposes, but for anyone seeking truth there is abundant instruction. And that truth does not waiver, does not change with the times or styles, it is objective. People need this, teens need this especially. It’s so tempting today in our culture to compromise what we know is right. Primetime television and social media often promotes the idea that truth is subjective, that whatever makes us happy in the moment is right. But actors on TV don’t care for your children the way you do. Whatever it is – drugs, sex, music, clothing, food – tell them the truth without compromise and in love. If they don’t seem like they are listening or if they act like you have lost your mind, don’t worry and be a nag. Someday they’ll be glad they heard it over and over again.
Never let them forget where they came from. The Holy Mother Church teaches that we are all in communion, with the past, present and future of the entire Church when we pray. We belong, and the desire to belong is innate in us because we are made in the image of God, an internal life between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, distinct and real relations of one substance, the utter repose of the Three dwelling within one another. A parent remembers the origin of the teenager. A parent remembers things the child cannot. A parent has stood beside the sleeping body and prayed the humble prayers of gratitude and resolve. Every once in a while, look your teen in the eyes and tell her you still see your baby. When he’s strapped in the car beside you, tell him a story about himself.
Pray. Pray for the grace to know what to say when you need to say it. Pray for your teen’s future, for her future spouse, for his future vocation, for future health, for abundance of grace in his or her life too. There is no guarantee that a young adult will remain faithful to the Church or even to your family. There could be discord for a time. They will certainly make mistakes and need to experience the pain that teaches. Cover it in prayer. Don’t hesitate to enter the room of the teen, sprinkle the electronic devices with holy water (enough to silence them if necessary), and make a giant sign of the Cross as you pray for protection from evil. It lurks, and it lurks heavy for teenagers. They need your constant prayers, and have faith because God loves them even more than you do.
Speak of the Trinity during hard times. Proclaiming unity heals relationships. It lifts you above the pain and allows you to turn your gaze to what is true and good. Proclaiming unity is to affirm faith and hope. Don’t just think it; say it out loud and with conviction. “This is your family. It will always be your family. I will always be your mother. You are you, I am me, but we are one. Life will never be perfect, but no amount of imperfection will ever destroy the love that I have for you child. I am not perfect. You are not perfect. But by, through and in the grace of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are united permanently. If there is anything of this created world you can rely on without fail, it is my love for you, on good days and on bad days. It will never end.”
During it all, keep a sense of humor. Teenagers can be wonderful companions and insightful conversationalists. They will, God-willing, someday reach their mid-twenties and suddenly realize, as Mark Twain once remarked, that you have become quite wise indeed in the last seven years. Remember, the foundations that you lay will truly allow your family to endure the tests of time and to be (2B) best friends forever (BFF) eternally in Heaven.
21 Replies to “How 2B Your Teenager’s BFF”
Very wise advice.
Love looking to Holy Mother Church for parenting advice! We are often encouraged to look to the Blessed Mother (and rightly so!) but Holy Mother Church is such a strong God-given example as well. Thank you!
Brilliant! This post should be read far and wide!
Thank you Richard, Adrienne and Birgitj! I only wish I had used holy water to silence electronic devices before. I actually used my foot. On an ipod. Not my best parenting moment. But — oh never mind, not my best parenting moment. Better leave it at that. 🙂
I’m always grateful for more practical advice. I’ve got more teens coming…
It has been a long time since our daughter was a teenager, but this common-sense advice is still as valid as ever. Thanks for the post. God bless you and that beautiful family.
Such wonderful reminders and advice! Thank you Stacy 🙂 I still have quite a few years to go before we reach this season, but I will certainly tuck these reminders away somewhere that I can look back on them when my days of mothering a teen begin.
Excellent piece! I love the part about sprinkling electronics with holy water and intend to start doing that. I have a 16 year old son who is right now being tempted from all sides by friends and the world and electronics…..I don’t and cannot wrap him up and shield him from the world, but oh, I worry. We of course have filtering software, etc., but the anxiety remains. This seems like an excellent weapon to add to our arsenal of prayer and software!
I too like the holy water idea for electronics, my kiddos are young adults now, so a little late for the sprinkling of holy water but looking back I wish I had. lol I used to take the controllers for the games as I really did not know how to disconnect them. Thank you for your great article.
As a college administrator, I felt my blood pressure rise when I read the title of your post. I was so pleased when you listed being a parent..and not a buddy first. Not a day goes by when my phone doesn’t ring with a “helicopter parent” on the other end of the line. Ususually, they are asking for information they should be getting from their son/daughter, but are too afraid to ask – for fear of upsetting the child.
I’d love to email this to the parent of every incoming freshman!
Thanks Gina, Brittany, Rebecca and Joan! My older children were/are teens at the beginning of the ipod/PC popularity and it was/is so frustrating to deal with the enormous amount of information they can access online. It’s practically impossible for a parent to monitor 20 hours of music on a single device. Mobile phones and Facebook don’t make things any easier. You can take those things away, but then again they need to learn to use them responsibly too. It’s hard to know where to draw the line. But nothing says “you’re grounded” like taking away a device.
Kevin, sorry for the rise! I know, I know! I imagine it is hard dealing with parents. I watched one episode of “I Hate My Teenage Daughter” to see what they were portraying and it was very disturbing. That approach to parenting is so pervasive in our culture, scary! Oh, I could go on…
Thanks for what you do!
Your wise words apply in a special way to grandparents in America’s Catholic society. I raised three sons and two daughters, all earned college degrees. Our youngest, in his early 40’s became a priest. I utilize the pronoun ‘I’ because my law-enforcement husband was away from home on assignments 80% of the time as the kids were growing up. The kids were not that hard to raise. They went to Catholic school while I was the local CCD coordinator. We had our bumps but no earthquakes. The three operative words were Faith, respect and discipline. The hub of the entire family operation was faith. Respect for the ideas and the space of others was critical, too. Last but equally important was the teaching of discipline by example: SELF DISCIPLINE.
The grandchildren in many families in America can be a very different story. My husband and I have been, for practicial purposes raising a 15 year-old grandson for the better part of nine years. It has required more energy and patience than the challenges of raising all of our own children put together. I’ve observed that the formula must remain the same: Faith, respect & self-discipline. No matter how exhausting it may become: don’t give up on your grandchildren. Fight for each of them with the last breath in your body. Most importantly, let them see your faith; your respect and love for them; and your own self-discipline.
Great article. Thanks!
Right on the mark! Thanks for the advise. I got three teens and my wife and I make sure that they know WE are their parents. No, we aren’t ‘cool’ right now but I think it’s better than all of us being in the ‘heat’ later.
Great advice. Keep up the good work. Evangelist we need it…
God bless your work. When you love it deepen your faith.
Thank you, Stacy! This piece is a tremendous blessing to me, my wife and our fourteen-year-old daughter!
Brian K Kravec
I can only hope my prayers for my children are heard. They are a daily stuggle. especially after losing our oldest to cancer, it is all a blur, we are not sure where it all went wrong. I will try to pray more and harder……
Sue, I can’t imagine what that is like. We have gone through some tough times, stuff I won’t mention on the internet, but not death. I have feared that, and still do, so much. There is a devotion that I found during a particularly difficult time, and although I don’t understand how it is possible, I believe it with all my heart and it gives me much peace. When I read #5, I vowed to finish and this July we complete three years.
The thing is — we’ll never stop saying that little prayer. It changed our whole family’s life. The assurance of that promise is profound.
just stubbled upon this, and i will be back as I am raising an 18 yr old, 16 yr old, 11 and 10. Alone..
Pray 4 me as well as I will pray for your ministry! thanks!
Stacy, thank you so much for the kind thoughts and the prayer. I have printed it out and hope to say with my three (of 5 total)children still at home, they are 14,13 & 9. We lost him at 20 (2004) after a 6 year battle. The grieving changes but never goes away….. Thanks for letting me “vent”, I really dont have anywhere else….. I hope to keep up with this site as it is a “booster. Many blessings to all of you. Sue
What a great blog
Hello! Just want to say thank you for this interesting article! =) Peace, Joy.
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