“In the last week I have felt that I am reacting more to situations than being proactive. . .I often feel like I am one step behind.” Recently I received a comment/question from a mom of teens and tweens. I think this is one of the hardest parts of parenting tweens and teens—staying a step ahead. Older kids are busier and life gets crazy. Add to the mix that we now have time to work/volunteer more and it becomes a new game in parenting.
One reason is because we don’t have a clue what they absorbed in school, on social media, from peers, with the kids at youth group, in their activities, etc. Another reason is we can’t see how our kids are processing life. Their individual personalities combined with what they’re taking in from the aforementioned sources and you have no idea what concoction is brewing in their brains.
Here are a few proactive steps to take to deal with whatever comes into your child’s life:
- Pray. Praying is the most powerful thing we can do. Not only do I pray for my kids and their individual needs, but I pray I will be the mom each kid needs. Pray and ask God to show you what you need to know and how to deal with it. You will be surprised at the clarity and wisdom you receive. Prayer is something I’ve leaned into lately. I pray more fervently and keep a list of what I’m praying for each kid. My friend, who is a few mothering stages ahead of me, told me she fasts one morning a week for her family. She said, “I can’t fast all day, but I can fast one morning.” Her words encouraged and challenged me. Fasting, even a little, makes a difference in my relationship with God and in my prayers.
- Be there. I know I say this a lot. But after prayer I can’t think of anything more powerful and effective in your kids’ lives than your presence and attention. In the email from this mom she said, “Life has been full and busy with family, school activities, and working almost full-time.” Busyness distracts us from what we might have seen coming and been able to deal with early on. I know. I often get push-back when I encourage parents of tweens and teens to be there. Teens are expensive. There’s college coming up. Each family must make their own decisions and do what they feel is best for their kids. So I urge you to actually make that decision. Pray about it. Talk about it with your spouse. How much time should we work? How much time should we give to other activities? How much time do we want our kids to be home alone? Then make the necessary changes.
- Listen. Listen attentively to your kid. Listen in a way he knows he has your attention (no phone, computer, or screen of any sort). Hear his heart. Hear what he’s saying and how he’s saying it. Hear what he’s not saying.
- Become the student. Use these times to become a better student of your child. How does she act when she’s been hurt? She’s nervous? Feels left out?
- Play the movie. In his book, 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Life and Love, Dr. Henry Cloud teaches a vital principle to succeed in life. “Playing the movie means never to see any individual action as a singular thing in and of itself: Any one thing you do is only a scene in a larger movie. To understand that action, you have to play it out all the way to the end of the movie.”* As you better understand your child and are tuned into the Holy Spirit’s guidance and wisdom you will be able to “play out the movie” and see what may be coming ahead. Then you can change the course of events proactively. Limit time with that friend that’s a negative influence; limit screen time, substitute a positive activity or help him start a little business in which he shows an interest.
- Trust your gut. Even though you can’t say exactly why you have an uneasy feeling about a certain kid or situation, exercise your parental caution and authority here. If you feel you can let your child proceed, set up safety nets and boundaries. Doing so may prevent a potentially harmful or dangerous situation. Many times Gene or I or both of us have had a bad feeling about a “friend” or situation that we didn’t have facts to support and later our instincts were proven right.
Life is crazy. Parenting is crazier because it involves people (our kids) that we know, but not totally. The only parent who was never shocked by something his kid did or said is God. Do your best and then give yourself a break. You cannot possibly predict the future or foresee “the awesome plan” your child is devising.
*9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Life and Love, Dr. Henry Cloud. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004. Page 72.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.