Feeling Alone? You're Not Alone.
Before I get started, I just want to let you know about an opportunity to connect. You can't go it alone. Connect with other parents. We are opening a Slack Channel for parents of teeanager specifically. Julie Stickney, who many of you may know, is facilitating some conversation and other parents will be joining in. It's a space for parents of teens to talk about parenting issues, encourage other parents, talk life, and just stay connected.
01 Inhale + Exhale Grace
Teenagers are amazing. It’s one of the most fun seasons of life. But they are also missing a part of their brains. Literally. It’s the called the prefrontal cortex. It won't fully develop until about 25 in most people. The same was true of you and me at that age.
Kate Fehlhaber from KnowingNuerons.com offers this helpful insight:
"While the amygdala is fully developed at birth, the prefrontal cortex does not mature until early adulthood. Because of this, children and adolescents do not always make rational decisions and cannot always control their emotions."
This was helpful for me to remember in years past when entire cabins of freshman girls have had drama upheavals at youth retreats or when the formerly suburban boys suddenly function like an actual tribal people group, often covered in war paint and howling like animals (True story).
I just want to encourage you to give your kids grace. They need grace. But I also want to encourage you to receive grace. We can’t give away anything we don’t already have.
I’ve been studying the minor prophets. Minor Prophets don’t play. They get brutal with their condemnation of sin. But what’s fascinating is they almost can’t finish a full rebuke from God without YHWH promising grace. We serve the God who from the beginning to the end pours out undeserved, covenantal love. Or as one children's author puts it: "always-and-forever-love".
 Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground, except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” declares the LORD…In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old…
God restores and raises up. He’ll do that in you daily as you trust in Him and read His Word. This is a hard season. Don’t be hard on yourself. When you fail, repent. All of a Christians life is one of repentance. I’ve heard it said that people would rather follow a leader who’s always real than one who’s always right. Be humble and honest. Repent. Trust in God's forgiveness. Inhale and exhale grace.
02 Leverage + Limit Technology
The unthinkable has happened. Teenagers are separated from their friends! Whether your kid’s personality is the two-sincere-friends-type or the 22-besties-type, teenagers are hardwired for relational connection. It's huge at that age. And friends are important for their development.
I say that because it's really hard for many teens to be quaratined. It's difficult. Fortuneately, however, today’s teens are digital natives. They know their way around tachnology way better than I do! Some have called this generation the “iGen”. That's accurate.
My suggestion is that you encourage them to stay connected via technology. Even you luddites! There are powerful tools that can allow you to monitor everything your family sees on their devices if necessary. But this season it will be hard to stay connected without some technology.
I heard from one Rise Youth mom recently who is rightfully careful about technology. In this season she told me that, in essence, while she's being careful not to pull out all the stops she's still finding ways to lend her kid her phone to read some of the instagram posts we’re putting out, take phone calls, and things like that. I think that's such a win!
Technology can be a powerful asset to leverage in this strange season. We’re even inviting kids to join us for a bible plan on the YouVersion bible app!
However, on the flip side I would caution you not to be unaware, or unrestrictive of their phone use. Do you talk your kids about screen time, smart phone addiction, or the affect blue light has on their sleep? Real physiological anxiety is caused today by our phone usage. Some of the most brilliant people on the planet are working to ensure phones are addictive to us. I read this in Forbes magazine:
The brain on “smartphone” is the same as the brain on cocaine: we get an instant high every time our screen lights up with a new notification. It’s all thanks to dopamine, the feel-good chemical that gets released every time you do something you enjoy, like eating your favourite meal or getting a hundred likes on your latest Instagram post. Dopamine reinforces (and motivates) behaviour that makes us feel good and, in turn, can create addiction.
Teens are the most vulnerable. Remember the brain thing? Have the hard conversations. Are your kids limited in any way from technology. Do you warn them about it's harmful affects? Do you ask about pornography? When I bring that question up in guys groups, there’s always guys confessing that they are struggling—yes that includes Rise Youth. Do you bring that question up?
Leverage technology for the good in this season, but limit your kids' intake. Do the same for yourself. We can’t teach what we don’t live.
03 Be Observant + Vocal
Are you noticing we aren’t serving your kids well? Is there something your kid could use specifically? Please let me know.
I’ve had a few parents reach out about their kid not getting a phone call from someone on our team. I’ve called most of them myself and will continue to do so. I’m super happy to be match maker for them and their small group leader. This is one of the things I'm crazy, obsessively, passionate about DISCIPLESHIP! Our whole team is. They have given week after week to Rise Youth toward that end.
However, I’m not a mind reader. We are in this together. If our team can do better at reaching out and discipling let us know. We’re here to serve you.
We want to know what specific needs need to be met. So, anyway you can chat or share over text what we can improve is always appreciated.
I had a mom reach out recently to talk through ways we could specifically improve at reaching her kid. It was so humble and so helpful.
One of the most important experiences of my life was being discipled personally by Tom Santillanes who led my youth ministry. He's the reason I'm walking with Jesus today. That's the power of discipleship. We want to do everything we can to disciple every single student.
I’m rooting for you parents!