I don’t write very much about raising teenagers, even though by this fall I will have five of them under my jurisdiction. Yeah, I know. Five is a lot.
The reason for this writing hole? My lack of proof. With little kids we can implement chore charts and enforce the Timeout Chair and, oh look! It works. They are cleaning and they are time-outing.
With teens, the jury is still out. My husband and I are still debating what has actually been working and what is complete and utter garbage.
This post is not about the When and How-To’s of dating. Honestly, we don’t know if our When’s and How’s are great ideas. We could change our minds or our kids could grow up and talk about these years while on their backs, paying for a listening ear.
You and I might differ slightly on what we want teen relationships to look like on a Friday night, but I bet we would all agree that we want to set our kids up for success in long-term relationships and especially in marriage.
Here are six things our smart, moody teenagers need to thrive in meaningful relationships:
1. The Art of Trusting Jesus
I trust that he wants good things for me.
I believe that he is for me.
I trust Jesus to help me survive this English class.
And my rotten little siblings. (Just kidding, teens would never think this.)
I can trust God to bring me a great husband/wife one day.
I can even trust God to fill my significance tank instead of looking to the opposite sex to do it.
Learning to trust God with life and with relationships is a process. Our teens will not rock at this. But they can learn to semi-rock.
2. The Art of Respecting Everybody
Are these words respectful to my friend?
Would my dad say this is a good idea?
Am I going to regret this tomorrow or next month?
Is this text conversation making it easy or difficult to respect my future goals?
These respect skills can be practiced with girlfriends and boyfriends, but also with family and friends and teachers and employers. A respectful brother has a great chance of being a respectful boyfriend.
3. The Art of Asking Questions.
How did your speech go today?
How is your dog doing?
I heard you hurt your wrist. How does it feel today?
Have you ever traveled overseas? Where would you want to go and why?
When we teach our teens to ask people questions, we set them up to show people they care about them. And in today’s culture, someone interested in the lives of others is a real gem.
4. The Art of Noticing Feelings.
That comment made me feel really conflicted.
When he responded to my text right away, I felt important.
Losing to that team brought out my insecurities.
I am really dreading going to school on Monday.
Surprised, lonely, jealous, disappointed, relieved.
We want our kids to express their feelings, but I notice that my kids don’t always detect their own feelings or they cannot put a correct name to them. When we help our kids navigate emotions, we set ourselves up to be hugged and kissed by our future daughters and sons-in-law. Just saying.
5. The Art of Sacrificing Self.
Here, share my fries with me.
Let me pay for that.
Sure, we can toss a ball instead of playing basketball.
I hate that restaurant but I will go there for you.
Isn’t this the stuff lifetime relationships are made of? Contrary to popular opinion, LOVE is not the fuzzies nor is it thinking someone is hot. Love is the grittiest of self-sacrifice and the hard job of preferring someone else above yourself.*
*to be practiced at home, on siblings, whenever possible. Please, darlings?
6. The Art of Knowing Self.
I am completely and fully loved.
I am powerful.
I am planned and chosen.
My ideas have value.
I am seen and heard.
If I could teach my kids one thing to prepare them for relationships, it would be this one. Teens have a bad habit of looking to the opposite sex with the question “Who am I?” But the one who knows the truth of their identity is Jesus. If they walk into every relationship already knowing who they are, they have their biggest question answered.
For more on teaching our kids about their identity,
see this post:
What Every Kid Needs to Know About Their Identity.
Navigating the boyfriend/girlfriend thing is a tricky place for our maturing teens.
REMINDER: They will survive. We will survive. They will make mistakes. We will make mistakes. But God is bigger. Good thing we parents are one step ahead of our teens and have already learned The Art of Trusting Jesus.*