Parenting Teens: Thought # 3 – Friends

Earlier this week I started a series seeking to encourage you as you seek to parent your team. Thanks for the feedback and comments. I pray this next blog is helpful for you.

Fear seems to be one of the biggest obstacles in parenting teens. In speaking to a lot of parents of teens I would say one of the greatest hindrances I see is fear. There is fear of the unknown, fear of the potential storms, and fear of the potential life choices teens may make. 

There seems to be this accepted notion that the teenage years are just filled with stress, conflict and pain. But who made that categorical statement and what evidence is there in the Bible to support this fear? 

While it is true that with puberty and hormones, so much change and identity development that fill the teen years and make them thoroughly unique, can’t this same dynamic of unique challenges be said for every age stage? From an old person looking back on their life and wondering if their life really meant much, to a young parent wondering how in the world are they ever going to raise and parent this new baby: every life stage has unique challenges and experiences. Some harder than others, but all are demanding. 

Let’s think about helping our teens and loving them selflessly and sacrificially. If there is any encouragement that I can share on this series it would be that one sentence. God has called you to love your teen selflessly and sacrificially, just like He loved you by dying for you! 

I encourage you with this central thought: Love your teen selflessly and sacrificially. 

One of the biggest and most understandable fears parents have with teens is a concern about who their friends are and what influence they have on their son or daughter. Thinking back to my previous blog and devices: I would say that, along with devices, who they hang out with is probably one of the most important pieces for parents to lean into. 

So many teens are influenced positively or negatively by their social circle. While I would never suggest that a parent have “arranged friendships” or manipulate their teen by strong-arming them. They need to make decisions and not have you make all the decisions for them…..

I do think that as parents we should seek to encourage, pray, and invest in our teens’ friendships. My mother-in-law did a tremendous job with her two kids in this area. She knew their friend’s names, she knew their friends’ families. She didn’t do this in a creepy way in order to manipulate or overstep into her teens’ lives. She did this to invest in her kids’ lives. She genuinely cared about their friends, and took an interest in their friends’ lives and families. 

I find that as a dad it is so important that I know who my kids are hanging out with. This encouragement doesn’t provide a waterproof guarantee, and while we should afford our teens growing autonomy, we should also invest in the relationship to the point that we are at least aware. 

This whole suggestion necessitates an ongoing relationship of respect between a parent and their teen. Parents, respect your teen’s ability to make wise decisions and take the opportunity to encourage and pray for the friends they hang out with. 

I often think of an illustration from a message I heard as a kid about a Christian dating a non-Christian and I think it paints a good picture for my point here today. The illustration is of one teen stood on the table and another teen stood on the ground. The question is asked of the group is it easier for the teen on the table to pull the teen on the floor up or the team on the floor to pull the team off the table? The answer is obvious – the teen on the ground can much more easily pull the teen off the table than the other way around. 

It is the same with our teen’s group of friends. It is a lot easier for our kids to fall into poor decisions under the influence of friends than it is for our teens to do that by themselves. Can I encourage you today to invest in your teen not only by knowing their friends but genuinely caring about their friends and by praying that God will provide godly friends? 

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