What do you consider the greatest challenge among parents and their teenagers/young adults today? Patti Pilkington Reed, author, Conversational Intelligence®️ coach, and business leader affirms it is our inability to get face-to-face with our kids and have meaningful conversations. For more information on Face to Face visit Patti's website at www.pattireed.net.
The following devotion is from her book Face to Face.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. Galatians 2:20
In parenting my young adult children, I found this season to be one of the most challenging times, especially for them. Having raised one teenage boy and finishing up raising my teenage girl, I saw identity take center stage between the ages of thirteen and nineteen, and a little beyond.
Every teen on the planet asks themselves: Who am I in this phase of life? Will I be liked? How do I look? Should I wear makeup? Will I make the team? Am I good enough? Why don't I have any good friends? Should I hang out with these friends who are making poor choices? Can I look at these illicit pictures just once? What will they think of me? My heart's desire for them is to not only ask "Who am I?" but "Who do I want to be?"
Your teenagers can easily fall into the trap of pleasing, appeasing to be accepted, or both. They can choose to be someone other than who God created them to be when under pressure to conform to cultural norms. We should remind our teenage/young adult that Romans 12:2 encourages us to renew our minds with thoughts and ideas that would bring honor to God. When we do this, and they do this, we will know God's will and who we are in Him. This is a foundational truth our kids can take with them into their day and throughout their life.
Who are you? and Who do you want to be? are great questions to leave your children with as they jump out of the car or walk out the door. When you send them out into the world, hopefully they will remember these two simple questions. Beginning this practice early by communicating it verbally, leaving a note in their lunch, leaving a scripture on their pillow, or sending them a song that conveys this truth, will reinforce God's Word and plant it deep in their soul.
The Bible says in Isaiah 55:11, "So is My word that goes out from My mouth: it will not return empty" (NIV). I stand on that truth. When my children were in their tweens (ages nine to twelve), my husband and I kept a journal with each of them. We took turns writing back and forth with our children, penning encouragement, fun memories, and the truth of God's Word. It was fun when the journal arrived on our pillow or in another spot of the house where we spent time. This was a special way to pour into our kids and remind them of our unconditional love and acceptance.
During times of struggle and uncertainty, battles with our teenagers seem more common than ever. They face so much. Being present to help them process all the muck of the world will be a gift to them. As they continue to figure out their identity (hopefully in Christ), and who God is, your presence and attention is of the utmost priority.
My prayer is that you have separated who they are from their behavior, especially as teenagers. Speaking into their lives during this critical time is central. The opinions of their peers and acceptance by their friends usually takes precedence over Mom and Dad. Calling out their greatness (their unique self, gifts, talents, and skills) and asking questions to help them discover their identity in Christ will make for great conversation, bond you, and impact your kids for years to come.
A friend of mine shared a story with me about her teenage son who was treating her with disrespect. She called me from her own self-imposed "time-out" to give me the details and ask for prayer. She locked herself in a closet to hide from her son. We talked and prayed it through. She later went back to him to let him know calmly that she would not allow him to speak to her rudely or disrespectfully. She told him this was not who God created him to be. She said in God's eyes he was a respectful young man, but he was not behaving as such. She wanted to encourage him to live in a way that honored and respected God, herself, and others in his life.
At that point, her son broke down and cried. He let her know he had a rough day at school, and he was struggling on the inside with a myriad of feelings. They ended up having an open, honest, and sensitive conversation that led to reconciliation and a stronger connection in the relationship. My friend was able to separate the behavior from who her son was, and as a result it created a space for him to open up and become vulnerable.
In my own parenting, I've had to step back and choose not to react to comments or behavior and ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom. He delivers each time, and His answer is usually "be quiet." Keeping my comments and opinions to myself has saved me many times from more drama and conflict. I wish I had learned this earlier in my parenting, rather than later.
For the teenager, it is all about the "haves" and the "have nots." It's mostly about the outer appearance-clothes, phones, social media, cars, computers, the right shoes, nails, hair, watches, and more. Some of us never grow out of that pressure. If you are trapped by things, please find a way out. As adults, we know material possessions do not satisfy us. The appearance of having it all together, and all that comes with it, is exhausting. Having a beautiful appearance, along with a right and God-revering heart, is empowering.
When you become the person who God created you to be and understand your identity, you will progressively do and be who God says you are, more consistently over time. Identity determines purpose. Purpose determines mission. Mission brings fulfillment.
Know who you are, and remind your teenager and young adult who they are "in Christ." When they deviate, you can say to them, "Johnny, that is not who God called you to be. You are a strong, courageous, and faith-filled man. Now go and be that every single day." Show them you are their biggest fan. Plant seeds of life, love, and hope, and watch those seeds sprout in God's time and according to His agenda, not yours.
What would you like to discuss with God about your identity in Him? How have you settled the identity issue in your own life? Would you settle it today?
A New Possibility
What if you accepted wholeheartedly who you are in Christ, and you were able to model that in the most beautiful way to your teenager and young adult? How would that change things for you and for them?
Lord, Let me continually seek You and sit with You, so I may know beyond a shadow of a doubt who I am, who You are, and live my life accordingly. Thank you, Lord, for showing me with great clarity that what is on the inside is always expressed clearly on the outside. Praise You.