I have always dreaded the teenage years. Since my kids were born I’ve asked other parents, ‘How did you survive?” I wanted to be prepared. Why?

Teenagers are volatile. They are emotional, experimental, impressionable people who can lack self-confidence and hide things well. One day you’re getting along and the next they hate you.

I’ve heard the stories. One parent described his home life with teenage girls as a “war zone” complete with slamming doors. When another found her son’s drug paraphernalia they told him to quit or move out. Fortunately, wanting to improve his life, he moved to get away from bad friends. I know more than a few families whose teenagers were killed or took their own lives. It’s a very scary time for young people and their families.

What advice did I receive? Stay calm no matter what they share. If you fly off the handle all upset and accusatory they’ll never tell you anything again. If there is an infraction of the rules don’t discuss it in the heat of the moment. Talk about it later when you have simmered down. When discussing matters ask questions. Don’t think you know exactly what’s going on. Just maybe you don’t. As you ask questions LISTEN to their answers. Is there more to the story? Are they acting out because they don’t feel heard, respected or loved?

We are currently parents of two teenagers. So far there’s been no drinking or drugs. They are actually pretty good kids. This shouldn’t surprise me but it does. There is SO MUCH out there that can lure them off course. But there are four and a half years left!

What is MY advice to someday parents of teenagers? First of all, love your kids no matter what. Let them know you’d do anything for them and have their back in any situation. That’s our job as parents.

Be involved. Eat supper together at least a couple of nights a week. Help them with homework or study for tests. Ask them how their student council meeting went or what they learned in English class. Get to know a little about their friends and their friends’ home life.

Pray together before meals, before bed or when there is a family crisis. Go to church once in a while if not every Sunday. Let them know that while you can’t possibly be with them every second to guide them there is someone who can, God.

I pray God continues to guide and protect all our families. If tragedy strikes, I pray that, while we’ll never understand why, we receive His peace and continue our faith. With God’s help, no matter what happens, we will all make it home to Heaven and will celebrate our families’ homecoming in pure joy!

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