Yeah, I know! The only way to truly teen-proof your marriage is to never have kids in the first place.
But now that they are here, what do you do?
Obviously, locking our cute little fourth and fifth graders in their room until they are responsible adults is not an option.
The tween and teen years are a time of helping them try to figure out what works and what doesn’t, who they are, who they want to be, and learning skills that will launch them, hopefully, into mature responsible adults. I love how one youth director put it, “It is the time when we get to help them figure out why God made them into the unique being that He created. This is when they need to discover why He put them on planet earth.”
Great goal! (But that’s another post.)
So, how do you deal with all the running, the stress, the conflict, and just surviving having teens in your household?
Try thinking ahead.
Together. As a married couple.
So where do you start?
- Answer the question. How will we handle the situation if ___________ happens? Then fill in the blank with your worst fears. Parties? Dating? Car accident? Premarital sex? Birth control? Alcohol? Drugs? Unplanned Pregnancy? Financing College? And I’m sure you can think of a lot more.
- Prioritize your responses. Start with the issues you think could potentially come first in your child’s life.
- Talk through them as a couple. These are great date night topics. This is where you find out how your spouse feels about whatever the topic of the night is.
- Listen to each other. Remember these topics are “what if’s or when’s”; they may never happen–some obviously will. How will you handle them?
You might want to consider these discussions at least a year or two before the potential of the event. For example, if you know that your kid can get her license at the age of 16, start talking about what your rules will be by the time they are 15. Once the two of you have decided what the rules might be for getting a license and what boundaries you will put around her actually driving, start talking to your child about it in advance.
Dialogue might go something like this: “Kari, it’s hard to believe you’ll be able to get your license in six months. One of the things your dad and I have been talking about is that you will need to be thinking about paying half of the car insurance. We’ll let you drive my car, but know that we’ll have some specific rules about when, where, and with whom.”
Continue those dialogues frequently so that your child knows what to expect.
Remember, your kids are already setting their expectations and most likely they aren’t in line with what you’re thinking. Your job is to take those expectations and turn them into reality before the time comes. That way the excitement of the moment doesn’t turn into an emotional battle of wills.
And for those things that typically blow a parent’s mind like alcohol, drugs or unwanted pregnancy, dealing with the possibility that those things could happen will help you know what to do if they become a reality.
As you well know, the things we fear can send us into an emotional spiral if they indeed happen. Anticipating them helps us stay one step ahead of our teens and can calm the waters within ourselves.
Our advice to the parents we mentor is always the same.
- Mom and dad need to be on the same team.
- Assume that the storms will be coming.
- Premeditate your parenting.
Let’s face it, the way your parents parented and the way your spouse’s did are two totally different ways. This is a time to “merge” those ideas. Take the best of both worlds!
If you see other families that seem to be doing it right, ask what they are doing. If you like it, talk about it, put your own spin on it, and try it out.
But most important, “Be on the same page before you react!”
Remember, that if you fight the battles together as you parent, your marriage will be stronger.
Has not [the LORD] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.
Still reminding myself to be proactive in my parenting.
“Let go…and let God”,
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