I remember it well. The phone call, I mean. Mrs. Hitchcock, this is Sargent (whatever his name) from the police department. I’ll admit, I’m not sure at that moment if I caught all the details. All I remember was the pause after I hung up with him.
My husband was standing nearby and must have seen the look of shock on my face. “What is it?” he asked.
I couldn’t speak.
“What’s wrong?” he asked again. “Talk to me.”
And that’s when I knew that I had moved forward in my ability to contain my emotion. I looked at him calmly even though my heart was pounding out of control inside my chest, held up my hand to let him know I needed a second to think, and took a deep breath. “Everything will be alright. God’s got this.“ I whispered to myself.
With that I collected my thoughts and explained what I remembered from the phone conversation. As my husband began to process, I could sense his heightened emotions and mind reeling out of control. “Honey, it’s going to be okay. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on here, but we need to remember that God is in the middle of it. He’ll help us work through it. We just need to be strong for our kid.” I calmly cautioned.
The truth is our kids will make mistakes. We might not get a call from the police, but what about the school? Or another parent or coach? A boss? A youth leader?
And how will you respond?
Will you have taken the time to get your own emotions under control before engaging with your teen?
Or will you launch a dynamite explosion screaming at them for being so stupid?
Or maybe you will become so agitated and frustrated at the situation that you’ll disconnect from them as if it is all their problem to fix because you don’t want to deal with it?
What our kid really needs in moments like these are calm and emotionally supportive parents. They need to see an adult (with adult like behaviors) who is there to walk beside them regardless of the mess they have gotten into. This is an opportune time to be their “solid rock” who will walk with them as they navigate the jams they find themselves in.
One of the things I’ve learned to do in my parenting is to discern the situation and try to see both sides. Too often when my kids were younger, I would typically take the adult’s view of the situation as truth over my child’s perspective. After all, we think that an adult perspective is the mature view. Right?
Oh, how many times I have discovered that not to be the case.
Let me explain.
I remember a situation that involved one of my sons and another adult. On the surface, I understood why the adult thought my son was guilty; however, I knew he didn’t have all the facts. On my first encounter, I supported this man rather than my son. After all, this man was an authority figure in my son’s life and had strong christian moral values.
What I didn’t realize at the time (but it became obvious on the second encounter) was that this man had a flawed perspective with students. His moral compass said “guilty until proven innocent”. Rather than talking with the student, understanding the student’s thought processes that led to the action, and deciding the consequences based on the student’s heart, he issued punitive edicts that affected my son’s ability to learn in the classroom. He took learning opportunities away instead of being supportive. There was no doubt in my mind this adult in my son’s life had put him in a box and labeled him “problem child”. Rather than walk beside him, this man became my son’s judge and jury communicating that he (not his behaviors) was unacceptable.
So how can you walk beside your teen in these type situations?
- Assume a neutral position until all the facts are in. Don’t necessarily assume your child is guilty. Even if all the facts say they are guilty, be the person in their life that shows compassion and treats “mistakes” as “learning opportunities”.
- Ask open ended questions and then listen. When our kids are accused of something by an adult, a simple question like, “So what happened?”, without a tone of accusation, may be all you need to hear your teen’s heart and thought process. We all see things through a different lens and while our teens don’t typically have a full grasp of everything involved, neither do most adults.
- Discern the situation. Many times as parents we react based on our emotions. When our teen is accused of something, it impacts us in some way. Take those feelings and the circumstances and pray about it asking God for discernment. Ask him to show you perspective from both sides.
- Teach. Take the opportunity to ask your teen to think through the situation from the adult’s point of view. What was right in the way the adult saw the situation? What information does the adult not have? What could your child have done differently to avoid the situation? Share your perspective of their wrongdoing. And be sure to normalize the situation offering understanding as to why your teen did what they did.
- Encourage apology and reconciliation. Regardless of the circumstance, teaching our teens to restore the relationship is important. It doesn’t mean that the other person is right. It just means that the relationship is broken. Teaching our children that their actions do affect other people helps them realize that they don’t live in a vacuum.
- Love your teen regardless of the situation. When our teens hurt us with their actions and impact other relationships that are important to us and them, our teens need to know that we always choose them.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Emotionally supporting our kids when their world is falling apart will give them the hope to trust God in all things.
“Let go…and Let God”,