I still remember my teenage years vividly although they kicked in 40 years ago. I had been a religious boy in my first 3 years of High school (I got to start early). As I resumed the fourth year, changes were taking place in my body and soul as the hormones were kicking in, values were changing and I was becoming a different person. Weekly hostel Christian meetings were dumped for the ‘black market’ where senior high students whiled away time with girls, clean conversations gave way to vulgar, Sunday morning movies replaced church attendance and disco dances delayed night outs in the boys’ hostel.
All of the above would give me less worries if they were the situation today but it’s worse and about drugs, sex romps, cultism, terrorism, bullying and financial crimes. Unfortunately, many parents have no idea what is going on with their teens until they get into trouble. It is characteristic of teenage years to hide some stuff from parents. I remember how I froze when a guy brought a horde of my ‘black market’ girlfriends to a restaurant where my dad and I were having lunch and the girls made some exciting noise at sighting me, expecting my usual boisterous reaction. They were not sensitive to my dad’s presence as I tried to maintain my gentleman’s reputation before him. Minding that gap between us and our teens is so crucial in parenting teenagers. We must be conscious of it and seek to close it as much as we can by encouraging transparency through creating a non judgemental and friendly atmosphere in the home. It’s a time when they tend to withdraw from parents as they seek more independence and that is where engaging frequently in mutual interests becomes more crucial, especially between parents and children of the same sex. That could range from solving puzzles to the use of PlayStations, watching sports, movies, shopping, travelling together and so on. Continuing to bond and connect, allows parents to remain strong influences in their lives. Cooperative parenting has to be the style as persuasion is employed. This style communicates respect to them in a season when they resent being treated as kids and so breaks down rebellious tendencies.
We must be conscious that perhaps the strongest influences on them at this stage are their peers. There are generational norms, standards and languages that they all seek to conform to. Their closest friends have their own unique preferences and everyone lives up to it in order to remain accepted and approved by the clique. The key here is to ensure we are aware of their choices of friends by not only approving sleepovers in friends’ houses but also having such hosted in your own home so you can know their friends more closely. Some parents don’t approve of sleepovers at all and that is okay too. However, they should allow for visits at least so they can know their friends well. This worked well for my wife and me when we parented our children in their teenage years. They are all adults who have left home today and we are proud of them.
Exposing our children to opportunities for divine encounters would be my next advice. There is something about a powerful baptism in the Holy Spirit experience, encounters of divine healings, operations of spiritual gifts and revelations of the Word that makes God real to them. I remember our oldest daughters while thanking us for their university education after bagging their masters degrees adding that their greatest achievement was ‘finding God for themselves’. Their mum and I probed further to understand that and they explained how we made them go to church all their lives but in their late teens and out of our control, they sought to find out if they had been brought up in the truth. Teenagers and young people seek to explore the world beyond the confines of their family backgrounds. When we left them after the conversation, my wife and I kneeled and bowed to God in gratitude for guiding them safely ‘home’. Thank God they attended churches where God’s presence was manifest.
We often underestimate the impact of the loss of parents or siblings, sickness, bullying, severe criticism, sexual and physical abuse, excessive weight gain, and abject poverty on children. Those things cause psychological trauma that may give rise to fear, anxiety, rebellion, depression, drug dependency and other social malaise in young people. Paying close attention to them will unearth those things and where not easily dealt with by parents, it will be helpful if they are taken to see a therapist or counsellor before the problem aggravates into a major behavioural dysfunction. In extreme circumstances, they may need deliverance ministry as forces of darkness, taking advantage of negative circumstances might have found their way into their souls.
Finally, I cannot overemphasize the impact of mentoring. I look back today and one of the most critical factors that shaped me into who I have become is the divine orchestration of my relationship with my spiritual father. I was only 16 years of age when I came under his direct tutelage and I listened to him every week teaching the Word of God and hung out with him as he preached about, traveled with him, ate with him and observed him at close quarters for 5 uninterrupted years after which I served as a campus pastor under his oversight for another 5 years in what remained a very close bond. Guiding our teenagers to relate with godly spiritual influencers remains one of the best things we can do for them. At times they need independent confirmatory voices speaking into their lives and affirming our counsels. This is particularly essential as it fosters in them, positive reinforcement. It’s a major way to permanently impact them with the values and the ideals we hope to cultivate in them. These have worked for Jumoke and me over the decades and I have no doubt they will work for you as well.