You are the #1 voice in your teen’s head.
I know why you worry that you are not.
You listen to the news, watch the news, read social media news. Study after study discovers what is influencing today’s teen. I’ve been reading such studies since the mid-1980s (because I love reading that stuff) and I’m telling you there has never been a respected study that has parents as less than the number one influence on their children’s lives. Even during the teen years. There has not been one.
But this doesn’t ease your fears.
You’ve heard too many of the many parents-of-teenagers jokes, legendary stories, family fables, etc. All of that noise just feeds this fear.
Adding more fear, we all live in this crazy, technological, and fast-paced world—a world in which your teen is way more adept in than you are. That techy stuff certainly feels more influential than you because you can barely navigate the basics of it.
Who is telling you that you are the #1 influence? Certainly no one in pop culture, unless you catch those anti-drug commercials and believe them (for that solo moment you get to stop life a bit and watch a commercial). This is a rare message to hear in church because the church schedule and the youth ministry schedule get a higher ranking than supporting you. (Unless you are a part of my church because I’ve been given the platform to share this message so I do it very very very often.) Your friends are the ones telling you the teenager “jokes” and the legendary stories. And certainly your teen is not telling you—nor giving you the vibes—that you are the loudest and most important voice in his/her head.
For so many reasons, parents think they have lost what “training up a child” means when their child becomes a teen. When kids were younger, parent and child could pray together at bedtime, maybe read Bible stories together. But how do you do this with a teen? How do you do this with a teen who doesn’t like you in his/her bedroom?
You also feel the fear of racing against time. Suddenly your babies are within years of leaving the home, heading off to college, getting married, etc. Just as the darling cherubs turn into “teenage monsters,” you are also realizing that there are only a few short years left while they are still under your influence. Of course, as parents you will always have influence but for this short season you have legal covering and influence in a way that completely changes when your child turns 18.
The world needs you to continue to be the voice in your teen’s head.
As parents you are also literally racing with time. There are so many things, mostly good, that absorb all of a teen’s time. School stuff, athletic stuff, music stuff, leadership stuff, social stuff, and hopefully spiritual stuff. The home too often becomes a drop-off service and a place for your child to sleep. Family meals are too often in the family car. Which then adds guilt to the intimidation because how did you allow your family to get into a rhythm like this? And how do you stop the ever-faster cycle you are living in? Everything feels so important. You can’t even get into a family pattern of making it to church every Sunday. You can’t even do something as minimal as that?
Remember those studies that I love reading? In the last 15 years nearly every study on teens and their faith have the same results. If a parent passes on his/her faith, the teen’s faith sustains even into adulthood.
You are so important. You are so important to your teen’s faith. You need to be that #1 voice in your teen’s head.
But that wow thought also causes you fear. You are intimidated to do that. At least one of these excuses has already popped into your head:
• I can’t disciple my own child because I’ve never been discipled myself.
• We pay the children’s/youth director to do that.
• I’m just not a teacher.
• I don’t know the Bible and can’t answer their questions.
• My kids won’t listen to me.
• It’s too late; I would start this if I’d known about it before my kid became a teenager.
• We’re not cool enough to relate to our kids; the children’s/youth director does that better.
• I’m too busy providing for my kids’ needs; I bring them to church to take care of their spiritual needs.
• I’m not qualified; I’ve never been to seminary.
Stop. You can do this. Even more importantly, your teen needs you to do this. And I promise to walk with you as you do this. I want to be that consistent cheerleader in your head. I may not be the #1 influencer inside your head but can I be between #7 and #10? You are doing something right. You are capable. And you will survive and even enjoy these years.