Last week we spoke about the number 1 problem teens face today and if you haven’t read that yet, I suggest you take a moment after this and read through that one. These Devotions are meant to help you as parents understand your teenagers better, because there is nothing worse than feeling you’re doing a bad job or that you’re not getting anywhere with your pubescent teen.
Understanding your teenager is hard work! For us as youth leaders it is a daily task that requires us to make the effort as often as we can. In today’s society, teens are surrounded by the fast pace and ever-changing world, so much so that even their attention span has decreased. Just to give you an idea of how bad it is, here is a paraphrase from time magazine’s neuroscience studies done in 2015:
The attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds, on average nowadays, our attention span is 8.25 seconds
The use of social media has gotten a lot worse since 2015 with an average screen time of 2 hours and 48 mins to 2017 where the average screen time was 4 – 5 hours (Irresistible, Adam Alter). This is only getting worse every year. So, what does this mean for your teenager and possibly your parenting strategies? Well it means that their brains are now wired to have constant feedback and almost instant results. I am certainly not asking for you to feed into this obsession, but I am a firm believer that in order to reach someone, you have to meet them on their level first. And showing appreciation for them and their actions (that are good) as often as possible, is a good start.
Teenagers often feel as though they are lost and confused this has to do with their changing hormones and now in today’s society, a subconscious comparison to those they see on social media. Teenagers receive most of their approval from their peer groups and now, their social media accounts. So as a parent this must be understood, that your voice is limited when it comes to trying to influence your hormone-raging teenager. BUT… there is hope. His name is Jesus. In everything that we do we need to do with God at the centre.
What are you doing to help your teen?
As youth leaders we’ve found a way to counteract the feeling of being lost and that’s by introducing them to Jesus who gives meaning to their feeling (thought I put in a rhyme). This is however easier said than done, so many parents (who have good intentions) try so hard to teach their children about God, but actually push them away from the teachings and lessons. So how do we as youth leaders succeed in helping fight this feeling? One simple word… RELATIONSHIP. The foundation for growth and the foundation for influence requires us to have the pre-requisite in place, that being relationships. It is easier for us to build a relationship with teenagers, because, well we’re not their parents. So how do you as parents make an impact and help their feelings of being lost? Here are some suggestions:
- You can try limit social media to certain hours of the day – You are the parent and you are in control. Warning though – do not making social media a reward for doing something in return this can spark the addiction even further – and yes social media is addictive and never let them be on their phones before bed this leads to sleep deprivation and can escalate dramatically from there.
- You can have meals together as a family (as strange as this is for some). The idea that families sit around the table and actually talk together can be extremely healthy.
- Have a family night. Play some games with everyone and allow for them to at times choose the games – Make sure it’s a physical game (no not like rugby), I mean like monopoly, scrabble or even Jenga, etc. But at least have one day a week set out to have as a family night.
- If your teenager says something, LISTEN. Don’t just listen to respond, but listen to actually understand them and what they are saying.
- If they are going through a rough patch take them out for ice cream or to the arcade or do something that shows them that they matter more to you than anything else in this world.
- Encourage them to attend a youth group that you trust during the week. Also be careful which groups you send them to – You need to be sure they aren’t going to add to the problem by judging them or harshly rebuking the actions they’ve done.
There are so many ways that you as a parent can help your teen not feel lost, but the one thing that I can encourage is that you build a solid relationship which is built on trust and understanding. They feel awkward about talking to you about their issues and that’s okay, don’t force it. Start with caring for them and appreciating them as often as you can – saying you are proud of them goes a long way.