The experts say the following about families with teenagers: 'When children reach adolescence, increased pressure is placed on the family system to accommodate itself to greater demands for flexibility’
. Wes & Belinda have 3 children - two teenagers and one just passed his teenage years. The change from young children to the complexities of teenagers can be a challenging time for a family, so lets get some insight on how they have managed.
1) Tell us about yourselves and your children?
We were married at the beginning of the last decade of the last century! Wow. That sounds like a long time ago; but with our twenty fifth wedding anniversary fast approaching it still doesn't feel very long ago from where I'm standing.
Belinda was born in Malaysia where her father was a doctor. She came to Australia in the mid 70's when the family decided to emigrate. I was born in Mona Vale hospital and have lived on the Northern Beaches all my life. Tom (20), our first child, was born around five years after we were married, then came Bethany (17) and finally Simon (15). It was pretty funny when our kids were asked during primary school geography lessons what country their parents were born in. Having a 'Malaysian' mum was somewhat incongruous with red hair and a pale complexion!
Despite living so close to the beach, you will rarely find us there; instead our passion for the outdoors is expressed in camping and 4WD adventures.
2) As your children became teenagers, what did you have to change as a family and how did you find the transition?
We had to learn to listen more; but more importantly we have learned to be more fervent in our prayers for them. When your kids are younger you live with the illusion of control. As they get older you begin to realize that you have to learn to let go and trust God with their future.
Other things have changed too; one of the biggest was not always doing things as a family because someone was working, was out with friends, was studying or just plain didn't want to go. Not all of our children enjoy camping as much as we do and it has been very sad to leave them at home on occasion while we went away.
Another life lesson: you can't please all of the people all the time! For example, when children are young you tell them where the family is going, and you go, and they will probably be excited. As they become teenagers they are not necessarily in that state of mind. It's a natural progression that is ultimately good because they are becoming independent, but it can still be a bit sad for parents.
Giving teenagers the freedom to choose whether they come with us (whether that be on holidays, to visit friends, go to youth group or go to church) is important to their development as they head toward adulthood and learn to own their choices regarding friendships and their faith.
3) What have you found to be the hardest thing about parenting teenagers?
Hmmmm... Where do we start? ;-)
Sleep -- why is it that teenagers seem to think they don't need to sleep?!?!?
Belinda says that the hardest thing she found about parenting teenagers is that you can go through whole seasons of where everything you say and do is wrong. If you say something, it's wrong and if you don't say anything it's wrong. Times of physical growth, tiredness and hormones are danger times. It's when 'be quick to listen, slow to speak and slower to become angry' come into play.
Another massive area is the challenge of technology. I work in IT and I love the way technology enables so many wonderful things; but it is a double edged sword. On the flip side, social media places enormous pressure on our kids, electronic games can be a source of addiction, there is the emergence of pornography into the 'mainstream' of western culture, not to mention the weight of a capitalist society where we've all got to have the latest gadgets.
All these things provide plenty of opportunities for parental intervention, encouragement and at times correction.
4 What has been your favourite thing about parenting teenagers?
The amazing holiday adventures that we have shared together. We have traveled all over Australia, done an amazing trip around NZ in a motor home, and the grandest adventure of them all was a 5 week road trip across the USA from New York to LA via Disney World in Florida.
We have found that enjoying meals together at the dinner table really builds our family unity. Monday night especially has become our family 'date night' while Thursday night is reserved for Belinda and I to have a 'date night' meal together. These moments represent an oasis for us in the midst of the busy and chaotic schedules we all seem to keep.
Belinda says that her favourite thing about parenting teenagers would have to be watching them try things and succeed at them. There are many challenges during the teenage years and many heartaches and disappointments, so to try something or to work at something and succeed brings great delight.
Finally, I would have to say that I love the way that our kids have forgiven us for the mistakes we have made over the years. They have helped us to stay humble and dependent on God when we (often) don't have the answers. My favourite parenting verse is 'love covers a multitude of sins' (1 Peter 4:8). When it come the relationship between parents and children, I think it works really well in either direction.