Valerie Steimle has been writing as a family advocate for the past 20 years. She is the mother of nine children living in southern Alabama and is the author of four books and a weekly newspaper column, Thoughts from the Heart.

Teenagers are fun.  That statement draws a lot of attention.  Some parents are afraid of their teenagers, while others enjoy the time their children are in their teens.  It takes courageous parents to guide their teenage children through the pit falls and bumps in their early life.  Teenagers are hanging on the eve of adulthood and it’s their last ditch effort to fulfill what they consider being “themselves”.  Many have passions about what they do and it shows in their actions. Others pass through quietly and contribute thoughtfully. One thing for sure, there is a lot more activity with a house full of teenaged children than with a house full of two year olds. Reflection and words of wisdom can help parents understand their teenage children so life runs smoother and safer especially those families of Christian/Judean ethics. Here are a few:

Parents Can Lay the Foundation:

Mormon youthChildren between the ages of 13 and 19 keep homes very invigorated and parents young as during adolescent time great changes take place in body and mind.  Parents should pay particular attention to what their teens do instead of turning a deaf ear to their activity. Granted, a two-year old will try to please his parents and for the most part, they go along with clothing choices, most foods to eat and bed time rules. But a teen causes parents to think through religious beliefs, moral judgments and why we should eat nutritious food for lunch instead of potato chips and soda pop. Teens, who are grounded in righteous endeavors typically will be more successful in this difficult world. Words of wisdom could never be truer from David B. Haight, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, church leader for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) back in April of 2003. From a talk given he says: “Though the world is becoming more wicked, the youth of Christ’s church can become more righteous if they understand who they are, understand the blessings available, and understand the promises God has made to those who are righteous, who believe, who endure. All of our youth are entitled to and need this knowledge to combat the forces of deception that would lead them captive into darkness.” Teens might think their parents are too strict with high morals but adolescent children know where they stand and that their parents’ care enough to enforce sensible values.

Teens Need Attention Too:

Some might consider teenagers very immature but there is a fine line to immaturity and just being fun.  A common characteristic of teenagers is the fact that many times, the whole world revolves around them and any negative situations they experience will go down in the history books as the worst occurence of their lives.  (Even if they were the cause of it.)  Yes, they are the “drama queens and kings” of life, but their perspective is an interesting one.  Granted some of our teens have had to endure some pretty awful experiences that did go down in the history books as the worst ever, for example, the Columbine High School shootings, but for the most part teens overreact in their quest for adulthood.  Parents need compassion and fairness in dealing with the life of their teen as well as attention to the details of their lives. They are not done with parenting a child after 13. This is where the courage to be a good parent comes in handy as we are entrusted to train our children to put their best foot forward.  From another LDS church leader, President David O. McKay who was quoted in Treasures of Life, (Deseret Book Company, 1965, p. 71.) “What must the Lord think, then, of parents who, through their own negligence or wilful desire to indulge their selfishness fail properly to rear their children, and thereby prove untrue to the greatest trust that has been given to human beings?” The teenage years can be some of the most difficult for a child and parents can be a great source of strength during those demanding times.

Don’t Let Age Fool You:

Even though adolescents are old enough to take care of their physical needs, they are not always old enough to take care of their emotional needs.  Parents should be home when their teens are home.  Be there before school and after.  That gray area of life between childhood and adulthood takes a good listening ear and the foresight of a prophet.

According to a Steinberg study in 1996 as related in an article “Depression and Suicide in Adolescents” by Cara Fausty, 1 in 3 adolescents has contemplated suicide and 1 in 6 adolescents have attempted suicide.  During the teenage years, there are such feelings of inadequacy and awkwardness that sometimes it’s hard to know how to handle in life.  Plus the fact that there are many external difficulties like parents divorcing or a separation of family, or a death of a loved one that it’s no wonder teens have a hard time coping.  From another church leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, President Ezra Taft Benson said at a conference in October of 1982, “The family is the most effective place to instill lasting values in its members. Where family life is strong and based on principles and practices of the gospel of Jesus Christ, these problems do not as readily appear.”

Teens in their own right could be a great influence for doing good or a bad influence for getting into a lot of trouble.  With the help of parents, church youth leaders, teachers and friends, the life of a teen can be a positive experience for everyone involved as everyone should know: Teenagers are fun.

Additional Resources:

The family is the central unit in God’s plan.

Learn more about the importance of families by attending a local meetinghouse.

Valerie’s website: Strengthen Your Home

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