Marriage and the Family – Teen Years – Letting Go

A continuing article in our series on Marriage and The Family. 

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother” (Gen. 2:24).

“And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest” (I Sam 2:11). Letting go is one of the highest hurdles on the course of family life. We begin this race as young opti- mistic parents with no experience, high hopes, and a little baby. Little babies grow into children and our hands are literally full with them and their stuff: doing this for them, teaching them to do this, copy me. They are a “handful” during those formative years. Values are taught, right and wrong are established, discipline is carried out. It is hands-on training. They need us every hour. We’re tired, but we feel needed and there is some satisfaction in that. Our roles are pretty well defined: I know what’s best for you; I’m bigger, wiser, have all the answers; you come to me.

But now we’re moving into a scary time. The little children are in their teen years. They are growing up faster then we ever thought they would. Suddenly, we move from a hands-on training to mind-training: teaching young adults to think and to think for themselves. We are teaching them to make choices based on that thinking.

We teach them that there are always consequences for their actions: that if they have made a choice and acted upon it, then they have to bear its consequences. There is now a shift in responsibility. This a big thing for teens, and they need it during this transition from childhood to adulthood. Their safe little world is crumbling, and it is scary for them. Their bodies are changing and they are aware of it. Their minds are developing and they think differently than ever before. And you are changing! If you are a parent who dreads seeing your children leave home, then you need to take an other serious look at your real role in parenting.

Some one has well said, “The rules of parenting grow fuzzy as our adolescents navigate that shaky bridge between childhood and adulthood.” We as parents have to face the truth: our children are trying to become people who don’t need us anymore. Our role should be to become parents who can accept and encourage that change. In all this, we have a choice. We can resist and cling to the past, or we can turn to the Lord and His Word for guidance.

Understanding what your teens are going through is a big part in being able to help them through the pains and challenges of this transition. The process of saying goodbye to childhood and launching teenagers into young adulthood can be a rough road but we can even out some of the bumps.

We must remember to keep the lines of communication open. In the deepest sense, Abraham was about to let go of Isaac. Neither of them had been this way before. But I find it interesting that on the way up that mountain, they’re talking. Isaac has some pretty important questions and Abraham gives honest answers, even if it means, “I don’t know, son, but God does, and He makes no mistakes.” Honest communication on a level that communicates confidence in God and His Word is invaluable to a teen who is wondering what is happening.

We have protected them, guided them, and held them close; now we’re backing off, and it’s not easy. There is always the danger that we want them to turn out “good” because it will reflect on us, making us look good. Listen to the words of Jacob, “And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land” (Gen 34:30). There is a sense in which our children are a reflection of us, but let us ever remember that that is the risk of parenting. They are individuals who, if they don’t know the Savior, are capable of every evil. They may even be the target of the “evil one” in order to bring you down.

If they do know the Savior, you have the big advantage of the working of the Holy Spirit within them. My advice, and it’s only advice, would be to encourage the good you do see and be careful in your criticism.

Encourage them to seek out the will of God and follow it. Solomon left a whole book of advice for his son, yet in no way could he enforce it upon him. We should adopt the attitude of Samuel, “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way” (1 Sam 12:23). Lastly, let go! It wasn’t easy for Amram and Jochebed to let go of Moses, but the time came when they had to. It was with the greatest of care that they set him just “in the flags by the river’s brink.” He was young and God gave him back to them for a few more short years. But the time came when they let go for good. From that point on, God dealt with him as Moses, not as Amram’s son. May God give us the grace to let go and trust Him to deal with our children and make them better men and women for God than ever we were.