Posted on May 4, 2015
Preparing for the ‘Teen’ Years
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I mentioned in my post about Planting a Garden From Scratch that we had set my son some challenges last summer, in the run up to his 13th birthday, and that I would write a future post on it. We got this idea from the book Suddenly They’re 13, by David and Claudia Arp. I have some reservations about this book, the main one being that the sub-title is ‘or the art of hugging a cactus: A Parent’s Survival Guide for the Adolescent Years’, which I feel is negative, and gives the idea that the teenage years will inevitably be an extremely difficult trial, to be survived until the child leaves home! Gladys Hunt, in Honey for a Teen’s Heart: Using Books to Communicate with Teens says ‘…it is possible to to have a growing friendship with our children as they mature, rather than a growing alienation.’*
However, I did glean some ideas from the book which I found very helpful, the main one being this concept of preparing for the ‘teen’ years by setting your soon-to-be 13 year old some challenges, which is based on the Jewish Bar Mitzvah. It includes physical, intellectual, spiritual and practical goals, which we discussed with our son, and we agreed that if he was able to complete the challenges well, before his birthday, then he would receive a reward. In our son’s case, this was for him to have piano lessons, as he had really wanted to start lessons for some time.
Our son’s teen challenge
For our son’s physical challenge, he was to train for, and complete, a 20 mile cycle ride, on the route of his choosing. I think he completed this the week before his 13th birthday, and he really enjoyed it, although he and my husband got absolutely soaked in the pouring rain! We also challenged him to climb his first Munro. Munros are a list of mountains in Scotland which are over 3000ft (914.4m) high. He and my husband climbed a mountain near our home at the time in central Scotland, which our son thoroughly enjoyed, (my husband already loves hillwalking!), and it was challenging enough for him, but not excessively so.
His intellectual challenges were to read two books: Starting a Micro Business for Teens, by Carol Topp, (which I knew would appeal to him, as he was already keen of having some sort of business after listening to the audio CD How to Start and Run a Successful Business: Audio Session for Young People, from the Maxwells); and secondly DO HARD THINGS: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris, who were teenagers themselves at the time they wrote the book. They start the book by pointing out that the term ‘teenager’ was not used until the early 1900s, and that in our modern society we expect far too little of those in their teenage years. My son really appreciated this book, and I think that it has strengthened his faith, and encouraged him that he can accomplish things for God now, rather than having to wait until he is an adult.
For his spiritual goals, we asked our son to decide what his standards and convictions would be for his teenage years, and report back to us on what he had decided. We also asked him to study the book of Proverbs and identify some life principles from there, then to memorise Psalm 23, which has been a special chapter of the Bible for our family. These might sound like a lot, but he had several months over the summer before his birthday in which to accomplish the challenges.
Finally, the practical goals we set for our son were to practice and master lighting an outdoor fire using only his fire steel, and to plan and execute an overnight wild-camping trip with his dad. This involved him choosing a suitable wild-camping site, organising the supplies he needed, and buying appropriate food for their trip. Both my husband and son love the outdoors, so these challenges were ‘right up their street’!
We made up a sheet with the list of challenges on it, and a brief explanation of the purpose of the Teenage Challenge, we discussed it with our son after ‘presenting’ him with it, and asked that if he was happy to do it, if he would sign it to show his commitment to doing the challenges. In fact he was very enthusiastic about the whole thing- the challenges we picked were all things that we were pretty sure he would be keen on, and as he is already a prolific reader, we knew he would not have trouble with the books. Obviously other parents would have to tailor such a challenge to suit their own ‘teen’, and their particular needs and interests.
We felt that this Teenage Challenge was really successful- it was character-building and faith-building for our son, and made him feel that his 13th birthday was the start of a special time in his life, when he will be preparing for adulthood, rather than a stressful nightmare that his parents are enduring before they gladly wave him goodbye! So far since our son completed the challenges for his 13th birthday, he has set up a new blog, and is now planning to start a business selling eggs from his newly acquired chickens. We have also given him more responsibility and increased his privileges, for example extra chores, and being able to stay up later.
Despite my reservations about the Suddenly They’re 13 book, I have really appreciated the ‘Teenage Challenge’ idea that the Arps have given. We would definitely like to use the same concept with our daughters, although I think they would appreciate some of the challenges to be different!
With our 11 year old daughter, I read Beautiful Girlhood, edited by Karen Andreola, and we have (slowly) been working through Dannah Gresh’s 8 Great Dates for Moms and Daughters, which I got after reading Six Ways to Keep the “”Little”” in Your Girl by the same author, which is aimed at the mothers of ‘tween’ girls (shudder- there is even a name for children between the age of 8 and ‘teenage’ now!?). I have found these helpful in dealing with issues that come up as she is growing, but I am on the lookout for books that will be suitable for her ‘Teenage Challenge’ in 18 months’ time.
Other Resources to Help Preparing for the Teen Years
With regard to other resources that I have found particularly helpful in preparing (myself!) for our children’s teenage years, I am almost finished reading Age of Opportunity, A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens (Resources for Changing Lives), which I mentioned in my Reading List for 2015 post. This book is very positive in tone, and encourages Christian parents that they should look upon the ‘teenage years’ as a time when discipleship can be built upon, and communication between parents and child deepened, rather than the stereotypical picture of estrangement.
My favourite quote from the book has been from a chapter I have just read in the past few days, on ‘Leaving Home’. Mr. Tripp says, ‘But I want to encourage you to set your standards high. Don’t give in to any perspective on parenting that convinces you that the promises and goals of the Gospel are beyond your teenager’s reach. Believe that God is able to do more than you could ask or think, through you and in them.’ **
I mentioned above Honey for a Teen’s Heart: Using Books to Communicate with Teens. If you are unfamiliar with this series of books (there is also Honey for a Child’s Heart, and Honey for a Woman’s Heart), they include book lists on quality, character-building literature, but also sections on why and how to use them with your children.
Some free online resources that I have found helpful:
Teaching Good Things has an excellent section on Skills for Real Life, which has a huge list of links to practical skills for children to learn before they leave home, some of which have video tutorials.
Embracing Destiny blog has a post on Discipling Our Daughters: Resources for little girls, teens and their moms
We so far have one ‘teenager’ and I have described a little bit about how we have been preparing for the teen years for him, and now thinking ahead to our next oldest child. Do you have older teenagers or grown up children? How did you prepare for their teenage years? Is there anything you would do differently? Or do you have younger children and are looking ahead to their ‘teen’ years with an idea of how you will approach things? I look forward to learning from your comments 🙂
* P.12, ‘Honey for a Teen’s Heart: Using Books to Communicate with Teens’, by Gladys Hunt and Barbara Hampton.
** P.201, ‘Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens’, by Paul David Tripp.
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