Friday, 5 June 2009

Parenting Teens and Beyond with God

This is kind of a little sequel from my previous blog on ‘Parenting and God’.

Both of my ‘kids’ are adults now, and I trust that my reflections here are going to be of some inspiration and encouragement to those of you who are in the parenting (grand-parenting) process.

No matter how great or how awful our parenting skills are, no matter how many times we miss it, and actually inadvertently emotionally wound our precious kids, we do mean well, we want the best for them .... at least most parents would agree.

As parents we have our own ‘stuff’ that we keep on having to trust God to grow though. We all have our own 'blind spots', and our personal ‘picture frame’ through which we view and interpret our world and what is happening around us.

I would like to quote myself from an earlier blog post, "Digging out my personal history ..."

“Some time ago I read about this account of two brothers who grew up in the worst part of the Bronx in New York. Their mother was a prostitute; domestic violence was the norm in that family. Their father was either full of drugs or alcohol, in and out of jail, and finally stayed there for murder. One of the two brothers followed his father’s footsteps and also wound up in jail. His brother, however, went to school, won scholarships, became a successful lawyer, and happily married with three children. When they were interviewed and asked what caused them to become who they are, both of them gave the same reply, “Because of our father”.

It rather goes to show that it is not the circumstances that cause us to become who we are, but rather how we interpret the circumstances and live accordingly. In other words we can allow circumstances to use us, or we use circumstances. The choice is ours.”

Having said all that, this does not give us, as parents, licence to treat our kids any old way. We are responsible before God that we do our best. I, for one, am very grateful the way both my 'kids' have turned out. I give God all the glory for that! It has not been easy, there has been huge family upheavals, a lot of trauma and pain, plus my divorce, losing the family home/house, etc.
Yet, God has brought us all through by His grace. Both of them are very fine young people, balanced, and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Now, you’re asking, what was my contribution? My aim was and is to build friendship and not just a parent/child relationship.

My aim was to convey to them unconditional regard – I may not have agreed with all they were doing, however, they knew that no matter what, my unwavering love was and is available to them at all times .... with my heart and arms wide open.

I guess one of the main things I learnt from my own upbringing was, that due to 'uncomfortable consequences', I decided that 'stuff' secretly done behind the back of my parents would be more enjoyable. This robbed me of some major protection which landed me in serious trouble and nearly left me for dead.

I thus decided that my kids should be offered the benefit of non-judgemental love and acceptance with the doors of communication open at all times, should they decided to make use of it.

The other main thing I learned from my upbringing was, that once the initial stages of 'pure protection' were over (e.g. as a toddler sticking fingers into electric socket outlets), the do’s and don’ts "because I say so" do not necessarily work in the long run, but teaching and imparting values do.

To that end, I would not say ‘no’ to a movie, etc. (knowing that most likely they would watch it at a friend’s house in any case), but take the time and watch it with them and then discuss principles and values with them. (OK that movie situation only lasted a limited time, as I am a complete wuzz, and can't handle action and suspense too well ....)

I recall one preacher/pastor one day was disgusted walking past by some magazine racks with teen magazines on display with rather questionable sexual content displayed. He turned around to me and sharply said that he would never permit his daughter to put eyes on that abominable stuff from the pit of hell.
I had to keep my mouth zipped, at the time, as I was actually buying the very same magazines for my own daughter. However, I did not just give her the mag and left her to digest that stuff with her friends. No, I sat down with her. Together we leafed through the magazines, read and discussed ... again, my aim was to educate and impart values. The allure to secretly read and watch this material behind my back with so-called friends was removed; all was discussed in the open in a non-judgemental way, to equip her, and to keep the communication channels accessible at all times.

I knew that kids, teens, are not so much interested in the mechanics of sex or the anatomy of body parts, but much rather what does it feel emotionally, what happens on the heart level, especially afterwards, after having slipped into a lust event?
What’s the difference between hormones and true affections?
What are the values from a Biblical perspective and why?

Values, values, values ... to provide healthy boundaries, not as a spoil sport for fun, but to liberate into enduring growth.

That meant spending time ... sometimes sitting with that precious teenager till the small hours of the night/morning, and just talking and listening, trying to understand their world.

I know that in all my endeavours, I still have failed and come short many, many times, in really hearing them, really understanding them, really getting to know them. As parents we often automatically assume that we know our kids, but do we? Really? It takes huge amount of unconditional love, time, setting aside own preconceptions, own world perceptions.

There were times when I could not relate to them at all, when my automatic alarm bells started ringing furiously. It’s exactly at those times when I had to sit myself down, first, and check and re-check whether or not I was just reacting according to my personal realities and comfort zone.

I tried to learn to put aside my personal preferences, enter into their world, into their map of reality, and allow myself to be stretched. I cried, sobbed, prayed, .... messed up, asking them to forgive me.

Yeah! I failed and messed up; I have not been a perfect mother by any stretch of imagination. I have made mistakes, and will continue to make mistakes .... not because I intend to, but because I am still growing, maturing, and learning till I graduate into my heavenly home.

However, one thing I would say, I love them dearly and I know that I am loved by them. We have amazingly beautiful relationships with each other. My son has just given me a most outstanding new daughter, who I love dearly, too. A very special young woman, I could not think of a better wife for my son.

So, if you happen to be a parent of teenagers, or will be a parent of a teenager/s, take heart and be encouraged. Love them, not the way you think they should be loved, but the way they want and need to be loved according to their uniqueness. And pray, intercede, go into spiritual warfare, cover them with the Blood of Jesus, regularly take Holy Communion and uphold them in prayer, yes, immerse them in prayer *behind the scenes*.

Don’t be like Job in the Bible who feared the worst that might happen to his children in the time and age he was living in ... we’re living in. Have faith in God, He is their eternal Father. By faith expect great and honourable things for your children and they will live up to it!

Don’t beat yourself up when you make mistakes, ask for forgiveness, forgive yourself, get up, dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes, get over it, and move on.

Building and experiencing a godly loving relationship with one’s children is one of the greatest gifts and joys from heaven .... it’s worth it!


© Copyright Angelika Regina Heimann – inStrengths Ministries - The Journey of Intimacy, 2009. All Rights Reserved


Tamela said...

Hello angelika, I love your post. Our children are now 20 and 21 and out of the house. I can relate to what you have said.. I stood on the promise if We raise our children up in the way that they should go when they are older they will not depart. Our children love the Lord and serve Him now, but we also went through some tough times.. But God was faithful and i am so thankful to HIm..

God bless you :)

Angelika said...

Thank you very much for your kind comment. I am rejoicing with you that your 'kids' are strong young people loving the Lord, and I pray His over-abundance of guidance, protection and blessing on them!

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