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Creating A Comfortable Haven For Your Teens

Every year I take a group of guys fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, out of Venice, Louisiana, which is known for some of the world’s greatest fishing. We go out to the oil rigs which are almost 50 miles from shore, and we fish for tuna, red snapper, and swordfish. It’s 2 days of hard work, but well worth the effort of providing fish for a year to all who go on the trip.


This year we fished and, following the trip, everyone got in touch with me wondering what my delicious red snapper recipe was for the meal I prepared. I had cooked the fish according to an old, memorized recipe…one that was sure to please all. Anyone can fish, but not everyone knows how to cook so all will enjoy the meal. My shared recipe gave instructions to ensure that the meal turns out well.


So, let me switch gears here. Anyone can have a family. Anyone can have kids. And most believe that just because the pre-teen years were easy, then the teen years will be the same. Wrong. The recipe changes. What once worked in the pre-teen years, probably won’t work in the adolescent years.


Not everyone knows the “recipe” to have a home that provides a haven for their teens. I travel the country sharing that “recipe” with parents every day. A “recipe” that is greatly needed as most parents have an “appetite” to learn how to better meet the needs of their teens and serve the best “meal” they can.


Here’s why. If teens don’t like what’s being “served” at home, they’ll get their hunger fulfilled in other ways and many of those ways are not what anyone really wanted served to their family. You get my point.


Here’s the recipe that includes the key ingredients of rest, shared experiences, intentional messaging and a shifting of one’s parenting style to accommodate the new adolescent needs of your teen as they enter those sometime turbulent years.


The interesting piece of my recipe is that no young person comes with a set of instructions. Parents usually start from scratch, what they think their recipe is for success in their family, not understanding that a teen’s taste changes as they enter the teen years. Many teens begin hating what they once loved. They want something different. They need, and want, something different, as their world and their perception of it is changing. The wise parent changes the recipe to accommodate new tastes.


1. Rest. Probably the most important of all the ingredients; providing a home that allows your teen to rest from the intensity and sometimes craziness of a culture that is, at the very least, somewhat contrary to most of one’s beliefs and standards. If they’re in a world where they are having their beliefs challenges by a culture that is overly aggressive, then chances are, your teen is worn out and, at times, feels beat up and constantly tested. They come home from a day of opposition, and hopefully finds a place of rest awaiting.


Do your teens find “rest” at your home?


Or, do they find that home creates more stress as someone is always telling them what they’ve done wrong, what they need to do different, and how to live their life better. Now, don’t think that I’m saying that there isn’t a place for this. But, as the intensity of the culture increases, there’s got to be a pressure release valve somewhere in their life. Something’s got to give.


I would suggest that some changes be made at home to counter the increasing intensity of the culture. This is why.


If they don’t find rest at home, they’ll find it somewhere else. Smoking something, drinking something, getting involved with someone else. It’s much better to have them find that rest at home. It’s the first ingredient to creating a comfortable haven for your teen.


Ask your teen what is adding to their stress and anxiety, and determine if you can “back off” or your desires a bit, to create a restful home.


2. Experiences. I’ve said it a hundred times, “Go make some memories before you lose yours!”


Your teen is searching for wisdom while they’re drowning in information. And the best way for them to find this wisdom is through parents who allow themselves to be observed and create conversation that allows for a child to reflect on their life. If observation and reflection are two key elements of finding wisdom, here’s the third. Shared experiences. These experiences give your teen an opportunity to see wisdom at work through the example of your life. You are a living reflection of the Word becoming flesh before them, and shows them how to engage the values that you have spent their lifetime teaching them.


Scripture tells us to, “.. love not only in word and speech, but in actions….” (1 John 3:18). When you create a haven of hope for your teen, it will be through your actions, and not just your words and speech. So, talk a little less, and do a little more. Create new experiences that you can enjoy together, and be able to “remember the good times” when you face the challenges of adolescence.


The moods of a lifetime are often set in the all-but-forgotten experiences of adolescence.


3. Messaging. What messages does your teen hear from you? “Clean your room”, “Do your chores”, “Stay off the phone”, “Do your homework”, “Be home early”, “No, you can’t go!”. Sound familiar? If these are the ONLY statements that your teen hears, I would encourage you to add some other messages that encourages and lets them know that they are loved and the best is wanted for them.


Let these comments become a part of your messages to your son or daughter:


“There’s nothing you can do to make me love you more, there’s nothing you can do to make me love you less.”

“I want you to know that I care a lot more about your heart than I do about the condition of your room.”

“To him/her who much is given, much is required. We want to give you everything, but we also want you to become responsible.”

“Even on our worst day in this family, I want you to know that we are all better off because you’re in it.”


Your teens need comments of affirmation and re-assurance. And it cannot come from a better source than a Mom, Dad, or loving grandparent.


4. Shifting. Your parenting style must shift to accommodate the ever-changing needs of your teen. Simply put, a parent must move from “teaching a child” to “training up a young adult.” It’s a shift in the way you engage. Move from lecture to discussions. From you making all the decisions to allowing them to choose. From demanding perfection, to sharing some of your own imperfections. Moving a child from dependence to independence. You moving from talking to now spending most of your time listening. Instead of giving answers, ask more questions.


The result of this shift lets a teen know that you are present in their life to help them get prepared for the world they’ll be living in, and will encourage them to make good choices in their life. So, quit teaching….and start training.


I guarantee that your teens will love this “dish” that you serve up for them. It may even become their favorite meal.


Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.