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A Journey to Hope

Pain is the pen that writes the song that calls us forth to dance. –Michael Card

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the season when we celebrate life and the goodness of God. We give gifts, attend parties, and make an effort to spend time with family.

If all is well, we feel happy. But for those of us facing the holidays with a struggling teen, this time of year may bring more pain than bliss. After all, it is difficult to be joyful when the negative atmosphere in our home is in stark contrast to the happy and celebratory nature of the season.

When you have a teen whose life is spinning out of control, you may ask yourself, “Where did we go wrong?” Or, “Will we survive this?” Or, “Will life ever be the same?” You may even begin to question your own sanity or wonder what demon or alien may have invaded your once happy and contented child.

If this sounds like you, allow me a moment to offer encouragement. I say this often, because it bears repeating often. As a parent you have probably done the best job you knew how. You most likely did a better job than your own parents. Fact is, even the most intelligent and godly people I know have had teens who struggle. That’s because there are often other factors at work that have nothing to do with your parenting skills, nor the level of love and care you provided your child. And these same factors are mostly out of your control.

Where Does Hope Begin?

So, where does a parent turn to find hope when things seem so bleak? Scripture gives us two fine examples of people who found a place to turn when everything seemed to be going wrong. In the stories of Job and King David we learn that that there is a pathway toward hope, even in the midst of despair. Both had honest conversations with God about their suffering, their sorrow, and their need for relief. Each sought to understand what God was doing in their life through their suffering. In the end, both found hope–not because He or they were able to solve their problem, or because their suffering ended, but because through it they also found a nearness to God.

For the frazzled parents of a troubled teen, the journey of hope entails a journey back to the presence of God, where you can know without a doubt that He is there, even when your life remains difficult and your teen continues to struggle.

Tell God Your Troubles

Let me to urge you to not despair and certainly not to quit. Instead, choose to have an honest conversation with God about your struggle. Ask Him your questions, and tell Him how you feel. Ask Him what you are supposed to learn from this struggle. Stop worrying about how it looks to everyone else, and rest assured that it’s not a problem to have a problem. Be okay with life not always making sense. Celebrate being needful of God’s care. Doesn’t scripture confirm that our Heavenly Father shines best when our life is a mess?

How Does That Help?

When you invite God’s presence to invade your life, then you no longer have to fix the problem yourself. You just have to hold on and trust that He sees it all. You can work through your struggle knowing that God is very near, that He loves both you and your child, and that He will use every single bit of your current dilemma for His good purposes.

Trust me. The pain you are feeling at this moment will eventually come to an end. In the meantime, a renewed hope will come from recognizing that this temporary suffering is a part of God’s plan, and that He is not only aware of the struggle, He is right there in the midst of the struggle. He hasn’t abandoned you and He hasn’t abandoned your teen, no matter what you or they have done.

May you find peace in knowing that God is in it, no matter what the outcome may be.  And for that, we can all be truly hopeful, and thankful. To that end, I pray that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.

 


The Answers Adopted Teens Seek

When an adopted child enters the adolescent years and their thinking transfers from concrete to abstract, they might begin asking that unanswerable question, “Why did my mother give me up?” At a time that most kids are trying to “find themselves” and form a concept and understanding of who they are and who they are not, the adoption card in their deck of options is one that is a mystery and a source of confusion for most (confusion is not a problem, but how they display that confusion might present a problem).

The hard part of all of this is that this transition of thinking happens around the 7th or 8th grade year when life is tough for any young teen. Having to deal with these pretty tough and deep issues at a time they’re having to transition into early adolescence would be a heavy overload for anyone. Thus the identity issues come to the surface.

What I have found through the years is that it is very easy to explain away the answer to the question with comments of “Your mother did what was right,” or, “She loved you enough to give you up,” or “Your mother wasn’t in a good place, and felt like you should be,” or, “Your mother wasn’t able to provide what she wanted you to have,” or, “Your mother was a mess, and didn’t want you to be.”

“Yeah, I know and understand, but she still gave me away, and left.”

Whatever the answer, and I don’t think any of the above are wrong, a parent must understand that there is a bigger question that looms with a child. I have heard many kids say to any or all of the above answers, “Yeah I know and understand… but she still gave me away, and left.” It is a lingering question of loss that I wonder, if it is ever answered for some. It is my experience that most adopted kids take about 10 to 15 years of abstract thinking to begin to process what this adoption thing is all about. This means that most don’t resolve the issue for themselves until they get into their mid-twenties.

Simply give an answer of, “You know, I don’t know.”

If this is true, then parents, during those teen years, must be content to allow loss to be a part of their child’s life.  In God’s timing, issues will be dealt with. Not all of them have to be resolved in a child’s teen years, no matter how much we want them to have all the answers. Additionally, at times, more trouble can be caused by the tendency to answer every question a child poses, than to simply give an answer of, “You know, I don’t know.” Oddly, helping your child learn through your example that you don’t know all the answers to life will give them license to be able to live with some unknowns in theirs.

Adoption is riddled with acts of love by all involved. And once understood by the adopted child, they will understand the world of Scripture that uses the word “adoption” to describe the beautiful relationship between God and those that choose to be a part of His family… the One who desires to adopt us into His family. As pure and undefiled as this act is, the act of adoption can still have difficulties and struggles.

If you are an adoptive parent, your role is to continue to parent them with the same kind of love you’ve always held. Remember God’s example of nurturing, understanding, love, patience, kindness, goodness, forgiveness and grace. Don’t respond negatively because your feelings are hurt. Don’t say you’re giving up as their parent. And don’t try to “fix” the problem with giving the teenager more “things.” All of this only adds to an adopted teen’s mixed up sense of self and can lead to even more instability.

These kids need both time and stability to work through their issues. It is often a stage that they can work through and come out on the other side even more appreciative of their adoptive parents. In the meantime, they need their parents to remain steady and calm while they turn their world upside down in a quest to understand their history. And they may need professional help sorting it all out when the truth is finally made known.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit ParentingTodaysTeens.org where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program. Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.


The Four Issues Adopted Teens Face

Please Note: This weekend’s podcast was changed to “Top 10 Reasons Christian Kids Rebel”

You raised your child in a Christian home, taught him Christian values, and brought him to church every week. Now, he’s become rebellious and disrespectful. What happened? This weekend on Parenting Today’s Teens, Mark Gregston shares the top ten reasons why Christian kids rebel.

If you listen on a mobile phone or tablet, please download our Parenting Today’s Teens app available for Apple or Android. If you listen on a desktop or laptop computer, press the “play” button above to enjoy daily parenting advice.