Of all the people who seem to have the hardest time after a big move, teenagers are at the top of the list. The loss they feel is intense. Walking away from childhood friends, family members, familiar places…at times it seems to devastate them but, as with all loss, an opportunity for growth and healing is usually just around the corner.
As I have been reflecting over how my own teenager has seemed to be helped during the ups and downs of our move, I was realizing that I’ve had to give my son the same counsel I’ve given myself many times throughout our transition.
While teenagers are at a unique time in their development which can cause them to feel things quite deeply, express themselves more intensely and sometimes do things that are…ahem…pretty dumb, I think our society gets it wrong when we classify them as strange, second class citizens, instead of respecting them as the young adults they are. Teenagers are far more aware than we give them credit for.
Here are some truths I’ve had to meditate on many times during our move. Surprisingly, since truth is truth, they’ve been equally as helpful to our teen while he is facing his own loss.
You Get to Be Sad. You Don’t Get To Wallow.
For our son, this looked like listening to him when he felt sad, but not allowing him to use that sadness as an excuse to become lazy or hopeless…. the exact same standard God requires of me! Anyone who is focused on all they have lost, not thinking about the fact that others have lost far more, is going to become narrow sighted and bitter. So, sharing with them in age appropriate ways, the loss and sadness you’ve experienced and what God is teaching you through it is more beneficial than even the most astute parents may realize in the moment.
God Doesn’t Make Mistakes.
Something we love to tell our kids is the fact that God did not get their address wrong. When they think their parents don’t get them or that life would be so much better over there, wherever ‘there’ may be, we remind them of God’s attributes. He is omniscient- He knows everything. He is omnipresent – He is everywhere. He is good- anything He does is for our real and personal good. We shouldn’t waste our days wondering if He got it wrong. That’s impossible.
God Has His People Everywhere.
One of the most beautiful realizations after a big move, is realizing God has His people all over this country. You might have to look hard, but you can find a church with a pastor proclaiming the gospel and people serving one another in love wherever you go. It’s humbling when we realize God’s work and Word knows no bounds. And it serves as a reminder that God’s promises were true in the place from where we came, they are true where we are right now, and they will be true forevermore. Amen!
Hard Work is Always Good for You.
Staying busy doing good things helps us heal. It prevents our mind from dwelling in dark places too long, provides opportunities to meet new people and form new friendships, gets physical energy out increasing our endorphins and helping us feel better, and proves to us we are able to do hard things. There’s definitely a time to bring your teenager his favorite bowl of salty popcorn and snuggle up with a funny movie, but there’s also plenty of times to say, “Ok enough is enough, now let’s stop feeling sorry for ourselves and get to it!” A failure to get back to good work is a choice to get back to wallowing and wallowing never leads anywhere good.
Idle men tempt the devil to tempt them.Charles H. Spurgeon
Solve Your Problem.
I loved what my youngest child’s kindergarten teacher would often say to the kindergarteners. “Solve your problem!” How often do we look at our circumstances and expect someone else to fix them for us. Teenagers are very adept at this, but we adults can be as well. Instead, it would be better to do the things we know we need to do. Certainly, as Christians our hope is not in our performance, but wherever we may live, God has given us brains to use, muscles to grow, people to know, and many, many problems to solve. Relying on Him while we do the next right thing, instead of griping about other people, is the only healthy solution.
Remember to Also Count Your Gains.
Yes, there is a lot of loss with a big move, but there are also many gains. It’s important to remember what they are so we can thank God for them. “A thankful heart is a happy heart!” (I can still hear the Veggie Tales song now!) It’s ok to feel thankful for the new opportunities and new friendships God provides in your new state. It doesn’t mean you are disloyal or unfeeling. It means God is kind.
Our teens need us, now more than ever. They need parents willing to help them interpret what they’re dealing with through a gospel lens. The mental health crisis in our country, especially among teens, screams this reality now more than ever: isolation, laziness, victimhood…these things are crippling to teenagers and adults alike.
I remember telling a friend that if my children could just have this one particular high school teacher all of my hopes and dreams would have been realized because my kids would come out of his class mature and practically perfect in every way (you know, like Mary Poppins). The response I got was convicting and what I needed to hear. She reminded me that mine and my husband’s influence on our own children are far more powerful than anyone else in their lives. If we as parents want to help our children survive any kind of loss or trial, we have to model it for them. Kids become like their parents. May we show them how to trust the Lord even when things are uncertain. May we keep a tight friendship with them knowing that without connection the words won’t mean much and most importantly “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant us all to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 15:5-6.