We all enter parenting with fear and trepidation. During the early years, we follow our little ones around with pride and protection. Fearful of missing a photo opportunity, we barely remove our attention as they smile, crawl or walk for the first time.
By the time the teenage years arrive, we’re tired! We’ve invested so much time and energy. They have learned so much. They are capable of so many things. And they look like young adults. We mourn the loss of childhood and feel our opportunities for maximum parenting impact are over, right?
WRONG! Scientific research shows that the teen years are some of the most powerful opportunities for parents to have significant and life-long impact!
Adolescence, which includes the teenage years, is an amazing time of confused vulnerability (see What Happened to my Kid? for more on this). Brain changes during these years make teenagers insecure, confused, more easily excited, and more emotionally aroused.
Although this sounds negative (and can be), it’s also an amazing opportunity for parents. Two great books addressing this very topic share the same title, Age of Opportunity, because of the wonderful potential of the teen years.
Paul David Tripp, author of Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, says, “Rather than years of undirected and unproductive struggle, these are years of unprecedented opportunity. They are the golden age of parenting, when you begin to reap all the seeds you have sown in their lives… These are not years merely to be survived! They are to be approached with a sense of hope and a sense of mission. Almost every day brings a new opportunity to enter the life of your teen with help, hope, and truth.”
Likewise, Laurence Steinberg, author of Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence, says, “…adolescence is probably the last real opportunity we have to put individuals on a healthy pathway and expect our interventions to have substantial and enduring effects.”
I want to encourage you that you matter to your children and their future now as much as ever! Your influence, love, affection… all the things you do as a parent are important. Your confident acting teenager who sometimes communicates through harsh words and gestures is really a confused and overwhelmed person caught between dependent child and independent adult.
Do not give up on your role as an engaged parent. You have the best and most important job in the world! I salute you!