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My 15-year-old daughter woke up grumpy after staying up late the night before. As she hurried to make her lunch so she wouldn’t be late for home-school co-op, she slammed kitchen cupboards and snapped at everyone else in the room. Though I felt like rebuking her, I followed the Holy Spirit’s lead and asked how I could help her get ready. It was amazing to watch her attitude change as we worked together to pack her lunch.

Shepherding teens can be challenging, but expressing Jesus’ love in practical ways can make all the difference in their lives. As parents, we know it’s important to cultivate close relationships with our teens, but we aren’t always sure how.

Don’t Take it Personally

While I was visiting with one of my friends, my daughter grew moody and talked back to me. Instead of being gracious toward her, I let my annoyance guide me. I was so focused on her behavior that I lost sight of parenting her heart.

Later, I talked with her about the incident. That’s how I discovered that stress about her driver’s test was at the root of her disrespect. Our exchange helped me remember how I felt as a teen.

To prevent taking things personally, I’ve tried to set aside my feelings and remain calm. That helps me better understand and address the underlying reasons for my teens’ actions. By doing this, I’ve found that I shepherd my teens best when I extend them the grace and understanding Jesus shows me.  

Pursue Your Teen

One night while I was working late, my oldest son came into the room and rubbed my shoulders. He had just returned from a friend’s house, and I was preoccupied with a deadline. I almost missed the opportunity to connect with him. Thankfully, I caught myself in time, and we had a good conversation.

As parents, we can become so preoccupied with our to-do lists that we miss out on opportunities to shepherd our teens and build better relationships with them. Deep down, teens want us to pursue them. These moments can be inconvenient. But when we’re intentional about spending time with our teens and genuinely care about their interests, our relationships grow deeper and richer. 

Set Minimum Boundaries

When my daughter earned enough money to buy a cellphone, I wasn’t thrilled. It would be easier to reach

her during her extracurricular activities, but I also knew the risks that would come with the device. My husband suggested that instead of saying no, we teach her how to navigate this responsibility. So I approved the purchase, and we made sure she understood that, at a minimum, we would set parental controls and have ongoing conversations about what was and was not appropriate.

The boundaries my husband and I set for our children are intended for their safety, spiritual growth, and the building of relationships. If these boundaries and our family values aren’t compromised, other boundaries can bend.

Another boundary took place when my daughter wanted to be involved in a dating relationship. Although I allowed her to hang out with the young man in groups and at our house, they weren’t allowed to go anywhere alone. My daughter protested but eventually saw the wisdom of this.

Build up Your Teen

When my daughter came home from her after-school job, she told my husband and me that her supervisor told her that she was awesome. She said, “I almost started crying because I can’t remember the last time someone told me that.”

I felt a sting of regret because I realized that there were many times I would zero in on what she was doing wrong instead of praising her exceptional attributes. After that conversation, I began affirming my teens more. Now I bite my tongue when I’m tempted to speak critical words. Instead, I try to choose words that will impart grace and show my teens how amazing they are to me. I’ve found that encouraging my teens and building them up helps them overcome life’s obstacles and grow into the men and women God created them to be.

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