When our children are young we can shelter them and keep them in a bubble, but as they get older we have to give them freedom and the ability to make their own decisions and their own mistakes, even though it's hard for us. We have life experiences and we know what the outcome will be when our kids make bad choices, but we have to let them make those choices and deal with those consequences.
Our Heavenly Father feels the same way about us. He has more knowledge than we do. He knows what will happen when we make decisions, but He allows us the agency to make our own choices, both wrong and right. Sometimes we pray and ask and even beg for things that He doesn't provide. We feel like He isn't listening, but really He IS listening. He just knows better than we do. How often do our kids beg and plead and cry for something that we have to say no to because it isn't in their best interest? It may be staying up too late, wearing immodest clothing, going to an inappropriate movie or dating too young. From the time our kids can walk we are telling them no. Don't touch that, don't climb on that, don't eat that; these are all things little kids don't want to hear, but we know better than them, just like our Heavenly Father knows better than us.
WE are His children. And just like our own children make mistakes, we make mistakes too. As our kids get older those mistakes can become wedges in your relationship with them. Teenagers often pull away from their parents, especially when the teenagers are doing things they know their parents don't approve of. A lot of that pulling away is because our kids think that we won't love them anymore if they don't fit into the mold of what we think they should be. How often do we pull away from our Father in Heaven because we feel like we aren't being the person He wants us to be?
The greatest thing I know about my Heavenly Father is that He loves me no matter what. He loves me even though I'm not perfect. He loves me even though I make mistakes. He loves me even though sometimes I cry and whine at Him and beg Him for things that He just isn't going to give me.
Because unconditional love is offered by my Heavenly Father to me, I KNOW that I must offer unconditional love to my kids as well.
It sounds easy to just love them and yet I see so many parents with young teenagers who are kicking their kids out of the house, treating them badly or shutting them out of the family because the kids are doing things they disagree with.
I have three teenagers. In our family we've experienced eating disorders, cutting, depression, anxiety and suicide pacts with friends. We've had girls with hair every color of the rainbow and girls with heads shaved completely bald, along with mo-hawks, death-hawks, bi-hawks and clothing I would have never in a million years picked out for my daughters. My daughters have dated boys who are nothing that I would have wanted for them. We've experienced kids who've decided they don't want anything to do with church, kids who don't want anything to do with God and kids whose religious, political and social beliefs go against everything I've ever taught them.
But through all of this I have an extremely strong and personal relationship with each of my children. My 18 year old, who is now living on her own, texts me every single day and comes home for a couple of days at least three times a month. My 16 year old asks me to sit and do collages with her and to "go on adventures" with her. She tells me about her life and complains when I say I need to go to bed at night. My 14 year old son hugs me every time he sees me.
I may not agree with my kids' beliefs and choices, but I love them and THEY KNOW IT.
When you have teenagers you realize that they are their own people. Yes, they still need you, but once they leave the walls of your home to go to school or out with friends then you have no control over what their actions are. You can be a good example, you can teach them, you can lecture them, you can discipline them, but essentially they are who they are and they will make the decisions that they want to make. All you can do is just love them. No matter what they do, just love them.
They need love more than anything. They need to know that whatever they do, whatever mistakes they make, whatever friends they have, whatever causes they believe in, whatever person they are, you will love them. This doesn't mean that we ignore bad behavior. A parent is still a parent, but make sure that they know that although you may hate their actions, and sometimes need to disciple them for those actions, you don't hate them as a person.
Being loving, truly loving, parents is something we should all strive for, however young or old our children are. We know that our Heavenly Father will always have His arms outstretched for us, even if we feel we don't deserve it and I strive to be the kind of parent who always has my arms outstretched to my children as well.
The best piece of advice I can give to other parents of teenagers? Just love them.