Parenting Teens ... And Enjoying the Ride

 When our kids were little I was afraid of teenagers.  Most of them were bigger than me, and I thought they were just a bunch o' hoodlums with bad attitudes and filled with sarcasm.   I never imagined having teens would be this much fun...

As kids hit the teen years, it is natural for them to begin to pull away, but they still need to know that they are an important part of our family makeup.  They don't need us to hold their hands to cross the road, but they do need us to hold their hearts when the world begins to crowd in.  Parenting doesn't end when they turn 13.  It just looks different.

A couple of years ago, we made a conscious decision to be actively involved in our kids' teen years.  It is no easy task, but so worth the time and effort.  
Here's how it looks for us:
1. We want to know our kids' friends.  This is not the time to check out.  Friends are the greatest influence at this stage, so we want to encourage healthy friendships.  If their friends know us, it adds another layer of accountability.  
2. We try to teach our kids how to have healthy friendships with both sexes.  In the next phase of life, many of these kids will be finding their future mate.  Now is the time to help them develop friendship skills that will extend into adulthood and, hopefully, encourage strong marriages.  
3. We try to open our home as much as possible to these crazy kids.  Sometimes a quiet corner with a good book beckons... but I'll have the rest of my life to sit in a quiet corner. In this season of life, we are choosing to be "yes" parents.  There are a multitude of things we have to say "no" to, so it is important to look for the "yes" opportunities.  If the kids want to come, we make every effort to say yes. 
*Disclaimer: I fully believe in boundaries and having a day of rest.    
4. We are involved in the youth ministry at church.  As I type, my husband is on a youth trip with the middle school. Bless his heart.  I just got back from a 12 hour bus ride from high school camp. Sleep is overrated.  Our roles in the youth ministry ebb and flow, but we want these kids to know that we are connected and that we care.
5. We choose to invest in these kids.  Even good kids have baggage, tough home situations, and the need for healthy adult influence.  They may act like they know everything about everything, but they are still learning how to process the world.  We want our home to be a safe place for our kids' friends.  They need to know we are FOR them.
6. We fully believe in the power of fun.  It is our desire to demonstrate that good, clean fun is better than what the world has to offer.  
Good, not-so-clean, clean fun
Put into Action
When our kids say, "let's have a party," we try to come up with something that makes the guests want to come back.  Sometimes it is just pizza and a bonfire.
Other times we pull out the stops and get a little crazy.
Water balloons and summer just go hand in hand.

Shaving cream fights are the best!

Food is always a must.  If you can't afford to supply it every time, ask the kids to bring their favorite snack.  Host a Mexican fiesta and ask the kids to bring a taco topping.

One of our favorite games is Snowball Mountain.
The kids don a disposable shower cap (Dollar Tree).  Split the group into pairs. One team member gets a smothered dollop of CoolWhip on his head.  The other team member has to toss mini marshmallows onto the "snow mountain."  Once they have 10 marshmallows attached,  they must run over and eat the marshmallows off of the snowy mountain.  

Let them play.
 Life gets serious fast.  We want our kids to enjoy this last season of freedom.  Sometimes the kids just want to play in the pond.  Other times they want to play Ultimate Frisbee.  Their favorite group game is Manhunt. Basically hide-n-seek in the dark.  The basketball goal rarely gets ignored.  
It doesn't have to be a big production.  Just let them play.  Our job is to provide hydration, safety, and to encourage them to include everyone.  Sometimes we have to suggest games to get the ball rolling, but usually they figure it out on their own.

I never thought I'd say it, but I really do love having teens over to our house.  They make me laugh, give me a fresh perspective on life, and remind me that every season of parenting can be a blast.  Besides, they don't judge my dirty toilet and remind me that clean floors are  totally overrated.

I'm linking up with Imparting Grace. Come join the party!


  1. Love this! Every.single.word. (and clean floors are overrated.)

  2. I love this and can attest that it will pay off for these kids! I remember so well those parents of my friends who liked having us over and gave us the opportunity for some clean fun as you say! We had the best time while staying out of trouble also! Great job and something I hope I can look forward to down the road!

  3. So glad to see a post on parenting teens. They are few and far between. Your approach is much likeo ours for our girls and was for our adult children. Fun ideas for organized fun. I always have trouble coming up wiht stuff like that. Over from Grace at Home. Happy 4th of July! Linda @ bushel and a pickle

  4. My kids are grown and gone but I do have a question: how do you keep them from being attached at the hip with cell phones and other electronics? That is all I see now.

  5. Love this post too, Gretchen! I'm also pinning it to my Parenting board!

    Every time I read one of your posts, I find myself thinking: Aren't you SO GLAD you followed your dreams and built Willow Hill Farm??

    I am so proud of the way you're using this incredible asset to the glory of God!

  6. Ahh-we are going through the same thing...our oldest is 13 and he is such a great kid to have around. I used to be terrified of the teens, especially boys! I love how the Lord has eased us into this stage of life...and it's not so scary ;) And I need to add, it is wonderful your family's commitment to the youth ministry and opening up your home. We are currently not in a position to do this but are part of a church with amazing families like yours and our sons LOVE it! I am so thankful for these serving hearts as I am sure many families are for yours. Have a blessed week, and lovely new blog... I've been a long time reader!

  7. Love this post, and the idea of your farm where they can all do such fun things together. I'm a former youth ministry missionary to military teens (through Youth For Christ and Club Beyond) and now a mom to two preschoolers. I'm looking forward to the days of having teens spilling through our house! Bookmarking for future reference... thank you!


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