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Raising Teenagers in a Broken World

A mother narrates how she obtained strength from her belief in the divine to meet the challenge of bringing up her teenage kids against the difficulties in her way.  

Even though you do your best to raise your children sometimes during the teenage years things change. I have two children, one girl and one boy, who were raised exactly the same way but when they hit the teen years went in opposite directions. I don’t know why exactly, maybe it was differences in their dispositions, or more likely because I didn’t understand the difference between raising a girl verses a boy. I have found out the hard way that you cannot raise all children the same and you cannot give them all the same privileges.

My girl is seven years older than her brother. She has been easygoing since birth. Oh, every now and then a small issue would come up but she was easily swayed. If you told her not to touch, she didn’t touch. She went along with whatever you wanted to do. She liked being where you were and was content to sit and play. She went to bed when she was told and generally wanted to please people.

My son was more active, which I assumed came with being a boy. If you told him not to touch, he touched. He was constantly moving and did not like to sit still. He did not throw tantrums; he would just give you a cute grin and do what he wanted. It was much more of a challenge keeping up with him and keeping him under control. He was not mean or hateful, did not talk back, and made everyone laugh. You had to keep a tight hold on him or he would dash across the street. He was more work than my daughter but I never thought of him as particularly rebellious. He didn’t say no, he would just try you out to see what you would do and then when you came after him he’d grin and do what was expected.

His dad and I separated when he was ten, which was a very difficult time for him. I did my best to let him spend as much time with his dad as possible. But even when his dad was home he was not the type of guy to be a disciplinarian, he was Mr. Play-time when he was around. I was the designated disciplinarian and I knew even then that he needed this to be coming from his dad.

When my daughter was sixteen I insisted that she take driver’s education because she was scared to death of driving. I didn’t want to see her dependent on others to get around and I knew if she gave it a try she would be an excellent driver. She was very dependable and level headed, a straight A student, and one of the most responsible people I knew (including most of the adults I knew).

When my son was approaching sixteen he also wanted to take driver’s education and get his driver’s license. He was doing okay in school, mostly B’s and C’s, and he was obeying most of the rules. There were times he had to be corrected but all in all he wasn’t a bad kid. I decided to let him go ahead and get his license. I then let him use my car.

Things turned out way different than when his sister got her driver’s license. He got into that car and he became a different boy. He acted like he had just gotten his own apartment, always had people in the car, and refused to come home on time and sometimes not at all. Being a single mother at this point became oh so much more difficult. I would take away the car and then he would decide he wasn’t going to go to school. If I got him to the school I didn’t know if he was going to stay the day. I didn’t understand what was going on in my son’s head.

He had been diagnosed with borderline Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) when he was in the second grade but had only been on the medicine for a little while and didn’t like it. He had been working on his own to stay focused for many years. Now all of a sudden he tells me that he needs the medicine again. I took him to the psychiatrist and they started him on medicine, along with something for depression.

The next thing I know he’s asking for extra pills, which we fought about. Then he is buying pills from kids at school. One day I picked him up from school and he was so high on something that I had to take him to the hospital. He was out of control and I didn’t know what to do. He was seventeen at the time. I tried reaching out to his psychiatrist, who told me he was seventeen and was too old for me to be intervening in his care! I tried his school counselor and the secretary told me that the counselor would only meet with the student. I called and e-mailed several times and got no response. I asked the secretary why my son would want to come see the counselor if he was at risk? I called the social worker for the school, she said she would talk to him and did. My son did not think there was anything wrong so why would he express this to her? She said he was very polite and didn’t seem upset and she would keep an eye out for him. Can I say that at this point I felt like screaming? To top it off he had missed so many days that I was getting letters from the school stating that if he missed like two more we were going to have to show up in court for truancy.

I cannot tell you the extent of my emotional state during this time. I did not have anywhere to turn except to the Lord. I am a Christian, and I love the Lord. I was praying through all this and crying out for help from my Lord. I can tell you now that I look back I realize that I did not completely trust the Lord with my son. I was full of fear, paralyzed with it actually. Looking back I realize that God was with me every step of the way and trying to teach me to depend on Him and His wisdom and not get focused on the circumstances. When it’s your child it’s hard to let go and let God but when you finally do (and this is what God is teaching me now) it gets so much easier by His great grace.

God was giving me strength to pray and not give up. So many parents who find themselves in the same situation seem to give up. My ex-husband’s advice was to throw out my son. I could not even consider doing that. I prayed for God’s wisdom and strength and my God helped me each step of the way, one step at a time.

I finally withdrew him from that school and that same day the registrar told me about another school that was near that had only two or three hundred students and helped kids that got behind or wanted to graduate early. The school he was in was supposed to have two thousand kids and actually had almost three thousand. We had to apply to this school and get accepted; we had to have all his records ready in two days. The school he was in said they could not get me the records that quickly. I walked into the counselor’s office and the secretary headed me off, said he wasn’t available. He just happened to be walking around the corner at the time. I told him I needed the records, he said it couldn’t be done. I told him I had tried for months to get into see him and had e-mailed him over twenty times and he had never responded. He told me I should have tried to make an appointment. I told him what his secretary had told me about only seeing the kids. I told him I thought it was time to go to the Superintendant because he was not doing his job. He became instantly quiet and asked me if I could come back in an hour. I did and before I could make it all the way through the door the secretary had her hand out with my son’s papers. I know it was not what I said to the counselor but that I had prayed before going in. God is over all things and is in control when we think it’s impossible.

He got accepted into the other school by God’s great grace. The classes were smaller and the teachers were very interactive with the kids. It was so much better. But to say it was the end of my problems it was not. I continued to pray and cry out to my Lord for my son. I asked for wisdom to know how to talk to my son. I wanted to respond in love not react in my flesh. I knew that getting angry only made things worse, and I know that love covers a multitude of sins. This is not to say that I did not tell him the truth about what he was doing and how I felt in love. Praying desperately for the Lord to love through me because he could make me so angry (mostly hurt which turns to anger).

My son graduated and walked across that stage by God’s grace. He took some time off from school after that but couldn’t keep a job. I never stopped praying and trusting God and I made sure that I kept up with my son’s whereabouts and I kept giving him the truth.

He started college this past summer and he’s enjoying it. He has expressed his thanks to me, his sister, and his grandmother on many occasions for not letting him go. He is not perfect but he has been praying, reading the word of God, and has asked the Lord to forgive him. He is growing up by God’s great grace, and learning to be wise. I know if it wasn’t for the strength of my Lord I would not have been able to be persistent in love. I know that my son would not have been drawn by God’s love and mine if it were not for the Spirit of God working through us.

I don’t know what your beliefs are but what I am trying to say to parents of teens is, don’t give up on them. They need you more than ever. I know that there are circumstances that require them leaving your home sometimes, if they are violent or stealing then you do not have a choice. I chose love, not just my love even though in my heart I do not think I could have loved any greater. I chose God’s love and His strength to guide, encourage, and deliver. God never gives up on us, He sent His Son to die for us. He will never give up on us. I’m counting on His love every day and I know that He is more than able to rescue and deliver my son and lift us up by His mighty right arm.

 

About the Author

Sara Dawkins is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She is a frequent contributor of http://www.nannypro.com/

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