Standing at the crossroads
Throughout our lives we come to important crossroads, times where a choice one way or the other will make a significant difference to the way our lives will turn out. One major crossroads is the age of 12 – 13 years, when young teens are formulating who they are and what they stand for. The book of Proverbs in the Bible is written with the understanding that this age has many temptations: friends who say “come along with us” but have bad intentions; people who mock their parents and turn their backs on the good they were taught; those who despise the wisdom shared with them by older role models and who rush headlong into disaster. (Chapters 1 – 3)
How does one support and guide a young teen through these difficult years? Here are a few crossroads thoughts that have given me some direction.
- Jesus or me? Demonstrate and live out a close and meaningful relationship with Jesus so that they can see first and foremost that the greatest meaning and purpose anyone can have in life is to have Jesus in your heart and to live for Him. Every other purpose will disappear when you die, but your life in Jesus will continue long after you die.
- Others or me?
It’s important to bear in mind that self-focus is a sign of immaturity and does not bring about satisfaction or long-term purpose and meaning in life. Whilst our whole society teaches us to be self-focussed, this sadly does not lead to the contentment it promises. Contentment comes when we become other-focussed. An example in our own family is that I decided to take my daughter on a missions’ trip to support some missionaries in a neighbouring country instead of us going on a traditional “we need a holiday” holiday. We had a most fabulous rest and did indeed have a holiday, but more than that, she learnt that life is not only about ourselves but about meeting the needs of others as God leads us.
(References: Erik Erikson’s psychosocial developmental stages)
- Purpose or apathy? Help them to work out their identity – how did God make me and what talents and gifts, interests and abilities did He give me? Help them to discover purpose by encouraging their involvement in youth and church activities, community activities clubs or sport (see point 5 below).
- Intact or broken?
Avoid these relationship breakers (Mark Gregston www.heartlightministries.org ) if you want to survive the turbulent years. Continue to be available and engaging.
#1 Demanding perfection
#2: Having a judgmental attitude
#3: The need to control
#4: Constant negativity
- Suffocating control or maturing responsibility?
Shift gear – move from control to coaching, give more responsibilities, ask for decisions and participation and be prepared for some failed efforts and imperfect attempts.
- Dopamine or serotonin?
This fascinating article clearly outlines what actually happens in the brain when you either
- Become a screen-o-holic, passively sitting on a chair all day vs
- Being involved in purposeful, meaningful and other-directed activities (see point 2 above).
- Emotionally immature or growing in maturity?
Don’t forget to have conversations and talk about feelings with busy teens – they need to develop holistically and will need to cultivate the art of expressing and processing their emotions in a healthy way. This requires responsiveness to when they are open to talking, availability, peacefulness, an accepting attitude and a respectful approach.
Wisdom is required when facing such an important crossroads, and God offers for us to ask for wisdom if we lack it (James 1:5). Prayer is required if we are to use Godly wisdom with our teens.