I once read that the teenage years can be likened to the toddler years. Both stages of life are a time of significant developmental change. Toddlers and teens alike experience significant body and mind development that can have them behaving in ways you have never seen. Just as they are figuring out who they are, we, as parents, struggle to understand the child we once thought we knew inside out.
But the thing is, that is what they need from us most of all; to understand. The way we interact with our young children, the words we use, the intonation in our voice and even our body language can have a huge impact on whether they will feel comfortable talking to us about the big issues they will inevitably face as teens. If we are not empathetic and understanding to the ‘little things’ they face in their early years (which are actually big things to them) then the chances are they will have a hard time opening up about the big things when they grow.
Imagine if your son came home from school after spending the day coping with peers calling him names and throwing his back pack on the toilet block roof. Imagine then if he were to say nothing to you about it but instead went straight to his room. Would you want to have the opportunity to talk to him about it? How about if your daughter was struggling with her peers pressuring her to take drugs, would you want to know? If your daughter fell pregnant and was frightened about the huge choices she would soon be making, would you want her to be able to come to you for help? If she chose to abort the child, I know you’d want to know about that!
Responding to these questions is confronting and uncomfortable.
We would all like to pray and hope that our children will never find themselves in these situations but we would be naive to think that our children are completely immune from the perils of adolescence.
I’ve been a secondary school teacher for more than a decade now. I have taught in schools on both sides of the world and at both ends of the economic spectrum. In my time as a health and physical education teacher I have been privileged to teach, mentor and guide students through their teen years in many differing ways and in a number of roles.
Of course, teaching these students was my primary role and I really enjoy that aspect of my job, but what if I told you that each of the students in the scenarios above chose not to talk to their parents? What if I told you that in each of the cases, the only person they felt they could talk to was me – their teacher?