Being a parent of teenagers is easy. Said no parent EVER.
Over Christmas break my mother and I had a long chat about raising teenagers, and I almost convinced her that raising teenagers in today’s world is at least 100X harder than when she raised me.
She almost believed me, but I’m still convinced it’s true.
I know teenagers have always been boundary-pushers, experimenters, and even rebels. But something seems magnified with today’s social media-saturated culture and the alarming rate of young people experiencing mental health issues. (Which some of my own kids have dealt with.)
Studies say that it’s harder to be a teenager nowadays than when we were young, which means it must certainly be harder to be a parent of teenagers.
What I’ve struggled with as a parent of five teen and young adult kids is the seemingly constant presence of fear and heartache that lurks in the dark shadows somewhere between my head and heart.
• Sometimes the heartache comes from feeling an ever-increasing distance from them but still yearning for close connection.
• Sometimes the fear comes from feeling helpless and worried about the world they’re entering and the choices they’re making and wanting to protect them and guide their path.
• Sometimes the heartache comes from seeing them be rejected by peers despite a desperate desire to belong.
• Sometimes it’s the fear of not knowing if their stress and emotions are normal—or if something deeper and darker is happening that I need to get them professional help for.
And if I’m honest, sometimes I feel so completely overwhelmed with it all that I simply can’t imagine how I’ll survive another year of raising teenagers.
I was feeling this way earlier this week when I went to the grocery store to stock up after my kids convinced me we had NOTHING to eat and weren’t buying my excuse that I was simply trying to instill some creative food-foraging skills.
Under this pressure from my angsty offspring, I jetted off to the grocery store, forgetting that this time warp between Christmas and back-to-school meant I was venturing out into public wearing pajama pants and going on day 4 of no shower.
Of course this guaranteed I’d run into someone I knew. When I saw the familiar face of a friend of mine who I’d known since our kiddos were in pee-wee soccer together, I considered ducking and running away to avoid being seen.
But it was too late.
And right there in the cereal aisle, we caught up on our lives and our kids’ lives in a heartfelt conversation about our joys, our heartaches, and our fears. Standing cart-to-cart, wiping tears and sharing photos on our phone, I realized I’d been holding onto these feelings all alone for too long. (And it was getting really weird with all of the grocery shoppers trying to reach around us for their Cheerios.)
“Let’s go get coffee and pray for our kids,” she suggested.
Never one to turn down an excuse for lingering at Starbucks, I agreed and we headed out on what I discovered was truly a mama mission.
I learned that she was a true prayer warrior—someone who didn’t just fit prayer into her day when it was convenient or urgent—but rather someone who fit the day in around her prayer.
As we huddled over our coffee, we took turns praying and interceding on behalf of own kids, and for each other’s kids. Words tumbled from my heart that I hadn’t even known how to articulate before this moment. And a feeling of peace and the presence of the Holy Spirit slowly seeped into my soul.
It’s comforting to know that wherever we are gathered and praying, Jesus is in our midst: “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)
An hour later I was pulling into my driveway, and instead of worry, I felt a deep sense of empowerment and connection. I realized God was present with my kids—and also present with me—and somehow in my time of prayer, the distance between all of us was erased.
And I also knew I was still able to do one of the most important jobs a parent can ever do for their kids, which is cover them in prayer.
Gone were the days of bedtime prayers together as I tucked their little bodies into bed, but my yearning to nurture them and cover them in my love and God’s embrace could continue through a mother’s prayers.
And they would never outgrow the need.
Digging Deeper: Questions for Devotion and Reflection
One of the most active roles a parent can continue to play in their children’s lives no matter who old they are is through prayer. Regardless of the distance of years or miles, our love—and God’s love—endures forever. Continuing to place our kids before God and His will is a powerful way to remember that we’re not alone and neither are our kids.
Read and reflect on the following Bible verses:
- “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11
- “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27
It’s easy to get into a rut by turning to God with a laundry list of requests to present in prayer. (Especially when we’re concerned about a certain situation with our kids.) As our kids’ lives get more independent and distant from our own, it can be tough to sometimes even know what specifically to pray for.
Consider this: Cover your kids in prayer by entering into a conversation and asking the Holy Spirit to intercede on your behalf to reach for words unformed and for needs unknown—simply seeking God’s will and presence for your kids. Trust in the greatness of His love for them, and for His plan and purpose to unfold in their life.
Prayer prompt: “Heavenly Father, today I’m bringing my child to you whom you love with a greatness even beyond my comprehension. I’m standing in the gap on their behalf—asking for your presence to be known, your love to be felt, and your will to be done in their life. I invite the Holy Spirit to intercede in my silence and petition for needs I may not know, but that I offer to you in accordance of your will.”
Up for a Challenge? Reach out to other parents who are in the same season of life and initiate an invitation to pray together. Perhaps it might be a one-time gathering to cover your kids in prayer as they head off at the beginning of each semester, or perhaps it will become a consistent occurrence to come together on behalf of your kids. Regardless, you’ll be making an impact on their life through prayer, and you’ll remember that you are not alone in this!
Kami Gilmour is the mom of five teen and young adult kids. She and her husband, Tim, are enjoying their new role as empty nesters and replacing the chaos of kids by adopting rescue dogs. Kami is the parent champion and a mission trip leader for Group Mission trips, and she’s also the author of a best-selling devotional book for parents that chronicles her imperfect journey of parenting in this season of letting go: Release My Grip: Hope for a Parent’s Heart as Kids Leave the Nest and Learn to Fly.