Word of Hope: Dear Parents of Teens

When my daughter Natalya turned fourteen, our relationship didn’t feel the same. I felt like she didn’t want to connect, and I wanted to blame her. I read books about teens. I tried to give her autonomy and space. I spoke with other parents, “All teenagers go through this kind of phase.” I was not too fond of the answer because I know not all teenagers go through rebellion. I knew teenagers with an even deeper and more meaningful bond with parents during their teen years. Plus, I don’t love ultimatum answers where love is described as impossible and life something you must weather. Yet, everything I tried seemed to be leading to the same unsatisfactory result — I was frustrating her, and I didn’t understand why.

Finally, I asked my Dad to come and watch my parenting. I asked him to observe what patterns he recognized. He came over and sat on our couch. He would read or close his eyes, sometimes he would nap, but mostly he would listen. He listened to life in the Ferch home.

After three days, we met. “Jennifer,” he said, “I have watched you for three days, and you are a remarkable parent; you serve and love your family so well. And what I want you to know immediately is you and Natalya do not have a ‘love’ problem. It is so clear she loves you so much, and you love her so much. Your trouble is not a lack of love.” 

I burst into tears hearing this and didn’t quite understand why. I reflected later, and I feared my daughter was losing her love for me, and this fear clouded my wisdom and discernment. One of my favorite verses from Psalm 37 says, “Do not fret; it leads only to evil.” 

Then my Dad said, “You care about your daughter and want her to have a meaningful experience in your home, but I can see where you are struggling. I want you to close your eyes and listen to these words, ‘Did you pack your backpack for tomorrow? Make sure you have your number 2 pencils sharpened. Have you written the thank you notes? You need to make sure you thank the cousins right away’.” He paused and asked, “What do you notice about these sentences?” “They make me feel anxious and pressured; they feel overwhelming.”

Dad showed me my daughter pushed me off because I loaded her shoulders and overwhelmed her. What I assumed was helpful information to keep her from failing or getting behind was submerging her. 

Thanks, Dad, for helping me bring love, not fear, into my home.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” – Psalm 37:5-8