By Michelle Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
As a mother of a fourteen-year-old and a twelve –year-old, my role as their mother is changing. No longer am I the main person to speak into their lives. They now tell their friends more about what is new in their lives than what they tell me. They want to spend more time with their friends and less time with me. This is tough on me as I’m struggling to figure out my role in their lives. But there are still ways I can have a presence in their lives without being the main voice.
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1. Spend Time with Them
Although my kids might say they don’t want me hanging around, they still need me. One of the best ways I love my kids is I choose to do something special with just them a few times a year. I don’t have a lot of time with them as they are just a few years from going off to college, so I want to make the most of the time I do have. I want to know them, so I ask them what they want to do, and then bask in the joy of watching them enjoy themselves.
From going to a movie to playing laser tag, some of my favorite memories are of my kids’ laughter as they play or enjoy doing what they love. The smiles on their faces (which came more frequently then) are in much less supply now. I want to do what I can to put those smiles back on their faces. I can’t always afford to go on a lavish excursion all the time, but even a trip to the donut shop or to the store to pick out what they like means I can make memories with even the most simple of ideas.
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2. Pray for Them
One of the best weapons I have to thwart the enemy’s schemes against my kids is prayer. It is hard to be mad at a parent when your kids witness you on your knees interceding to the Lord on their behalf. They may not express their gratitude right then, but they will look back on seeing your dedication to prayer as something they want to emulate in their lives—especially if they want to be a good example to their own kids in the future.
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3. Pray with Them
Not only can I pray for them in my quiet time, but I can also pray with them. For many years, my kids prayed simplistic prayers at the dinner table. Finally, at age eleven, “help me have a good day at school,” wasn’t cutting it. We used those prayers as a teaching tool to go to their next level in their communication with the Lord. My husband and I taught them to apologize to God, to thank God, and ask God for one thing.
They don’t always go as deep as they could in their prayers, but they have demonstrated maturity in their prayer life. Now, “help me have a good day,” has been replaced with, “comfort those who were affected by the hurricane,” and “help Dad deliver a good sermon on Sunday.” When kids learn to shift their prayers from self-centered ones to others-centered ones, they learn Christianity is not about them, but what God can do through them.
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4. Write a Note
A note of encouragement goes a long way—especially when it is handwritten. In a day and age when most communication happens via text or email, going the extra mile to put pen to paper will mean more to your kids. I have often found saved birthday cards and other notes my son saved from me because I wrote a word of encouragement to him. Words have power. If I spend my time speaking life into my kids rather than negative words, I consider that time well spent.
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5. Give Often
When speaking about God, one of the most well-known verses is in relation to God’s relationship with His son—John 3:16. What did God do for the world? He gave.
My role has changed from loving guide and helper to a moving ATM. Often my kids extend their hands, asking me for money. Some of their requests are valid, but some of them are wants rather than needs. Sometimes giving money is the best choice. However, sometimes I need to give more than that. I need to give wisdom, advice, support, etc. depending on the type of situation. I can’t simply dole out money in an attempt to buy my kids’ affections; I have to be a parent, knowing the right thing to give in each situation.
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6. Listen Freely
When my kids were younger, my main role was to protect them and teach them how to function in the world. I taught them how to recognize letters and numbers, how to read, etc. But that involved me telling them what to do. Now that they are older, I need to zip my lips and open my ears.
Instead of reacting in anger or fear over a hard conversation, I need to listen to them openly. At this stage, they don’t always want me to fix, but rather hear. Of course there will be times when I need to guide them from making a bad decision, but at this stage, the responsibility of decision making (whether good or bad) lies squarely on their shoulders.
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7. Increase Their Boundaries
Currently the fight in my house is increasing bedtimes. My son doesn’t think he needs to go to bed as early; I think he needs his rest because he is growing. I could choose to be a parental tyrant and keep the bedtime the same, or I could trust my son’s judgment and increase his bedtime.
Having said this, I’d be foolish to accept all of my son’s judgments all the time. If my son had it his way, he’d sit in front of the computer screen, eating cereal and playing video games. Although he is still a child, he is developing into a young man. I need to respect his ability to make decisions for himself, rather than relying on me to make them for him. If I trust him with making better choices now, it may lead to an increased relationship later.
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8. Resist the Temptation to be Liked
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” This seems counterintuitive given that every parent wants their kids to continue having a close relationship with them as they age. It is my responsibility to be a parent, not a best friend. Although the temptation to relinquish this training in favor of being liked increases with each passing day, to preserve my role in my kids’ lives as a wise advocate for their wellbeing. I have to do what’s right, rather than what is popular.
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9. Engage in Missions Together
Last year, my son and husband participated in a mission trip in Cleveland Ohio with our church to help rebuild an area for refugees. Together they weeded and planted a garden, rehabilitated a dilapidated home and turned it into a safe house. My husband said one of the best moments was watching his son step in without prompting and help others in need. Their relationship changed as a result of that trip. Their bond deepened and their relationship with God grew as well. When taken out of their normal routine and placed in an environment requiring them to use their gifts of mercy and help, they became closer as a result.
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10. Teach (and Practice) Spiritual Disciplines
For most of my Christian life, the answer to every problem was, “read your bible and pray more.” Most Christians believed if I did more, God would do more. But that’s not how Christianity works. God longs for our presence, not just our behaviors. If they are engaging in behaviors to get close to Him, that is one thing. However, if they are doing them to get God to do what they want Him to do, it won’t work.
Spiritual disciplines are ways in which we connect with God. Most of these disciplines involve dying to self rather than viewing God as a genie in a bottle. Fasting, silence, and solitude are three ways we can get close to God in addition to reading the word and praying. When kids understand who God is in a way that requires them to die to themselves, his/her relationship with you will strengthen, because I as a parent am the physical example of God as their parent. The more I teach them how to get close to him, the more they will want to get close to me, too.
Watching kids grow up is far from easy. At times it can be downright gut-wrenching. But because my role in their lives is changing doesn’t mean it is over. If I can shift my role from teacher and matriarch to guide and listener, I can enjoy this new chapter as much as when they were young.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year and the Enduring Light Silver Medal, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Her first book with Leafwood Publishers, An Invitation to the Table, came out September 2016. She also teaches at various writers' workshops, such as the Montrose Christian Writers conference. She and her husband live in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, with their two children, Caleb and Leah. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.
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