Slightly timid, yet eager to embrace this next phase of her life our 7th grade daughter, Aubrie, began her youth group experience. Instead of being warmly welcomed by the female members, she was ignored. I don't know what's more painful--being rejected or not even being noticed. She was just twelve years old when she was introduced to the cruel world of adolescence and life, in general.
That night at home as I listened to Aubrie’s siblings playing without a care in another room, I flipped through the pages of my old junior high yearbook, remembering how awkward and misplaced I had often felt during those years. I hadn’t looked as mature as other girls in my class. My clothes weren’t as stylish as theirs. I didn’t fit in with the girls that “mattered”. As I reflected on my own memories, I imagined what my sweet, fresh-faced daughter might be encountering and I wept. I didn’t want her to hurt as I had back then.
Later that night when my husband brought her home, it was evident the evening hadn’t gone as she (and I) had hoped. That night my husband and I began to learn to walk the tightrope between providing the compassion our children needed but doing so without allowing them to feel like helpless victims. We would walk this tightrope many times over the next several years with all four of our children.
While we are far from being perfect parents, I will share some things, by God’s grace, we did right in this area. One of the first things we did was to provide a safe environment where our children could share their pain. They often needed time to cry and to be affirmed by our physical touch. We listened and sympathized with them. We did our best to assure them of our love for them and told them how precious they were to us and to God.
While we allowed time for tears, we knew it would be easy for sadness to turn into self-pity if they carried on too long. The type of treatment that adolescence often inflicts is unpleasant, but unfortunately it is not uncommon and we did our best to steer them away from the victim-mentality mindset. We encouraged them to continue on by reminding them that Christ, too, faced rejection on many occasions and as His followers, we will, too. We also told our children that since they knew how awful it felt to be left out, they needed to be on the lookout for others who might also be feeling rejected and make them feel welcome. And on occasion, my husband had to gently remind me when my own emotions got out of control. It’s all too easy for us moms to hold a grudge and make an enemy of that child who has hurt our own flesh and blood.
Adolescence allows our children to become acclimated to the adult world while living in the security of a loving home environment. It isn’t a time to fear, but it is a time to reassure your up-and-coming adult of their worth—in your eyes and in the eyes of a loving Creator who loving designed them uniquely as they are.
It’s good to remember the words of James 1:2-4 as we and our children face challenging circumstances:
Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.