What does it look like to build bounce, or resilience, into our teens? Well, I am still raising my teens and developing my own resilience, so I don’t fully know. However, I am someone who had very little bounce myself as a teen, and who now has a whole lot more than I ever thought possible. And as a mom I’ve been observing what helps my teens bounce back from painful emotions and difficult circumstances, and what does not. In this post I am going to share some insights I am learning.
When my kids were young, I prayed almost nightly that God would mark their lives with joy and peace. I honestly felt deep concern regarding the world they would face as adults, and I knew they would experience challenges, especially as followers of Jesus. But somehow I also knew that if they had God’s joy and His peace, they would be okay. Praying this prayer calmed my own anxieties regarding their futures.
To help my kids develop God’s joy and peace, I endeavored to do what I could so they would know they were never alone, and that God was always glad to be with them. This is joy – that sense that no matter what is going on, there is someone who delights in being with me. As a mom, I aim (imperfectly) to give them this joy when they are with me. But if they are going to be resilient in life, it is even more important that they know (experientially) that God is with them through everything, and that He is glad to be there!
Now I can’t 100% ensure that my teens feel God’s closeness. But my hubby and I intentionally give them opportunities to experience His presence and hear His voice. Throughout our kids’ lives, we have taught them how to talk to Him and listen. We have told stories of when we have experienced the nearness of Christ. And more recently we have spent time every week as a family, each journaling to Jesus about our gratitude and our challenges, and listening for His response. The result is that, at the very least, they have tools and pathways to connect with God and feel His presence, peace, and guidance.
Another thing I feel like God has specifically been teaching me in regard to building resilient teens is how to attune to them with genuine empathy, yet without anxiety. They need to know they are not alone in what they are going through, but to bounce back they also need hope for what they are facing. If I am overwhelmed by their emotions or problems, or worried about their future (which I definitely am at times) – they will feel my worry, and it can tear at their own sense of hope and courage.
Something I greatly appreciate about God is that He is able to completely enter into and care about our emotions, yet He carries no worry or anxiety. He is always able to reassure us that even if life is hard, we will be okay. He reminds us of who we are in Him and builds our confidence.
Seeing how God deals with us in our pain motivates me to grow into a mom who showers my kids with relational engagement, validation for what they are feeling, and hopeful confidence in them and God’s plans for them. And I definitely notice that when I can give my teens this empathy with hope in place of anxiety, they are better able to process through their emotions and challenges and bounce back.
Lastly, helping my kids develop bounce has involved learning to separate myself from their problems. What do I mean by that? Well, I want them to know I am in it with them, no matter what they face. But I must remember that their journey is not my journey. Sometimes I get entangled in their problems in an unhealthy way. Again, this usually goes back to my own anxiety, either because it is triggering my past pains, or because I feel an unhealthy burden to ensure their life is free from pain.
The truth is that my job is not to manipulate life’s circumstances so they don’t ever experience pain. I must reconcile myself to the fact that they will mess up, they will be hurt, they will hit big roadblocks and not know what to do. I can’t rescue them from this. But what I can do is equip them with how to face these challenges, find their own solutions as they grow into adulthood (with the help of Jesus and others) and develop a humble confidence in their ability to do so.
If you are reading this and some of these tips feel difficult or beyond you, first let me reassure you that you are not alone. I myself am very much still learning. But I also want to encourage you that we can grow and learn! There is no science to helping our kids build bounce – I think rather it is an art we learn as we develop our relational skills and grow closer to God ourselves. This is the beauty of relational skills – investing in them for ourselves will transform our lives, our relationships, our ability to parent, and in turn our children.
If you are looking for skill resources to guide you as a parent, take a look at these free videos on parenting with the relational skills. If you are newer to the skills, I also recommend checking out our resources for Skill 0 (Relational Circuits) found here. If you are more familiar with the skills, a great investment would be to dive into our Online Habit Builder Courses found here, where you can intentionally work on developing your relational skills into habits that will overflow into your parenting.