A few weeks ago, a friend’s daughter turned 13, and she asked a few women, including myself, to write letters to her daughter about how to navigate the teenage years.
Because let’s be honest about something here – being a teenager in today’s world is HARD. And being a parent to a teenager in today’s world is hard as well. Both parent and teenager have to do some serious growing up together! The very words I hear myself saying to my teenager daughters are the very things I need to work on and put into practice myself – words like, “Watch your tone. Be kind to your family members. Being tired isn’t an excuse for being rude. Be careful what you watch. How much screen time do you really need? What looks like rejection is God’s protection. Root your identity in Christ alone. Loneliness is God’s good way of growing you into the person He wants you to be.”
So with my friend’s permission, I thought I would share with you the same words of encouragement I shared with her daughter. Because let’s face it: if you have a teenager in the house, any and all encouragement and perspective is always needed and appreciated!
“Happy 13th Birthday!
It has been such a joy to watch you grow up into a beautiful young woman over the past few years. I have seen you grow in confidence, peace, grace, and joy, and the wonderful thing is, I know your journey is just beginning.
Your parents have laid an amazing foundation for you the first 13 years of your life, a foundation that is built on the Gospel and relationship with Jesus Christ. And while your parents have done such an excellent job of laying that foundation and showing you what a life lived for Christ looks like, turning 13 is really the age where you begin to build on that foundation for yourself. This is when you really begin to walk out and learn how to live a life fully surrendered to the goodness and grace of God.
So here is my advice to you: while the teenage years are hard, they also have the potential for incredible growth and reward.
The teenage years are hard because it is incredibly tempting to base your worth, acceptance, joy, and peace on your grades, your friends’ acceptance of you, your looks, your clothes, and how well you fit into the culture around you. All of a sudden, it’s not your parents making these important identity choices for you – it’s you learning how to make them.
But the teenage years also have the potential for incredible reward and growth. As you begin to learn how to read and apply God’s Word to your life for yourself, as you begin to make good and right choices out of your own personal convictions and love for Christ, as you begin to spend time with Him not just because you have to but because you want to, you are going to begin to grow in exponential ways. The more time you spend loving Jesus, loving His Word, understanding who you are and understanding who He is, understanding you are loved with a love that will never let you go, you will begin to grow more and more into the person He has created you to be. And while that process of growth is hard, it is also so much fun.
The verse I kept in front of me all throughout high school and one that comes to my mind for you today is Proverbs 4:23: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
While it is so easy to give your heart, your sense of love, approval, and acceptance, to friends, to teachers and grades, to sports, and even to boys, the only One who is safe to give your heart to is Jesus. As you love Him first, trusting His commands, doing what He asks you to do, even when it’s hard, your heart will be a beautiful, safe, secure space for His beauty, glory, grace, goodness, joy, and peace to dwell and then to flow out into the lives of everyone else around you.
And when you find yourself giving your heart away to other people or other things, restored relationship with Him is as close as repentance. He is always right there, ready to scoop you up in His arms, cleanse the hurt and yuck away from your heart, and put your feet back on the solid ground of relationship with Him. Repentance is always your way forward with Jesus; never forget He stands ready and waiting to love, restore, gather you in, and heal your heart. As you receive His grace, He will use you to pour that grace and love out onto other people around you.
My prayer for you today is the same one I pray for my daughters: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). May you always seek the kingdom of God before seeking anything else, trusting God will make you into a woman after His own heart, who will fulfill all the purposes He has for you in your generation (Acts 13:22, 36).
It is a privilege to know you, to celebrate your life, and to cheer you on in the future.”
Are there any words from this letter you need to take to encourage your teenager today? Any words you need to remind yourself of as you run the race of coach and encourager beside them? If so, write them down, put them in a place you will see them often, or write them in your own letter to your teenager.
These years are hard years, but they are also good years – years where incredible growth is possible as our teens put their roots down deep into God’s promises, presence, community and word.
Summer is a great time to get your teenager in the habit of reading, praying, and thinking about God’s Word before they do anything else. For resources to help your kids get into the Word, click here.