I know many of you are on the verge of the teen years with your children. Some of you have already started the rocky journey. And maybe even for a few, you have survived "teen-hood" with very little causality. Regardless of where you are, I want this article to stand as a reminder that your role, however difficult, is valued.
And for the parents that are struggling with a prodigal teen, as many of you probably are, what I am about to write might be hard for you to read and even harder to accept. From working with teenagers and being a prodigal teen myself, I can, with much certainty, tell you that you need to let yourselves off the hook and stop taking the entire blame for your teenager's rebellion.
The letter is written from the perspective of a prodigal teen
Dear Mom and Dad,
I need you to remember three things:
1. I made a choice, not you
I'm sure you wonder how that could be. Every day, you were at home when I got off the school bus with a smile and a healthy snack. You read books to me at night and said my bedtime prayers with me. At every school sporting event, you were there, proudly chasing me around with the camcorder. Our home provided security and created happy memories. Yet, when you weren't around, I made choices that hurt you and me. Please understand it has nothing to do with you and is no reflection of your success as my parent. I am sure this is difficult to accept, but regardless of how great a parent you have been to me, I still must make decisions for myself. Sometimes, I choose wrong. It's part of growing up.
2. Your faith can't be my faith
Every Sunday, you held my hand and lead me to Sunday school. At every meal, we prayed, thanking God for the bounty in front of us. John 3:16 was a staple scripture in our home. I was so young and still learning. But you were strong in your faith and your love for God shined brightly. Yet, as I grew older, I started to waver in my walk. You tried so hard to bring me back into the fold. You rarely left your knees during those rebellious times for me, still I went into the world. I know you want me to come back to God, but I must first know who God is to me. My relationship with God must be personal. Your faith won't save me. Please keep praying for me. That is all you can do.
3. Sometimes to love me, you must let me fall
I know you want to fix everything in life that goes wrong for me. You don't want to see me suffer any more than I have to. There is a fine line between enabling and loving. When you constantly "save" me from myself, you aren't really helping me grow up. I'm sure that when I get in trouble, it's embarrassing to you and all you want to do is sweep it under the rug, to forget the transgression and move on. I don't learn my lesson; I learn how to make excuses. Please tell me "no" and let me figure out life on my own. I might say hurtful things like "you just don't care about me" or "if you loved me" but trust me when I say; I am immature and trying to avoid the consequence that my choices brought upon me. Until you allow me to fall and reap the consequence, I will always see myself as the victim.
Mom and Dad, please stop obsessing about what you could have done differently. There are many roads you could have taken in your parenting journey, none promising a different result.
Please keep loving me and continue praying for the day I return.
The Prodigal Teen