An Open Letter to Teens

Youth workers hear many stories. 

From both sides. As the wife of a youth minister, I've spent more than a few hours (these conversations usually occur after midnight) listening to teenagers pour out their anger, frustration, and hurt. And my husband has counseled many a desperate parent long after "office hours," trying to help him make sense of his child's behavior.

While I may be inspired one day to write an open letter to parents, this one's for the kids:

Dear _______________(insert your name here),

I've listened to enough Christian parents over the years to know a few things. I hope you'll listen and take this to heart. Any one of the statements below, if considered and applied, could change your relationship with your parents forever. And that's a good thing.

1.  Your parents are not trying to ruin your life. While there are a few who have control issues, most Christian parents love their kids and want the best for them. This is the guiding principle in their decision-making processes.

2.  Your parents aren't stupid. Nor are they out of touch. In fact, they're probably more in touch than you are. They've done some foolish things in their lives. 

They've learned that it's easier to pull someone down than to lift someone up, and bad company does corrupt good morals. They want to spare you the pain of finding this out up close and personal.

They know it's tempting to look at pornography. That's why they monitor your computer usage. They know teens bring alcohol to parties, that's why they insist on knowing who the hosts are, and whether they share the same values as you. They know boyfriends and girlfriends like to make out, and nobody ever thinks "it would go that far."  That's why they ask a lot of embarrassing questions, suggest you hang out in groups, and watch you like a hawk.

If you acknowledge that they're pretty smart and really are looking out for your best interests, you might just learn something.

3.  Your parents have feelings too. When you scream at them, hurl insults, slam doors, and call them names, it hurts. A lot. Sometimes it takes every ounce of self-control not to respond the same way. Once and a while their self-control slips, and they hurt you back. Usually they take the high road, be the grown up, and cry in private. Late at night when you can't see.

4.  They don't know everything. And sometimes they get it wrong. More often than not, though, they get it right. You should have realized this by now. Any bookie in town would tell you to bet on your parents' advice, because they're right more often than they're wrong. Simple odds. What makes you think otherwise?

5.  When you fall on your face, it really does hurt them more than it hurts you. Christian parents dedicate their lives to helping their children grow into healthy, happy, God-loving adults. When you make choices that are contrary, their hearts are sad. If they could turn you into a robot and program you to make all the right choices, they'd be tempted to do it, but it wouldn't mean as much. You've got to own it, whether it's a physical choice like putting good food into your body or a spiritual one like asking Christ to be your Savior.

6.  You can bring great joy into your parents' lives. "I have no greater joy," scripture eloquently says, "than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3 John 1:4). Parents hope their children do well in school, get great scholarships and jobs, and marry well, but more than anything on earth, they want you to love God. And it's for completely unselfish reasons. They know that in God's presence, there is fullness of joy, and they don't want you to miss a moment of that.

So the next time you're tempted to say something mean, disregard their advice, or suspect their motives, think again. There's only one other Person who has laid down his life for your sake, and you can bet He's been talking to them on  your behalf.

How about you? If you were to write an open letter to teens, what would you say? Leave a comment below and join the conversation. If you're reading by email, click here to comment.

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  3. lorihatcher9:46 PM

    Thanks, Dawn, for your encouragement and your share :)

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  10. This is wonderful, Lori! I am a pastor's wife too, and so I can totally relate. What would I add. You covered everything so well, but I suppose I would say that it's not that your parents don't trust you. It's your experience and judgment that they don't trust. Because you are young and haven't developed a lot of it yet, so you can get yourself into a situation that can be difficult and you don't have the experience/judgment yet to AVOID getting into it or to get out of it once you're in it.

    So when they set boundaries it's to protect you from getting yourself into those kinds of difficulties. Again, it's your inexperience they don't trust, not YOU.

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  22. lorihatcher7:00 PM

    Excellent point, Nan, I love " It's your experience and judgment that they don't trust." You hit the nail on the head. Wise woman you are!

  23. lorihatcher7:01 PM

    I've actually gone back and apologized to my mom several times for events or actions or attitudes I had as a selfish, self-centered, unsaved teenager. My how our perspectives change with age and wisdom! Thanks for stopping by today :)

  24. I sure regret the way I treated my parents! My kids are on a pretty good track so far. Every one of them treats me with kindness and respect...hope that lasts!

  25. Mary @ Redo 1017:43 AM

    This is so right on the money! It's frustrating when you've learned the hard way and want to spare your kids going through that. But it seems throughout history, each generation has to learn the hard way. Thanks for this encouraging post.


  26. Sophia3:28 PM

    This was terribly cheesy, poorly written, and just cringe worthy. Typical.

  27. This is such a great post. It is totally where we are at right now with out daughter - trying to convince her that we are FOR her and not against her. That we really aren't stupid and that we really just want God's best for her. Thanks for sharing.

  28. lorihatcher4:27 PM

    What will speak loudest in your favor will be the unquestioning fact of your love for her. While our motives are sometimes suspect, our hearts for our kids can never be questioned. Press on in faith, dear friend!

  29. I have gone back and asked forgiveness of my parents too. Thanks for linking up with me at WholeHearted Home this week.