When You’re Really Not Being Helpful to Your Teen, and How to Fix It

I’m so pleased to introduce you to brand new blogger, and veteran nonbio mom, LuAnn Kern. She’s currently in the middle of teenage messes with her two adoptive daughters. She writes clear and practical truths we can all employ. You’ll be encouraged by her words today. Head on over and check out her blog where she’s shares empowering insights.


I did it again.

My teenage daughter had been complaining for weeks, about some kids in her science class teasing her.

“Why do they have to keep mentioning that I’m adopted? That I’m from Guatemala? Why do they have to keep telling me I’m short? I know I’m short! I’m just sick of it.”

Cue the heart break.

I asked her if she wanted me to step in, talk to the principal. She said no, she’d manage, the school year was almost over. I promised I’d stay out of it; told her I’d pray for her.

But there’s only so much a mama can take,

… seeing her girl in anguish every night. Seeing how this treatment was weighing down on her spirit, was weighing down on mine.

May 29 LuAnn Kern

But I didn’t take it to God. Instead I took it to the principal.

Hit SEND.

He was quick to respond, said he’d talk with the other students. Offered to let her switch classes. I told him we’d get back to him.

Then I had to ‘fess up to my daughter.

“Mother, what did you DO?”

She handled it well, listened to my excuses, my explanations. Only said, “May I go to my room now.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised by such a mature, measured response from her. She may have trouble forgiving her classmates, but she can forgive me. Ah, the grace of a 14-year-old.

I haven’t mentioned it since. Neither has she. I know she’s trying to be independent; always has been. She wants to handle these types of things, but it can be so hard for a middle schooler. Just as hard for a loving mom to not step in and solve her problems. Maybe this is why adolescence is such a tough time for teens and parents. They’re trying to cast their own identity, apart from us.

And we’re needing to recast our identity,

… away from being a problem-solver and toward being a sounding board and a life coach.

We didn’t change her schedule. She still comes home frustrated. Some days are worse than others. She’s learning to navigate her way through it. I’m learning to listen better. To empathize more. To ask “what are you going to do?” instead of suggesting telling her what to do.

And I’m learning to pray harder for her.

Because, after all, isn’t that the best thing we can do for our teens?

May 29 I'm learning to pray harder.

When it comes to parenting our teens, let us rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12.12)


20170529 LuAnn KernLuAnn Kern is a writer and mother raising two teenage daughters who were both born in Guatemala. She knows first-hand that when adolescence hits an adopted child, it hits hard. In addition to a changing body and evolving emotions, adopted teens are searching for independence from not one but two sets of parents. To help share what God’s teaching her and her husband, she hosts the blog Ripples and Rip Tides: Raising Your Adopted Teen.

An Unexpected Thanksgiving Lesson

After only nine months of life as a new family, we buckled our six-, eight-, and almost nine-year-olds into the backseat of our two-door Honda Accord and traveled an entire day from central Minnesota to southern Illinois for our first Thanksgiving together. Settling in with snack buckets, water bottles, tiny toys, and each other, they rode (mostly) happily for hours.

A few days later, in a large room of a cousin’s heating and cooling warehouse, 30-40 of us feasted on all the traditional yumminess: turkey, dressing, and pies—the works—made only the way those Illinois farm moms know how. During our visit, our kids got to run through open spaces, visit ostriches, and be pampered by a host of loving Christian people.

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Yet on our way home, when we asked them what they most enjoyed of our Thanksgiving time, they responded, “Playing with Christopher’s toys.”

What? They didn’t mention the food? (They were often caught secreting a stash under pillows or in pockets, or stuffing their bellies so full they would throw up.) They didn’t recall those six-foot-plus-tall birds that puffed up huge when threatened? Nope. And, they didn’t say a thing about the rural setting, which also surprised us since two of the three had lived their early years in a similar environment. It wasn’t too surprising they didn’t say the people since there were none their age to play with. But Christopher was 17-months-old, and they liked his toys the best of everything they had experienced the past few days.

As they tried to explain their answer I began to realize, playing with bright-colored, noise-making, light-flashing, toddler-sized objects, was a part of childhood they never experienced. That first Thanksgiving for them was not about the food or the people or the historical significance. It was about catching up and filling in some empty places. And you know, this never happened again. It was like that one time, for those few hours, was all they needed.

Now I wouldn’t say that all kids need time in life to play with bright, flashing, annoyingly noisy toys. I do believe, though, they need to learn cause-and-effect and experience other brain-developing milestones that toys can often stimulate. I remember our adoption agent telling us we may need to spend time rocking our kids (which we did) or bottle-feeding them (which we didn’t) in order to make up for the lack of development such activities provide.

So, if your kids seem to take interest in activities more suited for younger children, don’t worry. They probably need to do so and their interest will probably be short-lived.

But what about us moms? What areas of development are we lacking? When do our responses reveal we’re not as mature as we thought? Where do we need to give ourselves grace to go back so we can fill in the empty places?

Are you like me where the two-year-old tantrums re-emerged and you realize you never fully learned to share or to be okay with not getting your way? How about the adolescent pity-party tendencies? Or the foot-stomping when things get stuck and don’t move along as smoothly as you’d like. Yep, that was certainly me. Still is at times.

I think it’s okay—even necessary—to allow ourselves to go back and relearn some lessons we “should have” mastered by now. Aren’t you glad our heavenly Father is patient with us? I think He’d rather we be intentional about growth than have us ignore our weaknesses and deny our need to revisit some lessons. We can’t fake maturity around Him; so we might as well quit trying to kid ourselves.

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What if we got really honest, embraced our lack, opened our spirits to learn, and started pushing bright buttons and enjoying the simple tunes our hearts need to hear?

Like . . .

Rejoice in the Lord always.
Philippians 4:4

Be anxious for nothing.
Philippians 4:6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5

In everything give thanks.
1 Thessalonians 5:18