Normalize Your Young Teen's Experiences

Kara Powell | Jan 19, 2012

As I mentioned, I am a fan of Mark Oestreicher’s new book, Understanding Your Young Teen: Practical Wisdom for Parents. Brad Griffin and I were so pleased to be able to contribute a bonus chapter called “See Jane Face New Issues”.

A friend of mine had read this book, and she mentioned to me that her favorite part of the book (besides the chapter I co-authored, of course - hear the sarcasm there please) was Marko’s encouragement to parents (and leaders) to normalize their young teen’s experiences.

I’ll let Marko speak for himself:

Every young teen, at one time or another, feels abnormal. They feel as though they’re physically developing in the wrong way. Or they feel as though they’re the only ones experiencing emotional swings. Or they feel as though their spiritual doubts are aberrant and unique.

Don’t trivialize your child’s experience…Instead, help your young teen realize that his or her experience of change is normal - even good.”

And then Marko tells a story about his daughter that any parent of teenagers, or youth leader, can imagine. While Marko was trying to have a calm conversation with then 13-year-old Liesl, Liesl kept saying that he was “yelling at her”. When she finally calmed down, she said, “I don’t know why I was yelling at you.”

Marko had the chance to explain that her strong emotions are normal at her age. Her feelings of sadness, anger, frustration are all part of her growing emotions.

I’ve heard from multiple parents (and experienced myself with my own kids, who are not yet teenagers) that letting kids know they are normal can often be helpful.

So the next time you see an adolescent acting or saying something that seems “so teenager”, let them know in a kind, non-patronizing voice that they are “normal”.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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