Stop Yelling at Me!!

Does this conversation, in even the slightest way, sound familiar to you?

Mom: “Don’t forget to clean up your dishes.”

Teen: “I will, in a minute.”

Mom: “I need it done before any FB, texting or video games, please.”

Teen: “I said I will do it! Why are you always yelling at me?”

Yelling? Who was yelling? That’s my normal tone, my inside voice…I promise.

So, was I yelling or was my teen just exaggerating? Would you believe me if I told you that neither were true?

During this season of a teen’s life, parents’ voices actually sound different to a teenager. No kidding! I mean it, they literally hear the voice of their parents differently. That’s why the, “your always yelling at me” can actually be a real perception of how they process our words–especially the mother’s voice as it registers in their brains louder and higher pitched than in childhood. If your the mom, that’s kind of a bummer, right?!

So a simple question, “Are you wearing that to school?” (from within their volatility of struggling for identity and adapting to hormonally raging bodies) can be heard as, “Mom thinks I look horrible.” Wait. That’s not even close to I said!

The question is, what are we to do? Take a vow of silence for the next four long years and hope for the best…?

I recently found this article that emphasized what is right about the teenage brain. It highlights that what our teens are experiencing in their brains is actually akin to the toddler years when they were gathering, learning and growing. This season of a teen’s life is packed full of new neuron pathways being strengthened and engaged.

Their frontal cortex–which houses logic and reason is developing through their engagement with risk taking.

Another fascinating article produced by PBS Frontline talks about teens’ amygdala, the part of the brain that houses emotions. They say that this part of the brain is still causing our teens to react rather than rationalize.

Often during the teen years, a teenager’s activity level is increased while their sleeping time is decreased. Yet their brains need between 10-12 hours of sleep a day! Last time they slept that much they were just infants. Mandatory nap time in high schools…? I should think so.

So instead of having a screaming toddler who insists that they are not tired and then we can insist on them laying down for their nap, we now have teens, standing between two worlds with a brain in the process of:

  • screaming for sleep….
  • prone to reacting emotionally…
  • and trying to logically transition into rationalizing….

While this might seem frustrating to us as parents, I believe it is equally frustrating to teens. So what are some practical ways we can communicate with our teens without their hearing our voices as yelling?

  • Lower our voice – Notice your tone and trust the science on this one.
  • Choose our words wisely – What is the main goal at this moment?
  • Use questions as an opportunity for them to choose – Do you want to do the dishes before or after your homework?

AND

  • Risk seeing the image of God in them and honor that they are in process.

Daily, hourly, minute by minute we parents must choose to not let the moment (especially the raging out of control ones) define our relationship. Might our own perspective change from wanting to merely survive these years to instead trying to engage with what God has designed as a part of this season of their journey?

What if we as parents notice what is RIGHT about them being a teenager–including their hearing–and all learn together?

Here’s the thing, I think we can do it.

~ b.

Valuing The Teenage Years

“Jump, the ropes will catch you if you miss the bar.”

I was just taking a moment to realize how far away and painful the ground looks from 50 feet up in the air, especially when standing on a tiny 5 inch wide pole. While I was wearing a harness, the metal bar 6 entire feet away taunted me with the distance between us.

Encouraging words were shouted up to me, but I could hardly hear them because the pounding in my ears from the tension, building, building. My thoughts wandered to the emotional trauma my daughter would experience, watching her mother plunge to her death …

…and then I jumped.

When I think of the teen years I return to this scene of me, standing on the edge of something high above the ground. So much is happening for a teen during theses years, balancing on unfamiliar territory, no longer a child while not yet an adult, balancing on unfamiliar territory, accelerated hormones that feel tantalizingly out of reach, the risk of exploring identity, anticipating thrill of freedom, wanting to be independent and yet tethered to parents…perhaps you remember these years. I know I do.

So lately, I’ve been wondering, what values accompany these teenage years?

For teenagers? For parents?

The word ‘teenager’ actually means “between ages of puberty and maturity.” Teens are literally between two worlds–childhood and adulthood. Do we understand the point of being between? The value and teachability of this stage?

How do we as parents encourage and equip them towards adulthood?

What if we view our teens as passionately loved by God–why would God abandon them?

Are we willing to risk letting them “climb” to risky places, while staying connected enough we encourage them to “jump,” knowing that each risky decision can teach them about who they are?

There I was, with my eyes on the bar (or maybe they were tightly squeezed shut, hard to say), knees bent, I jumped and with desperate fingers I brushed the metal bar. For a moment I felt what it would be like to grasp that which was out of my reach…

Are we willing to partner with our teenagers as they maneuver between two worlds?

Let’s discuss and explore more what it can look like to navigate these teenage years along side our teens, shall we? Join Truessence for a four week class beginning April 15th at Open Door in Maple Grove.

I look forward to seeing you there!

~ b.

Teen Girls Changing Body: It Means Life

After my last post on Sunday about teenage girls, I have been feeling like there is a bit more to say, a bit more to wonder about. So pardon me as I dwell for just a little longer on the complexity and design of how women (and that one special thing that happens monthly) were created…

This mysterious monthly cycle that ushers young girls into womanhood is often mislabeled and misunderstood. My own story of getting my period during third hour science class could be any girl’s story of her first encounter with her period. What’s so unfortunate is that we’ve been taught to see the inconvenience and messiness of this monthly event while failing to see the beauty that is resting beneath.

Ok so yes… this cycle is often like a roller coaster…. yes, emotions can often seem like tsunamis that sweep over us… and yes it often includes messy moments of gushes and leaking… (sorry about the visual there).

But at the very core of what is happening…there is something else. There is a miracle happening each month mysteriously hidden—but very real.

Pubescent girls receive a dose of hormones that structurally alters their physical bodies with noticeable changes—sculpting curves, breasts that fill out and growth of pubic hair. Yet, deep inside, hidden away from view, something more is being carved out and molded in preparation to carry life.

Do we want to even admit that our daughters, these sweet young things, will possibly some day be mothers themselves?

On a monthly basis a woman’s womb is intricately being readied to the possibility, the anticipation of being the dwelling place for a child. Each month the inner womb of a woman sloughs off the lining of the uterus and the result is a time of bleeding. Jewish tradition calls this the womb weeping for life. God entrusted women to bring forth life by having our bodies be the very vessel though which life emerges forth.

Maybe teenage girls need to be celebrated and invited to embark on their life as a women, by women who have gone before them and know what it means to hold the beauty and the mess of bleeding—yet value both.

What would it look like to paint a picture of value for this monthly cycle, respecting the hidden parts of a woman’s body? Honoring the creation of strong and healthy gestation stations…

I believe that how girls are invited towards this threshold and also invited to crossover is a sacred part of being a woman. Let’s face it, women we are complicated beings—mysterious and messy is not bad, but rather God even says that after all had been made, including women and our bodily functions, “…it is good, so very good.”

What might happen if we empowered young girls with a language that honors their body and the sacred ways in which it is uniquely fashioned to carry life, to hold and release life and to give birth to life?

This is a risky call, but there is no need for panic. Do we women, with daughters of our own, know how to do this?? This might mean that we have to reclaim and honor our own bodies in the process…maybe our teenage girls are giving us a gift that we are invited to return to and claim.

Interested to talk further? I’m very excited to announce a new class Truessence is premiering  starting April 15th. Come join us at Open Door in Maple Grove for a 4 week class entitled: How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex. Watch the Truessence Facebook page for more details!

~ b.

A Changing Body of a Teen Girl

What was that?!” I asked myself.

There I was in my third hour, middle school science class. I probably wasn’t paying that close attention because, ironically, science was never able to capture my attention very well back then.

“There it is again!”…an intense and starling pain piecing me right in the gut.

I didn’t know what else to do except run to the only safe place there is in a high school. With the hall pass firmly in my possession, I scurried down the hall to, where else but the girls bathroom.

I was lucky because the girls room this particular hour was unoccupied. Once I was concealed behind a bathroom stale’s not-so-sturdy lock, I discovered the reason for this deep-gut-pain…something was seriously wrong!

There I was, alone and scared in a scuffed and dirty, school bathroom. Completely horrified, I absolutely positive that this was it…

I was dying.

Since one can’t hide in a school bathroom for long without being discovered, the school counselor eventually entered my toilet hideout to quietly insist I follow her. Without meeting my eyes, she produced an aspirin followed by pixie cup of water. She lead me to her office where I was promptly and without question was given a phone to call home.

This normal body function amplifies the differences between boys and girls–especially during the teen years. This place of mystery often includes dramatic horror stories about a teen girl’s identity being held captive by this mysterious thing we call “our period”. Boys joke about it, older women hint at it, which often results in teen girls becoming embarrassed or ashamed. Thus the labeling of this monthly time as something ugly and dreaded begins a vicious cycle:

“My curse has arrived”, “Auntie Em is visiting”, “The rag is here”.

What did you call your monthly menstruation? I’d tell you what my gang of lady friends in middle school referred to our “time of month” as but…well…actually it’s not polite, to say. You understand.

How does our language invite young girls to view their menstrual cycle?

The truth is, women, we have a responsibility, an opportunity, dare I say it—an obligation for how we name this very natural function of the body. Whether we realize it or not, we literally lay the foundation for how young girls will view their body’s flow. Are we laying a foundation where young girls could be willing or able to see this “flow” as something good, something life giving OR have we passed on this mysterious body function as a shame-filled thing that must merely be endured each month of their life until…{gasp!}…menopause…??

What would it look like if our language invited young girls to honor their body’s rhythm?

Women, I’d love to hear from you. How was your menstruation, your “time of the month” presented to you? How would you have a desire to pass on something different to our daughters?

The Changing Body of a Teen Boy

Math class, three rows back, dead center of Mr. Newsom’s classroom there sits a seventh grade boy absently chewing at his pencil.

Somewhere between algebraic equations and isosceles triangles his brain shuts off and he drifts away into silence…into nothing. It’s a very special space, this hidden place of silence and nothing where formulas have no meaning and math is unimportant. This young gentleman is relaxed and unaware.

Then the bell rings snapping this young man back into his chair, the room and the horror that…

“Did I just have an erection….?!?”

(gulp.)

Shame… Guilt… Confusion…

Am I really always thinking about sex!?

Change the name, the setting and the circumstances if you like, but regardless this scenario is all too true for young teenage boys as they enter puberty and navigate the increased testosterone washes that change their voice, body and brain structure.

When talking with teens, I see the desire they often have to define something about their sexuality. But to them their sexuality just seems wildly out of control yet still quite intoxicatingly delicious. How then do they navigate and understand these raging hormones while finding purpose and passion as a part of how they are made?

First teenage boys have the capacity to shut down 70% of activity in the brain and still be awake. That’s actually incredible if you think about it!

Second, did you know male genitals hold a large number of blood vessels? Well they do. This means that when the our seven grade teen boy is relaxed during math class, his body responds to this relaxation by allowing his blood the freedom to flow in and through every blood vessel. Thus when relaxed in math class or anywhere else for that matter an erection can easily happen.

When we return to Genesis and remember that we are “created in the image of God”, I must pause and wonder. If our God choose to make bodies which hormonally go through changes and fluctuations, then this has to be good, right?

What if we empower teenagers with the truth of their bodies as both sexual and spiritual? God saw all that was made and declared, “…it is good, so very good”, so this must include the erratic rhythms of teenage boys hormones in math class.

Culture might seek to define everything physical as only “sexual”, yet I believe the invitation is to invite teens into language that affirms teen’s as spiritualemotional and physical beings.

That moment after the bell rings and a teenage boy’s brain returns to the present, a simple thought of “I am created in God’s image” could equip a young man to honor and notice a deeper identity that is scripted into his sexuality, from the heart of OUR Creator.

——–

Let’s talk about the changing body of a teen girl next … !

~ b

My Baby As a Sexual Being

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, sex education was not in my repertoire of anticipated parental highlights. No really … I promise. It wasn’t.

But I’m here to tell you, whether we as parents like it or not, the moment our sexual act of conceiving a child begins, so does the child’s sexual education.

So how do we teach children about sexuality?

How do we nurture into them the truth of who they are? How do we begin noticing how their sexuality is a part of them and name this sexuality with intention while nurturing without shame this wild and wonderful part of their being?

I have only one suggestion.

We must return to the beginning. Their beginning. Our beginning.

She was such a wee thing, ten fingers and toes her sweet body scrunched up into the small hollow of my arm, nestled in total abandon and trust. Her gentle breath coming in and out like a whisper that was suddenly causing me to listen for what she had to share with me.

I was in love.

This pure innocent life stole my heart and has never returned it to me. Do you know the feeling?

In amongst the feeding…burping…changing…sleep deprivation…it somehow never dawned on me, a profound and simple truth…

My sweet precious baby in my arms was a sexual being.

Scripture tells us, we are made in the image of God. A child reveals a glimpse of wonder for who God IS and at birth I was invited to hold this new, never before created image of the wonder of God…

….my child bears my own DNA but also my child bears the image of God.

I can return in my mind to those moments of birth and see clearly this something, this image that was real in each of my children, a pure and sacred part of life.

Do we see and value those images of God that are etched into our children? And yes, even into our teenagers?

Did God intend them to be sexual beings?

Often we are frightened by how life, culture and hormones transform a seemingly simple child into a raging hormonal whirlwind waiting to blow at any moment. We think the worst. After all, we remember our own struggles and can fail to see that the place holding the origins of our children’s sexuality is the hand of OUR Creator.

Thank God. Literally.

There is a lot to learn about sexuality when we return to the beginning, our Source of life.

Will we dare to invite our children to enter both the joys and struggles of how sexuality can teaches us about who we are and how we were created?

It will be a journey. But this journey is so needed. And so good.

Then it was my turn to give “the talk”

As a parent, who was particularly interested in making sure my two daughters had a better “Sex Talk” than I had, I searched high and low for ways to protect and provide information to my children in regards to a sexual language. So, I scoured bookstores and every kind of resource imaginable. I read. I researched. And then I did it all over again.

I was game to try any and every “popular” program that seemed to have so-and-so’s PhD to support a particular theoretical way of teaching a child about sex and their body. So obviously,

I bought coloring books with simple language, they became paper airplanes…

I used anatomically correct body language, grandparents gasped…

I answered questions as calmly as possible, cringing inside from fear…

I gave too much information…

I gave too little information…

I planned the perfect trip, popped in the ”Sex Talk” tape and my daughter (and I, to be perfectly honest) gagged and begged it to stop…

I stumbled…tried again…failed…tried again…

But over the years, I think I ultimately discovered something.

Brace yourself.

You might hardly believe what I discovered.

THERE IS NO PERFECT WAY!!

(Whew! There. I said it).

But this is what I do know, when I look at my body, I see stretch marks from birthing two beautiful daughters. I have watched them grow strong and passionate to embrace and value their sexuality as good. While they lovingly call me, their one and only mother, the “sexpert,” I continue to be amazed at what they have taught me in nurturing a language that honors both sexuality and spirituality.

I remember one day, when both my daughters were still teenagers, I unintentionally left a simple book I was using  for research at the time, lying around the living room. This book had some bizarre name that screamed something about SEX in the title. My daughter’s friend saw it, picked it up and told me she had a question.

There was nothing planned about it…it was right there…in the moment.

So we sat and talked…they returned and we talked more….they read some of what I was reading and studying…and guess what….we began discussing and asking questions together…

I am not sure there is a perfect way to have this conversation with our children about sexuality and their bodies. But time and a huge measure of grace towards myself has taught me one thing…

"Never, never, never give up"

My daughters and I now laugh about the confusing minefield I call a job. But I could not have done this without them. I believe their hearts and minds bear the stretch marks of helping to nurture to life a language that honors sexuality and spirituality. 

Silly me, maybe this was the perfect plan all along, and we need each other to find it…

Remembering the sex “talk”

THE SCENE:  There I was, in the pastor’s office … with a boy. We were teenagers with no real knowledge of why these raging hormones were drawing us together. Then it happened, a kiss. It started as only one but then the hormones swelled to more kisses, heat rising, bodies drawing together and …

THEN THE DOOR OPENED…

To my horror in walked the shell-shocked pastor as two lip-locked teenagers made out in his office. That pastor happened to be my dad.

THE TALK: With a swift move he separated our hormone engulfed bodies and calmly placed each of us on either side of his chair, sat down and began as best he could, with words like:

birds and bees… sex destroys lives… resist the devil… sex… closed doors lead to trouble… sex is… girls lead boys on… sex is for marriage… boys can run from temptation…

My dad’s monologue “talk” that afternoon was quite impromptu since I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the scene he was expecting when he returned to his office to work on Sunday’s sermon. As I think about it from a parent’s vantage point he was facing his worst nightmare–”My daughter is actually a sexual being!”

He reached into his toolbox of life skills, and did what any pastor would do…he prayed for us. You better believe that I too was praying, praying fervently to somehow disappear and NEVER talk about this again…with him at least.

LEARNING:  What memories do you have of your own parental “sex talk?”

Did it create a sense of being connected to your parent or was it a grossly miscalculated bomb dropped into the room?

We can use the past as a tool or a weapon—one seeks to cultivate and one to destroy. What if we trade in our monologue “talks” and cultivate a language for teens and parents to share?

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