Dry Flies and Teenagers

By Chris Mooredry flies

My wife and I were just on the verge of the teenage years when God decided to bless us with the gift of a third child. Our son Josh was 12 and our daughter Neeley was 10 when along came Seth. In a recent blog post, I summarized some ways that parenting our teens has helped our perspective on parenting our young preschooler. Since then I have been thinking about how we are doing at parenting our teens. My thoughts led me to the following question:

 How can I help my teenagers successfully emerge into adulthood?

So, what does it mean to emerge? An example from aquatic entomology may be helpful. As a fly fisherman, I love the dry fly hatch. The dry fly hatch is the moment when fishing is at its best because there are many flies on the water and the fish are pretty excited about that! The hatch begins as nymphs (i.e., “baby flies”) break loose from the stream bottom and float to the surface of the water. It is here where the action takes place. The fly struggles to break free from its nymph husk. It tugs and pulls and eventually emerges as a beautiful dry fly, the delight of fly fisherman everywhere!

Every Christian parent desires to see their kids mature and experience all the fullness of the life God has given them. Just like the dry fly, our kids have been gradually making their way to the surface where they will eventually emerge from childhood to adulthood. At the surface of this transition, they must wrestle with many different emotions and changes. This is both a painful and beautiful process. The good news is that we as parents have been specifically designed by God to help them emerge. Here are some key ways:

Diligently Learn Your Teens and Accept Them

While we definitely need to envision our teens for their future, we need to let go of unrealistic expectations of who we think they should be and become comfortable with the person God is making them to be. To accomplish this, we need to diligently work to learn our teens. We need to spend time with them and get to know them. What are their hopes, dreams, struggles, and fears? They need to know that we accept them for who they are becoming even if it looks different from what we had in mind. 

Help Them Build a Spiritual Foundation

It is critically important to help our children take ownership of their spiritual walk. They cannot live off of us spiritually–we have enough trouble doing that ourselves! They need their own faith and we need to help fan their faith into flame by teaching them to pray, study the Word, find their gifting, and be involved in a local church. We need to help them see they are useful to God now, not just when they are adults.

Patiently Navigate Them

How many times, have you heard the horror stories of how difficult teenagers are? Well, yes it is challenging, but it is our responsibility to persist with them in this transition. We cannot simply shrug off the challenge and bemoan the teen years while we wait for them to “grow out if it.” They will struggle. They will sin. They will disappoint us. Should this surprise us? Maybe it would do us all some good to recall how difficult it was for us to transition through the teen years and our own struggles to emerge. This may help us as we guide our teens through this perilous journey. We are their key allies in the battle of awkwardness toward growth and maturity. They need us to help them fight against the world’s definitions of what it means to be a teenager. This will require patience navigation on our part; only God can enable us to do this.

Be Quick to Acknowledge Their Growth

Our teens desperately need us to tell them how they are doing in the emergence process. We need to help them see through the glasses of youth that are often tarnished with worldly opinions of success and acceptance. We need to point out what makes them unique and how we see the grace of God at work in their lives. We need to regularly celebrate with them as God uses their gifts to help others.

Enjoy the Hatch!

Finally, we need to remember that while we play a prominent role, it is ultimately only God who can take a child, grow them into a teen, and help them emerge into adulthood. We need to step back often and enjoy the handiwork of God on display before us. It will no doubt be the greatest challenge of our lives to help our teens make the transition to adulthood; yet, just as a dry fly hatch is a delight to the fly fisherman, watching our teens emerge into adults is a delight that we as parents should consider a privilege to behold. 

chris mooreChris is an environmental engineer for Alcoa Inc and is currently in the midst of a bi-vocational pastoral residency at Cornerstone Church of Knoxville. Chris lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Cindy and three children, Josh, Neeley, and Seth.

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