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Don’t shirk duties for teens

By Nathan Rice

He sat directly behind me in the backseat of the car, not saying much of anything. He answered my questions with only a “yes” or a “no,” and those answers resembled sounds more than actual words. His girlfriend sat next to me in the front passenger seat, staring out the window, refusing to even look in my direction. Her arms were crossed so tightly that I wondered how blood continued to circulate in her arms.

I had informed the 15-year-old and 13-year-old that they would no longer be allowed to sit next to each other in my car. Their hands had wandered onto each other one too many times, and they refused to stay to themselves despite countless warnings. They were now pouting, and their silence was aimed at letting me know exactly how they felt about my decision.

I could not help but think of the past. I remembered Jim yelling, “Hold my hand, hold my hand,” as a crowd entered our walking trail. I recalled the time Abagail wrapped her arms around me when the boom of fireworks scared her, gripping tighter the louder they became.

I sighed. The voices that once said, “Hold my hand,” and “Stay close,” now asserted, “We’re not kids anymore” and “You just don’t understand.” At that moment, I really missed the time when they were younger. However, I cannot stop time, and it would be wrong of me to do so, even if I could.

Our job as teachers, parents and mentors is to provide them with the best opportunities in life and to help them grow into mature, responsible adults. This involves working with them in all stages of their lives, including the teenage years. It’s OK to reminisce of years gone by and miss the things you enjoyed when they were younger, but we cannot get stuck in a time that is no longer here. We cannot live in the past. They need us in the present.

Working with children in each stage of their lives means accepting the challenges that come in each of those stages. The teen years can be rough, but that is no excuse to neglect our job as teachers, mentors and parents. The teen years are also difficult for the kids going through them as hormones rage and their minds and bodies change rapidly. Teens will rarely admit it, they may not know it, and they may not even like it, but they need us in their lives. They may not be little any longer, but they still need teaching, guidance and parenting.

Parents, mentors and teachers can be tempted to become nothing more than friends to teenagers. There can be a desire to be the “cool” counselor, teacher or parent, which can cause us to shirk our duties as adults. Our job as teachers, mentors and parents must continue through the teen years, and that means there will be times they do not like our decisions. Teens need responsible adults in their lives who will continue to guide, direct and parent them through these formative years.

It won’t always be easy, and it won’t always be fun, but it is always needed. Stay strong during their teen years. They need you.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.