Wondering How to Be Close to Your Teen?

What Happens When We Own Up to Our Sin?

1 John 1:5-10 exhorts us to “be in the light” be confessing our sin. He writes:

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

The way to a close relationship with our teens, and with God, requires being in the light first. By this I mean, as parents if we want our teens to speak forthrightly about their sin and struggles, we must first expose our own sin and struggles and ask for forgiveness. When we do, they start to see us in the same boat as them–also sinners in need of grace.

So, the problem is not that we sin. Until Jesus comes back, God’s Word tells us we will continue sinning. The issue then is what we do with our sin. If we pretend it’s not there, or it’s not really that bad, we live self-sufficiently as if we don’t need a Savior. But when we see it–all of it, even the hidden motivations, manipulative control, lack of trust, snide comments, impatience, and anger–for what it is, and become regular repenters, our children see us as more human. It shows them how much Mom and Dad need a Savior, too. And this puts us on equal ground, which makes us safer to share with.

Honestly dealing with sin also shows our children by word and deed that the gospel is true.

That our sin does not define us, nor does it prevent us from coming before a holy God. No, he invites us to come boldly in our sin without fear because our sin has already been paid for. Because it has Jesus’ perfect record of righteousness is ours. This is how God sees us.

When we believe this is true–that everything good about Jesus is now true of us–it frees us to live out of our brokenness and need instead of acting like we have it all together. In fact, I learned first-hand from my daughter that the biggest barrier to her sharing with me in the past was my “perfect” presentation. She thought because I kept my sin hidden that I couldn’t identify with her struggles and would judge her for them.

Until I became transparent about my sin, much like my friend’s parents, I thought my daughter and I had a closer relationship than she felt we actually did. I’ve since learned it is not uncommon for teens not to feel as close to their parents as we do toward them. The reason: we aren’t safe. Could it be then the reason aren’t teens stay tight lipped as more to do with us than them?

So instead of excusing our sin, let’s confess it. Our sin does not change our status before God. His love and acceptance of us is secure because it’s not based on our performance. And, isn’t this what we want our children to know, as well? That though we are more sinful than we realized, we are more deeply loved than we can possibly grasp.

This is the good news of the gospel we proclaim to our children every time we confess and repent of sin. Therefore, living as a regular repenter should be the normal way of a true believer. It should characterize our households and transform our relationships with our teens (and others). For when our teens see us quickly confess when we’ve sinned against them, they will learn to relate to others in this same manner, including us. There will be no reason for them to hide in shame or stay in secrecy when they know because of what we’ve modeled that they can go to God and come to us with anything without fear. So, as simple yet hard as it is, the pathway to a rich relationship with our teens starts with us owning our sin.

Kristen Hatton is the author of The Gospel-Centered Life in Exodus for Students, Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World and Get Your Story Straight. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Professional Counseling at Liberty University, and has recently begun a Redemptive Parenting online ministry. Kristen resides in Edmond, Oklahoma with her pastor husband. Together they have three children: a college daughter and two high school sons. 

Photo Credit: ©Pixabay/nastya_gepp

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