In this episode, Lorissa highlights the gift of teenagers and gives some provoking insights from her experience of working with teens the past 25 years. This episode is for everyone that desires to better support the teens in their lives. 

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Hello, my beautiful friends. Welcome to episode 54 of made for greatness. I am your host today. Lorissa Horn. And as always, I am so excited. You are here and I cannot wait to dive into this episode today. Now, in all honesty, I cannot believe that I have not yet done a podcast episode on teenagers because literally most of my adult life I have spent and dedicated to working with teenagers in a ministry setting, youth ministry, campus ministry. And now I even have three teenagers in my house, like my own children. And then a fourth one, my, my daughter, who’s 12, she’s like 12 and a half. So I almost have four teenagers in my house right now. And I love it. I love working with teenagers. It’s a huge passion of mine, and I’ve been extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to be around so many, literally thousands of extraordinary teenagers over the last 25 years of my life.

 So what I’m going to do today is I’m going to kind of highlight four fundamental truths that I have learned or what I, what I believe about teenagers, what I’ve come to know over the years in working in ministry with young people, as well as having my own children that are teenagers now, and then I’m going to share ways in which we, as adults can support the teens in our lives. Now I know that this episode might seem like it’s just for parents that have teenagers, but it’s not all of us can benefit from this episode because whether you have small children in your life that will eventually be teenagers, or you are a grandparent that maybe has teenagers. The dill is this. We all have young people in our lives. We all have teenagers in our lives, whether they’re our own children or nieces and nephews, grandchildren, neighbors, you know, friends that have, have, have teenagers.

 And I believe that every single one of us is called to be a mentor to a teenager in our lives. So let’s dive in. I can not wait. First of all, my number one fundamental truth, fundamental belief that I know about teenagers is that teenagers are awesome. That is my blanket statement. Teenagers are awesome. Every single one of them, every teenager I have ever met, every teenager I’ve worked with is awesome. Now I know you might be thinking what Larysa, what, what are you drinking, right? These are the dill teenagers. A lot of times I get bad raps. We know that we kind of have these stairs, stereotypical idea, notion of teenagers that they have sometimes bad attitudes or that they can be lazy, disrespectful, and roll their eyes. They talk back, they push their boundaries. They rebel, they do wild and crazy things. They make mistakes.

 

They push the limits, all of those types of things. And I’m not saying that those things aren’t true as well, but this is the deal. Teenagers are awesome. And they need the adults in their lives to really recognize this. Every day, I see teenagers doing extraordinary things, working hard in school, always trying to be better. I see teenagers who are kind and loving and compassionate who go out of their way to want to make an impact in this world. I see teenagers as optimistic so often and passionate, energetic kind. I see them going out of their way to serve others, to help their families, to Excel in activities and sports. I see teenagers doing a lot of really incredible things. I know teenagers firsthand who have sacrificed themselves to literally save other people’s lives. I’ve seen them heroically and courageously go out of their way to help other people.

 

I see them getting up every day and facing life in the midst of adversity. And at times extraordinary challenges I see in teenagers, many times a great gift of faith and a profound desire to want to share that faith with others. I truly believe that teenagers are awesome. And I am not the only one that believes this. I’m pretty sure God believes this too. And it’s very evident to see when you look through, when you read the scriptures and when you look through church history, God has so often called upon teenagers to do his most important work. All we have to do is look at our, our blessing mother to know this right. She was a teenage girl. When she said yes, to bring Christ into this world, he called upon teenagers time and time again, to do some of the most important things.

 

And all we have to do. I mean, there are countless saints that God used when they were young people, children, teenagers, to literally inspire millions and millions of people and have brought millions of people to the faith, through their powerful witness. We can just name a few St. Jose Sanchez, Del Rio, Saint Therese, the little flower Saint Dominic, Savio St. Joan of Arc, bless Chiara. Lou Che Saint Maria. Goretti the Fatima children, St. Bernadette bless appeared in Georgia for society. Saint Perpetua and Felicity bless had Carlo Accudose. I could go on and on and on. God knew that these young people had hearts that were open to being his instruments. He knew that they had an optimism and energy, a passion of faithfulness, a purity that set them apart. And I believe like I get to see this in the teenagers that I work with every day, I get to see the same sort of optimism, the same desire to want to make an impact in the world, the same desire to, to want to, to bring goodness into this world.

 

And this is why I think that teenagers are awesome and I love working with them. And I want everybody I know to think that teenagers are awesome as well. The second belief, or the second thing I know about teenagers is that they have a lot going on in their lives. I am, again, I am in awe at all, that they are juggling all the stuff that they have on their plate. And it really is truly incredible. Teenagers have they’ve got school, whether they’re homeschooled or, you know, doing school online, or they’re, in-person teenagers are learning. They’re growing, they’re in school. They’re doing homework after school. Many of them have extracurricular activities or sports. A lot of them have jobs. They are trying to have social lives and friendships. They’re navigating relationships. They’re trying to fit in to be accepted. They are working so hard to live up to expectations.

 

A lot of times those expectations are placed on them by their parents, their families, their teachers, their coaches, but truly the greatest expectations I see teens living up to are the expectations, the ginormous expectations that they placed on themselves. I see teenagers every day, thinking about their futures, praying about their futures, trying to discern and determine what they’re good at and what they’re being called to do all of this. And now even more than ever. I mean, there’s all the issues with social media. So many young people are very stressed. They have anxiety. They’re trying to navigate life with all of these things coming at them. And then here we are right now in the midst of a pandemic. And so many of them are trying to navigate through that as well. So this is the dill, teenagers have a lot going on. They’ve got hormones raging through their bodies.

 

They don’t get enough sleep. They are stretched in so many different directions. And yet they get up every day, they try to tackle life. They move forward. And for this reason, again, I am in awe of them and they, they need to know that we see them. They need to know that, that we believe in them, that we recognize the extraordinary things that they are doing in just getting out of bed every day. Truly. It’s an amazing feat being a teenager. And it is different than when we were teenagers. There are so many things that our teenagers are dealing with today that we didn’t have to deal with all the social media. We didn’t have to deal with a pandemic. We didn’t have to deal with our world being so divided. We didn’t have to deal with a lot of things that these young people are dealing with today.

 

And so for that, they need to recognize that we see all that they have going on and that we are in their corner and that we are supporting them. The third belief that I have about teenagers is this. Every teenager wants an opportunity to shine. Every young person desires to be seen. They desire to be good at something. They want to utilize their gifts and their talents to make this world a better place. And it’s a unique thing. Every single one of us, like we all have this fundamental longing right. To, to somehow make a difference in this world. But I’ve had the opportunity to witness this firsthand that the young people really do. They want to shine. And there are many teenagers who have gifts and talents that are just so overwhelmingly obvious, right? There are your star athletes or your straight A students, or those teens that are music prodigies that are just extraordinary.

Musicians are amazing artists. And for those teenagers, like a lot of them, sometimes their gifts are just very, very obvious. It’s very easy to see them. And yet there’s a lot of teenagers whose gifts and talents are maybe a little bit more subtle, or maybe not quite as obvious. And yet they have the same desire to want to shine. Maybe they are a little bit more quiet. Maybe they, maybe their gift is that they’re just a really great friend or a really good listener. Maybe their gift is that they love to write poetry. And yet nobody really knows that for some young people, their gifts are maybe they have a gift of organization or they’re really good at helping to clean the house. They love to do laundry. Some teenagers are just really good at taking care of their younger siblings. And some teenagers just are really good at playing video games.

But the fact of the matter is every single teenager has a desire to shine. And we as adults, it’s our jobs to help them discover the things that they’re good at and help them develop those gifts and talents so that they can feel like they have something in their life. Something that they’re, that they’re able to do, that they can feel proud of, and that they know has an impact on themselves and on others, upon their family and that they can make a difference. And the last fundamental truth that I want to share today, I mean, I could go on and on and on, but I’m just going to highlight four in this episode today. The last one that I want to say is this, every teenager desires a relationship with God. Now I know upon hearing this, there’s probably a lot of people that want to argue with me about this, but just hear me out.

And I can tell you also that there are many teenagers that would probably strongly oppose this belief that I have, that every teenager desires a relationship with God. And I have had firsthand encounters and experiences with teenagers that are passionately declares of atheism. They tell me they don’t believe in God. They don’t believe in religion. They want to fundamentally reject the Catholic church or any religious institutions. But what I am talking about is something at a much deeper level. And it’s this every semester that I have worked with students, I always ask them this question. I ask them to journal and reflect on it and I will ask them this, what is the deepest longing of the human heart? And they’ll write and they’ll reflect and they’ll share. And they’ll give me a lot of really deep and profound answers, but always, always, it doesn’t matter.

You know what group it is every time the first and foundational answer to this question is this that the deepest longing of the human heart is to love and to be loved, that is something that they are able to articulate. And then they talk about that. You know, the deepest longings of the human are harder to also be seen, to be known, to be valued, to be cherished, to know that you are able to make an impact in this world to leave a legacy, to help others, to make this world a better place. Those are the kind of answers I get. And it always amazes me because I never get answers from teenagers to say that the deepest longing of the human heart is to be popular or to be wealthy or to be beautiful. It’s always that the deepest longing of the human heart is to love and to be loved.

And this speaks to really, it’s not just to the hearts of teenagers is the heart of all of us, but they are able to articulate that in the very depths of the human heart and in the very depths of their heart, they themselves, more than anything else they want to love and they want to be loved. And this fundamental fact points us directly to the author of love. Why do we all want this so much? Why do we all want to love and to be loved so greatly so deeply. It points us to the answer that we were created by love, for love, and that the author of love is God himself, who isn’t just the author of love. Like he is love itself, places, this desire in our hearts, so that we will fundamentally long for him with everything that we are. So right now, I know this.

I know without a doubt that every teenager longs for love and at the heart of that is that they long for God. And I have witnessed over the years, teenagers who told me that they would never believe in God, that they completely reject God, that they completely reject the faith. And I have seen God work on their hearts in such extraordinary ways that months later they were on the ground sobbing after having an encounter with him in the Eucharist, I’ve witnessed conversions and miracles and young people’s hearts be completely broken, open with love for God. And so even when a young person comes to me and they tell, and they tell me like, Hey, I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in this Catholic faith. I don’t believe in these things. I just smile. And I listen and I love them. And I deep down inside know that God is pursuing their hearts and that they will come to know the profound love of God.

And this gives me extraordinary hope. That’s just for them, but for, but for all of us. Okay. So those are my four things that I wanted to highlight in this episode today: teenagers are awesome, that they’ve got a lot on their plates, that they want to shine, that they have a desire to shine, and that they truly deep down inside have a desire to, to have a relationship with God. So based on these things, what can we do as parents? What can we do as adults in the lives of teenagers to help support them? What to you teenagers need from us now, again, I could probably spend hours diving into this, but I’m going to just highlight a few things that I felt were on my heart to share with you today. Number one, our teenagers need us to believe in them. Again, it’s very easy in these teenage years for us to maybe see the negative aspects of what they’re going through.

Maybe it’s the negative attitude that eye rolling, the ways of which sometimes they push us away. Maybe sometimes they lie. Sometimes they make mistakes, right? It’s very easy for us to be very critical of them at this age. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t hold them accountable. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have expectations and that we shouldn’t follow through with rules and consequences, and that we need to be significantly, you know, helping them in their lives to make decisions. But they also need us to believe in them. Oftentimes teenagers are struggling in their lives. They’re struggling to see the good in themselves. And so they need us to point that out. They need us to be looking for the good and the thing that I’ve known and have learned over the years is that the way our brain works is this.

If we are always looking for the negative, we will find the negative, but if we’re looking for the good, we will find the good and this, I have discovered this time and time again with my own children. It’s very easy at times to just see the negative behaviors. It’s easy to see the ways in which they misbehave or they make mistakes. But if we are really aware and attentive to the good things that they’re doing, we will see that as well. Recently, I went through this with one of my teenage boys. There was a period there where I just felt like he was making a lot of mistakes. He had a really bad attitude. He was being disrespectful. And every day I was just very hypersensitive to his negative behaviors. And I was pointing them out and calling him out on it and disciplining him and getting frustrated.

And my husband and I were writing to him quite a bit on this. And it was really impacting our relationship with him. Our relationship was tense. We were kind of going at it with him quite a bit. And I remember one night just stopping and going to God in prayer and feeling all of this negative tension towards my son. And I knew at this moment I knew what was going on. And I knew what my brain was doing. I was just looking at all the negatives. And so in my prayer and kind of in this time by myself, I actually kind of called myself out on an ice Allura so you need to look for the good, there’s a lot of good in them as well. And it was instantly like the next day I said, okay, let us look for the good look for the good and all of a sudden, sure enough.

I started to see the good, sure. It didn’t mean that he didn’t sometimes have negative behaviors or negative attitudes, but I started paying more and more attention to all of the good things he was doing, the ways in which he was working really hard to get his homework done. The times that he would put the dishes away without being asked or the times in which he would get on the floor and play with his little brother or sister, things like that. And the more I started to look for the good, the more I started to see it. And the more I started to see it, the more I started to call it out. And I started to recognize it until like, I started to tell him, Hey, thank you so much for putting the dishes away without even being asked. That’s awesome. I really appreciate you.

Hey, I see you doing your homework and working so hard. I’m really proud of you. You’re doing a really good job in school. Hey, I want to just let you know I see you like hanging out with your friends. I know you’re a really good friend and I know that your friendships are really important to you. And then, you know, recognizing the ways in which I see him praying, or I see him participating in mass, stuff like that. And all of a sudden our relationship started to change significantly. And our relationship is in such a better place. And I like, I’m doing this, I’m paying more attention to this. And I’m looking for the good in my teenagers in my own home, in my own family. But I’m also trying to always be attentive with the teenagers that I work with to see the good in them and to point it out, to let them know that I believe in them, that I see their gifts and talents.

And that, that I know that they’re called to greatness, that God has a plan for their lives. That from the beginning of time, God knew that he was going to bring them into this world and that he truly has an extraordinary, extraordinary plan for their lives and that he desires to use them as his instruments to do amazing things. So that’s number one. They need us to believe in that. They also need us to be examples of what it looks like to be adults who know how to manage our minds and know how to manage our emotions. This is fundamentally why we created the masters program because we wanted to help Catholic moms really have the, to have the tools so that they can manage their minds, manage their emotions, and then teach it to their children, how to do this as well. These are skills that oftentimes they’re not, these are skills that are not taught in school.

And so our children and our teenagers are looking to us to be models of this, to be examples of this. They need to see us like being fully in control of our emotions, that when something goes wrong, that we don’t just fly off the handle and just, you know, lose it. But we are calm and collected and that we are able to handle different emotional situations in a way where we remain calm and put together. And that we are confidently navigating different circumstances and situations, even when it comes to our teenagers. Even if we find ourselves in a situation where we’re angry or frustrated or disappointed that we’re able to manage our minds around it, and that we are, that we’re able to act from a place of, of calm and confidence, that we’re able to respond in a way that naturally makes our teenagers look to us with a sense of respect and in turn, wants to emulate us because we’re showing up as emotionally strong and mature adults.

The next thing that our teenagers need from us is that they need to know that we delight in them. Now, what I mean by this is that yes, we are called to be parents first and foremost. We’re not called to be our kids’ best friends. And yet it’s important for them to know that we delight in them, that we enjoy being around them, that we see their gifts and talents, that we can laugh with them and joke around with them and have fun with them that we like things that they like and that we take interest in their lives, my teenagers, they know what the rules are in our house, the expectations, the way that we expect them to behave and how we expect them to treat each other and how we expect them to treat us all of those things. But our kids also know that we love hanging out with them, that we love having fun.

And we love playing games and listening to music and, and watching movies together and supporting them and going to their games and their activities that they are truly our most favorite people in this world. And even if they mess up or make mistakes or fall short, that we still delight in them, maybe not in their behaviors, but we delight in who they are. They are our beloved children and that there is nothing that they could ever do that would make us not love them. And finally, the last one that I have for us today is that they need us to give them opportunities to shine. What do I mean by this? Like, I’ve already kind of highlighted the fact that they have this desire to shine, but we as parents and we as adults in their lives need to kind of look for opportunities to, to help them to shine at times, especially for those kids that maybe it’s a little bit more challenging, right?

We need to give them responsibilities. We need to give them some room to even make mistakes at times, and to learn from those mistakes, we need to invite them to try new things and explore new opportunities. I ended up an example just the other day, my one of my sons, my 15 year old son and I were driving home from school. And he said to me, he said, mom one of my braces, like the bracket has broken and it’s really bothering me. Can you call the orthodontist and make an appointment to get me in? And I looked at him and I said, you know, to be honest with you, I’m not really, you know, I don’t know what all your class schedules are like at school every day is different. I think it would be a really good idea for you to call and make your appointment with the orthodontist.

And he kinda looked at me like, what, how did he’s like, said to me, he was like, how do I do that? I don’t even know how to do that. And so I kind of walked them through. I’m like, okay, well, you look up the phone number for the dentist, your orthodontist, and you call, and the receptionist is going to answer, and you’re going to tell them that you need to make an appointment. So I kind of walked him through the process of it. And so I told him, I said, think about maybe what are some good times for you to have it make an appointment? Like, kind of think about that before you call and then get it set up. And he literally laid, he looked to me like, can I really do this? Like, oh my gosh. And I said, yeah, you can do this.

And so he picked up the phone, he looked up the number and he called and he had it on, he was on speakerphone. I was there and I was kind of gently coaching him through the conversation, but he did it. It was like, it was truly the cutest thing ever. I was just listening to him. He was trying so hard to sound mature and articulate. And the receptionist on the other end was so gracious. And she was she’s so patient with him and asked him the questions and he answered them and he made an appointment and then he hung up and he had this huge smile on his face. He’s like, I just did it. I just made an appointment. And I was so proud of him. I’m like, good job. You did a really good job. And I told him, I said, from this point on, I’m going to have you make your appointments for yourself.

If you need to go to the dentist, if you need to go to the doctor if you need to go to the physical therapist, you’re going to be the one that makes the appointment. And I told him, I said, I will help you. I will, you know, be here next to you when you make the phone call. Like, if you want to practice it a couple more times, but from this point on, you’re going to be making your appointments. And there was like, just something about that. Like, he was so excited about the fact that I was giving him this responsibility. I was giving him this opportunity to kind of step into a more adult role. And this is the deal it’s really cool for me. I started doing this with my oldest son, about six months ago, and now he makes his own appointments.

And it’s just one more like one less thing that I have to worry about. And I am teaching them how to put it into their calendar and how to, like they’re responsible for getting to their appointments and driving themselves and, you know, doing those types of things. And it’s really cool for them to know that I trust them, that I think that they can, that they’re capable of doing it and that I believe in them. And so these are those opportunities. These are those opportunities to give them a little bit of space, to give them extra responsibilities, to give them moments, to shine, to be proud of themselves, to know that they’re capable of doing things that are, you know, starting to lead them down the path of adulthood. I know that when my boys have off to college, that they’re going to be able to make appointments for themselves, that they’re going to be able to, to go to the doctor or, you know, set up appointments without having to be an issue for them.

It’ll be something that they will have done many times by the time they graduate. And this, these types of things excite me. And this is the deal. Every time I have given a teenager a responsibility, whether it’s my own teenager or a teenager in one of my classes or in my youth ministry program, maybe I’ve asked them to give a talk or a testimony or to lead music. If I, if I recognize that they have musical talents that I ask them to, Hey, can you lead this song for this prayer service? Or can you help decorate the parish hall for this event? Or can you help design a t-shirt or can you help create a website for this? Or can you help, can you be a lector or an usher or a Eucharistic minister or whatever? It happens to me any time that I have seen that a teenager has the capability of doing something and whenever I’ve asked them to do it and, and highlighted a gift that I see within them, they always rise to the occasion.

And not only do they rise to the occasion, they almost always surpass it. They almost always kind of blow me away. Now sure. There have been times where I’ve had a kind of walk with them a little bit, like helping them out, encouraging them, letting them know that I believe in them, but honestly time and time and time again, I have seen teenagers just go above and beyond. And then I witnessed them be like, so proud of themselves when they realize that they’re capable of doing something or when they know that that adult believes in them or sees something in them that maybe they didn’t even see in themselves love it. It’s always so incredibly powerful. And I, I believe that this is, you know, these are just a couple of things. There are so, so many other things that I could go into, but I want to wrap it up by just saying this.

The baptism of Jesus, I believe, is an incredibly profound one. When it comes to us as parents, I believe God is giving us a little glimpse into what ideal parenting looks like, particularly of teenagers. And this is it at the baptism at the baptism of Jesus. We see the holy Trinity in action, right? We see for the first time in scripture where God, the father and God, the son and God, the holy spirit, all present at the same time, we know the story. Jesus is baptized and God speaks. And the holy spirit descends upon Jesus as a dove. But I believe that the words that God says are so incredibly important. He says, this, this is my beloved son with whom I am. Well-Pleased, it’s one sentence that is extraordinarily powerful. In this one statement, God is declaring that Jesus is his son and that he is his beloved son.

And that within him, God is well pleased. And I think that this, this speaks to the depths of who we are as parents of who, who God is, who we are and who our children are, that this has to be our phrase that our children hear from us, that you are my beloved child. And with you, I am well-pleased now of course, Jesus was perfect. Jesus was God himself, right? And our children are not. And yet it makes really no difference. Like they are our beloved children. They are our beloved sons and daughters. We are declaring this over them and they need to hear this from us. Maybe we don’t say those exact words, but we need to let them know that we see them, that we recognize the goodness within them, that they are truly our beloved sons and daughters, and that we are well pleased with them and in doing so, when we love them.

And this way it helps them to even experience the love of God, the father, in an even deeper and profound way. And this is my hope. This is my hope for every teenager in the world that they are loved and they know that they’re valued and that they’re important for their significance and their cherished. And so my sisters in Christ, that is all I have for you today. Let us all go and give the teenagers in our lives a big hug and tell them how great we think they are. I hope you have a great week. I’ll talk to you soon. God bless.