Eugene Cho

give me some advice: we now have an official teenager!

And…it’s official, our oldest kid turns 13 years old today.

We now have an official teenager in the house!

o m g



It’s hard to not be emotional. Minhee and I have been crying a lot these recent days. Tears of gratitude certainly for the amazing young woman she is becoming but to be honest, a sense of loss. We’re having a hard time with the realization of how fast time times.

While she’ll always be our little “Juby” – we know that she’s not that little baby girl that stole our hearts when she was first born. It’s surreal to think that in 5 years – she’ll be “out of the home” as she departs for college. Wow.

I’d like to ask you for some advice.

Here are two genuine questions and I’d appreciate your advice on one or both of these:

  1. What advice would you get parents to a new teenager?
  2. What advice would you give to  a 13-year-old – especially in today’s world?

Two years ago, she wrote this poem and I still read this regularly. It’s a beautiful reminder of who she is and where she comes from.

My prayer is that she would never forget.


I am From

I am from hot summers in Nebraska,

slithering snakes,

big mouth bass jumping,

the mellow sunset,

and the sight of deer leaping.

I can feel the slimy gills of a fish,

And the sand oozing through my toes.

The hot sun burning on my skin,

and the excitement when I feel a tug on my rod.

I am from Korean food,

always eating Kim-Chee,

sometimes roast beef,

and rice carefully wrapped by dry seaweed.

The stove burning,

And my stomach grumbling,

And the smell of cooking dumplings.

I am from a family of 5.

a dad who travels,

goes on facebook,

and says “You’ll always be my little baby.”

A mother who encourages and cares,

and sings me to sleep.

An annoying brother and sister,

but also precious siblings.

I am from a family full of


apologies after teasing,

love and generosity,

and also lots of loyalty.

I am from a family who celebrates New Years Eve,

and Lunar Year.

Wearing colorful Hanboks,

and getting special blessings.

Everyone eats rice cake soup,

and everyone laughing and giggling.

I am from friends saying bye-bye and leaving,

And sometimes betrayal.

Or my grandpa saying “Ohhh… this is no good.”

I am from a family who prays for each other,

and cares for one another.

I’m not from a violent family,

nor a mean family either.

A kind and the best family is where I’m from.

And I’m proud of it.

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30 Responses

  1. Jason says:

    No advice as I do not have a teenager yet, but wanted to comment and say what a lovely poem,

  2. Kim Martinez says:

    A wise woman told me, as my oldest daughter crossed the threshold from childhood: Just listen to them. It’s true. It works. As I listened, she worked through life issues, heard God’s voice, and learned to respond.

  3. Ah… how this blog post resonates! My girl turned 13 not too long ago… my hubby and I were emotional too… just couldn’t believe how fast time flies! My advice: trust that God loves your girl more than you ever could. Give her wings to fly & encourage her to dream big, God-sized dreams.

    Here’s the blog post I wrote when she graduated 8th grade this past June; it contains a letter she wrote to us:

    Enjoy the teenage years… they have been amazing for us. God truly has given us a precious gift in our daughter!

    • Eugene Cho says:

      It hit us this past summer that we only have 5 summers left with our oldest daughter. Obviously, we know we’ll have so many more experiences but it really hit us how college was not that far off.

      Thanks for the advice.

  4. Ronna says:

    My comment as the mom of 3 post-teen girls is be more focused as a parent on the inside (mind and heart) and less about on appearance experiments. Also pray a lot!
    Agree with Kim to listen more speak less; wish I had done more of that.

  5. Rob Morris says:

    Being a parent of 6 kids…two who made it through their teens, one currently there and another about to be…I was going to write something witty. But after reading your daughter’s poem, I am at a loss for words. Stunning. I think she is going to be just fine.

  6. Erick says:

    Her poem is beautiful!

    As a youth pastor, here’s my experience and advice…especially as teenage years bring odd/strange and profound/beautiful things.

    -To a 13 year old: God loves that you are you.
    -To parents of a 13 year old: God loves that she is who she is…and loves that YOU are entrusted to her.

    Also, watch/read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”. Great view of the middle school world.

  7. Diane Adams says:

    From one whose youngest just turned 18 and will be heading across the country to college in 10 months my advice would be to listen but more importantly encourage her to explore. Explore who she is, what the world is, and her place in it. Now is her best time to make mistakes as you are still nearby to help pick up the pieces. Don’t let her first time to fail colossally be after she has left the confines of your protection. She needs you now to show her how to stand up again and rely on God’s strength to keep going.

  8. Our teenager is getting ready to turn 17. Here are some things I have learned. Don’t forget to still affirm and tell them how important and loved they are- I believe as teenagers our words mean just as much to them if not more. And sometimes when they are taller, smarter and more independent we can forget. It’s too important to forget! One more thing- we have tried to provide some freedom in schedule & choices. That’s hard! But allowing Teddy to experience some consequences and rewards of wise decisions he has made has been priceless. (And yes he has had a few bumps with decisions.)

    Advise for the new teenager? Be patient with your parents. They are two people in the world that no one, NO ONE can replace. They are Father & Mother and want Gods very very best for you. And sometimes when you don’t understand them remember they are taking their role as your parents as one of the most important & precious gifts in their life!

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Love this.

      Coming from a family of few words, I have experienced the other spectrum of the lack of affirmation. I knew my parents deeply loved me but it was more a “knowledge” rather than an ongoing and daily experience.

  9. jan says:

    What beautiful humility for you to publicly ask for advice! Love that!
    As the daughter of a lifelong youth pastor who has quite literally grown up around teenagers, and as someone who has tutored and supervised teenagers in a variety of situations, my advice would be pretty much the same as everyone else’s:
    Don’t try to explain, or solve, or excuse, or judge, or ignore. Resist the urge to constantly impart your wisdom gained from experience–you do have lots of wisdom to share, and teenagers frequently think foolishly, but remember that everyone needs to gain that wisdom for themselves. So listen.
    I cannot tell you how often my tutoring students share amazingly deep, wise, profound insights as well as vulnerable thoughts, feelings, and questions about life–because I just listened, and took them seriously. So listen.

    My advice for your beautiful young woman: life is hard, and THAT’S OKAY. Life is really difficult during adolescence–you’re not alone, there’s nothing weird about you, no one else has it all together. Everyone struggles through puberty and the teenage years. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to feel frustrated and confused and ecstatic and angry and silly all within 5 minutes. That’s normal. You don’t have to have everything together, you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be you–and being you IS perfect.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Thanks Jan.

      Your advice for “parents” is very appropriate for me. My tendency is to fix things. That’s my love language, I supposed but I’ve realized that in that process, I forget to really “hear”…

  10. Abby says:

    (I hope it’s not too weird that I’m commenting on this but)
    I’ve been through a few of those years already, and the biggest trick is DON’T GET SUCKED INTO THOSE STEREOTYPES. Just leave it to your own desires, and don’t let what other people think affect what you want to do. There are a ton of opportunities to you, and you don’t want to close some off because you don’t think it’s “right” or “normal”. Likewise, if you find that you do, for example, like make-up or dressing up, go ahead and do it! Just don’t like something for the wrong reasons. I think it’s the teenage years that really affect what your future will hold because this is the point where you really need to find what your true self is.

    Happy birthday Jubi ❤
    ~승해 언니

  11. 5 more summers? Who is imposing the rule that children have to move away for college? My kids stayed home until married or self-supporting. I have 5 kids, youngest is at home and 21 y.o., goes to a local college, wants to be a teacher. It’s not the best college, but family is more important. The other 4 all live nearby. We have great relationships with all of them.

    Anyway, here’s the other thing I did and am convinced is important. My wife never worked outside the home and was always there. I have a long commute, but nevertheless, always had b/f with the kids at the start of the day, and supper at the end. I’m a scientist and probably would have gotten more work done if I hadn’t adhered to these rules. But placing family as highest priority over job advancement is the right tradeoff. The only important rule is to be there. The rest falls into place.

    • Eugene Cho says:


      You’re right. No rules to suggest that she needs to go out of state or that we can’t do summer vacations together. our hope (and plan) is for her to go to school in Washington but who knows. This past summer, we drove around for 7400 miles around the country over 9 weeks. We’re pretty sure that once she starts college, we won’t be doing too many 9 week drives around the country.

      Love the advice about the highest priority. Can’t agree more.

  12. Kathryn Sciba says:

    I am blessed to know her and am touched by her poem.

  13. Daniel from WPC says:

    As a teenager who is a bio major, I have to say the most important thing for a teenager to learn, is to enjoy learning.

  14. Kathy Khang says:

    As the mother of an almost 16-y-o daughter, my advice to you is to keep learning how she receives love and love on her. And don’t believe any of the horror stories other parents tell you and warn are “just around the corner”. Gratefully each child is uniquely created in God’s image, and not every teenager is a brooding, door slamming, cranky pants. 🙂

    My advice to your daughter: Learn to listen to others. You will learn so much about the world God has created by learning from others. And then learn to hear your own unique, God-created and given voice by surrounding yourself with amazing friends and family who will laugh, cry, scream and twirl around (which is what my daughter does) with you as well as speak truth to you.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Thanks Kathy for this.

      I like the words about the over dramatization of the ‘doom and gloom’ language we use about the teenage years.

      And I’m gonna make sure our daughter reads your advice.

  15. Kacie says:

    I have advice, and it comes from someone who was the oldest daughter of a busy leader.

    If your daughter knows you’re emotional over her, you treasure her, and she will always be your baby, she will leave home confident and secure. Engage her in conversation about everything she’s learning and thinking about and she’ll learn you’re a safe place to talk through things.

  16. Rebekah says:

    When our kids were little people would say to us, “Sure, they’re cute now, but wait until you have four teenagers in the house!” We would chuckle and smile but I was always vaguely offended by these sentiments. What made them think my kids were going to be awful? I expected they were going to be wonderful. And, sure enough, they were–because kids, on the whole, will live up or down to their parents’ expectations. We had a great time with our teenagers–they were fun, smart, witty, and growing into the marvelous adults they were going to be. It was such a joy to watch and participate.

    We mourned a little each time a child transformed out of one phase into another. “Newborns are so precious; I hate to lose this tiny, helpless creature.” “Toddlers are such a kick, but he’s turning into a little boy now.” “Look how tall she’s become! Where did my little girl go?” But to our astonishment, we found that each successive stage was better than the last. We didn’t think we could possibly love them more or enjoy them as much as we did at any single point in time. But every next “age” proved us wrong.

  17. Jordan Yee says:

    Well, i’m not a parent, so i don’t know how qualified I am to comment here, but I am a pastor’s kid who’s just made it out of his teens; so, here’s my advice based on what I value as well as what I felt could have been further explored in my upbringing.

    1. Confide in your teen. Learn to treat her and see her as a peer as well as your daughter. This goes beyond just giving her more responsibility, but sharing your own problems and struggles as well. This might be awkward at first (it sure was for me!), but it forces your teen to think and carry him/herself as an adult.

    Ultimately, though, trust in Proverbs 22:6, and trust that God will remain her parent long after she has moved away from home.

    2. To a thirteen year old,

    Our world will tell you that your business must be kept separate, professional. Your personal life must be kept to yourself. Find adults that you respect who’s work, passion, and life coincide, and ask them to mentor you.

    In the context of Christianity, the world will tell you that your Faith is not meant to be shared, but hidden. Look for mentors in your congregation who share your passion, and perhaps, work in a vocation that you could see yourself in. Learn, from them, how to live out your Faith in all aspects of your life.

    Our world tells you that you don’t need anyone but your peers, but if you really want to live life to the fullest, respect and learn from people of all ages, both the adults who guide you, and the children who look to you for guidance.

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The secret to being grateful is no secret. You choose to be grateful. Then you do it again and again. Every day. If you forget, start again. Back to fishing...I mean, umm...back to writing a book. There's no such thing as a self-made person. Someone believed, encouraged, and invested in you. Be grateful and be that someone for others.

Taking a break from the partner in ministry in Denver at Cherry Hills Church and at the CRU staff conference. It was such a gift to be able to encourage a handful of folks one-to-one, a small group of Asian-American leaders from EPIC, and the larger group of 5000 staff during one of the sessions.

I've been personally blessed, challenged, encouraged, exhorted, and convicted by so many who have poured into my life - friends, acquaintances, and even strangers - and I hope to do that for others as I seek to be faithful to Christ.

Thank you, Lord.
#cru17 Nothing grows by itself. If something matters to us, may we be intentional about growing it.

Invest. Pray. Plant. Water. Nurture. Repeat. God sees and knows us. In fact, God knows everything about us.

Not just the good we try so hard to project but even the mess we often seek to hide.

Let this soak in: Not only are we fully known but in Christ, we are fully pursued and loved.

This is grace.
Amazing grace. Hairstyles change. Sideburn fads come and go but may our commitment to love, honor, respect, and be on mission together for Christ never waver.

Thank you, Minhee. I love you so much even if you made fun of my hairstyle and sideburns.

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