Teaching Teens to Care

April 15th, 2014

by Mark Hall

A teenager’s little corner of the world is often a pretty convenient place to live. In “teen world,” the toilet paper magically grows on the roll, clothes miraculously show up clean and folded, and commercials make available everything a teen could want. Websites like MySpace and Facebook further emphasize the message that the world revolves around teenagers. Whether by parents, schools, the advertising industry or the Internet, this generation of young people is constantly being served. So how is a parent supposed to teach a teen to care for others when culture is teaching teens that it’s all about them?

I saw a good example of this prevailing attitude a few years ago on a Sunday morning the day after Christmas. The kids at church were chatting about all the presents they had scored the day before. I walked up to one group and asked them, “What did you give for Christmas?” Prepared only to talk about what they had received, the teens looked dumbfounded, stumbling to recall what they had offered to others.

The truth is that it’s not natural for us to care about others. Humanity is born self-centered and greedy, and teens are no exception. We need to recognize that the real issue here is the heart. If we simply try to change our teens’ behavior, we’re not really helping our kids to draw closer to Jesus; we’re just filling their time.

In teaching teens to care for others, youth leaders often point to the apostle Paul’s words: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

But even as we teach this important Scripture, we often skip verses 1 and 2 that explain: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”

In other words, our ability to care for others doesn’t come from sheer willpower, and it definitely doesn’t come from cultural influences. In those verses, Paul is saying that if your encouragement is in Christ, then you can put others first. If you have comfort in Jesus’ love, then you can care more about your neighbor. But when your walk with Christ is nonexistent, then you have nothing to offer others.

If we want teens to care about others, we’ve got to be more aware of what fills their lives. Strategic parenting begins with an emphasis on making Jesus real to our teens. When that happens, their hearts will naturally overflow to those in need.

Filling our teens with the Good News of Jesus is where caring begins. Next, we have to model it ourselves. When I was a boy, I didn’t have a conversation with my parents about what it means to care for others. All I had to do was watch my dad. He always made a point to speak to people, to ask questions. After awhile, I realized he just cared for people. My dad consistently modeled Jesus in big and small ways.

Teens look to see that a caring attitude is exemplified at home. Start with little ideas. Consider the chores you already have, and offer to help someone else with those chores as well. Do you need to cut your grass? Well then, perhaps you can mow your neighbor’s yard, too. Or how about volunteering to set up and tear down the chairs at church or going with the youth group to serve in the soup kitchen? As you model Jesus’ care for others, your teens have a tangible experience that reflects tenderness and compassion out of the overflow of your relationship with Christ.

By your actions as a parent, you can introduce your kids to life beyond their little corner of the world. 

A Parent of Your Word

October 28th, 2013

by Jen Wilkin

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs His disciples to be people of their word. He teaches that our “yes” and “no” should be words of integrity. He instructs us to do what we say we will do so that our words carry unquestionable credibility.

This is a foundational concept for Christian parents. We want our children to trust our words. Cultivating that trust begins at an early age and requires intentionality and effort. Most parents recognize the importance of letting their “yes” be “yes.” If we promise a reward for an accomplishment or good behavior, the reward must be given. Following through on that “yes” teaches our child that we deliver what we promise.

But in letting our “no” be “no,” our credibility may suffer. Who hasn’t seen the young mom at a park repeating a series of “no” statements to her child, only to be met with either no acknowledgment or outward defiance? It is critical for parents to understand the subtext of these scenarios; they are battles for parental credibility.

When we issue a “no” command and our child does not obey, the child is asking an important question: “Are you a person of your word?” How we respond answers that question. If we repeat the command or allow the disobedience to go uncorrected, we communicate that our word is not our bond. If we follow through with correction, we communicate that our word can be trusted.

Why don’t we follow through? Usually because we casually give commands that we don’t care about enforcing or because we don’t want to administer correction. Parents whose word is their bond say what they mean and mean what they say. They only command what they expect to be done, and they follow through with correction even if it requires effort. They care more about consistency than comfort. They care more about integrity than convenience.

As parents, we should repeat ourselves as many times as we want our child to actively disobey. When we tell ourselves, “Oh, he just didn’t hear me,” or, “Oh, she’s too young to understand,” we disrespectfully imply that our children are either deaf or stupid. They are not. If they are old enough to hear and respond immediately to, “Come get a cookie,” they are old enough to hear and respond immediately to, “Pick up your toys.” The issue is not about hearing or intelligence, but about will.

So what about grace? Don’t we model God when we give grace instead of correction? Yes, by giving it like He does: freely, to one who does not expect it. A child who ignores a command is telling you that they expect to be given grace, and often what we call grace is conflict avoidance.

When we give a command, our unspoken implication should be, “I mean it.” When our child ignores it, their implication is, “No, you don’t.” Repeating the command reveals our lack of resolve and compromises our child’s ability to believe we are a parent of our word.

Be a parent whose word is your bond. Only give commands that you expect to be obeyed. Only give them once. Consistently follow through with affirmation for obedience and correction for disobedience. Your child will flourish under the assurance that your word can be trusted, a credibility you can draw on when the hard questions of adolescence arrive.

Still better, your trustworthy speech and actions will model the character of God. By being a parent of your word, you mirror our heavenly Parent, whose “yes” and “no” are firm, for His glory and our good.

Defining family

October 16th, 2013

As a Communication major in college, one of the first things that I learned in my class work was that in order to effectively communicate, you must know your audience. Therefore in order to biblically inform and prepare our children, we must first understand them. There are three apparent things about children that we must take note of in order to effectively inform and prepare them biblically. These three things are that children were created for a relationship with GOD, that they are natural interpreters and that their behavior flows out the heart.

First, children were created for a relationship with GOD. They were made to know, love, serve and obey Him. We have all been created like this. If we are not loving, serving and obeying GOD, then our hearts will quickly find something or someone else to love, serve and obey. This is worship. Every person is a worshiper. The question we must answer is what do they worship. This is easy to detect through observance. We must take notice of the things that they do, what they desire, the choices they make, the relationships they pursue – these are all indications of where their worship is directed. Our children, like us, will worship and serve GOD or they will worship and serve something else. Those are the only options; see Romans 1.18-32 for proof.

Secondly, children are natural interpreters. This means that children will in fact make assessments and conclusions about life, right or wrong. GOD says that there is a right way and a wrong way to think about life, and that whatever you think about life will shape the way you act. You may want to read that statement again to grasp the weight of it. It’s saying that if our children think incorrectly about the things of life, this will cause them to act out in a way that is harmful to them and even worse, unpleasing to the LORD. For instance, I have dealt with so many students that have naturally interpreted their life circumstances as being that no one loved them, including GOD. These students had incorrectly interpreted the pain in their life and determined that they were unloved by all of those around them. This false interpretation led them to accept a pseudo-love in place of an agape love, which they so desperately needed. This is just one common scenario. The way that we combat this is to do everything we can to get our children to think out loud. This will allow us to see their thought pattern and correct any kind of erroneous interpretations that they might have derived. This happened to me recently with my three year old son. I was busy in the kitchen and had my back to him. Unaware that he was sitting right behind me, I accidently stepped on him. My mind was focused on my task at hand and so I didn’t think much of it at first. I then turned around to find him walking away slowly with his lower lip sticking out. I then engaged him, telling him that I was sorry that I stepped on him. That didn’t seem to help much. I then asked him, why he was so sad and what was he thinking. He gave me his interpretation of the event, that I intentionally hurt him and was ignoring him. I quickly corrected the misunderstanding and gave him some attention and love and we went on to have a good time that evening. That is a simple story but it displays the importance of allowing your children to reveal how they interpret things. This is vitally important as it allows you to insert truth into flawed thinking. We must biblically inform our children. This is done by inserting the Word of GOD. Study 2 Timothy 3.16-17 for more on how this is done. Without the truth of GOD’s Word, we cannot interpret life properly.

The final thing to understand is that children’s behavior flows out of their heart. So many people miss this and strive towards the goal of getting their children to do what is right. Many accomplish this through control tactics that are tiresome, unloving and have only short term effects. I am not saying that students don’t need boundaries, as they desperately do! But these boundaries are not our end goal, they may function as a means to an end, but never the end. The goal remains that they have hearts for the LORD. After all, the thoughts and motives of the heart shape the way people act. Matthew 12.34 says this best, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” It’s simple math really, right beliefs plus good desires equals right behavior. It is your responsibility to instill these right beliefs straight from the Scriptures. This is the easy part. The hard part is constantly seeking our children’s hearts to ensure that they have good and righteous desires. Their nature, like ours will not be for good and righteous things. This is where we make war for them. We fight for them. We love them. We shepherd them. This is not easy or comfortable, but parenting was never promised to be so. This is the family that GOD has intended for us to be.

Navigating Media in the Christian Home

September 18th, 2013

Media has changed so dramatically over the years that knowing how to navigate it for my own kids feels overwhelming. No longer is “screen time” confined to the TV in the living room. Screens are everywhere – they are even in our pockets.

The average time American children spend in front of a screen is conservatively pegged at four hours and 41 minutes per day. That’s 33 hours a week. Increased screen time has been linked to obesity, violence, over-consumption and learning disabilities. The secular community sees and decries these negative effects. But how should the Christian parent respond? Should we aim to beat the average? Should we ban screens from our homes? I want to suggest three points for Christian parents to consider in navigating the role of media in their homes.

Message

All media communicates a message. Every song, show, movie, video and app has something to say. Not all media messages are harmful, but many conflict with the greater message Christian parents are charged to communicate. Children have limited ability to recognize and interpret media messages and need parental involvement to screen, filter and interpret them.

Most parents know to dodge obviously bad media messages like sex and violence. But watch out for subtle messages like imitative behavior: Children are often socialized by fictional characters. Even if a program is rated age-appropriate, ask yourself if its characters behave in ways you want your children to.

Most of us would never allow our children to talk to a stranger – we would certainly not invite a stranger into our home to teach our children his worldview. But unmonitored screen time can do just that. Talk about media messages. Limit, supervise and share screen time to ensure that your worldview remains intact in the hearts of your children.

Conversation

On average, parents spend 38.5 minutes a week in meaningful conversation with their children. Screen time sabotages a climate of conversation in the home; it steals eye contact and mental focus from people and places it on screens. When screens hover around the dinner table, dominate car trips or fill up potential moments of boredom, they rob our families of sacred spaces where conversations develop.

Deuteronomy 6:7 commands parents to “teach [the commands of the Lord] diligently to your children, [talking] of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” In a world where media walks with us every step of the day, parents must discipline themselves and their children to value face time over screen time.

Time

Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Advances in modern medicine have added to our days: Between 1909 and 2009, life expectancy in the United States rose from 51 years to 78 years. That’s an impressive gain of 27 years. Now think about this: If a child who begins watching four and a half hours of screen time a day at age 4 maintains that amount of screen time to the age of 78, guess how much time he will have spent consuming screen media? That’s right – 27 years. Christian families cannot afford this wastefulness.

Number your days and the days of your children rightly (Ps. 90:1-17). Give them the gift of face time over screen time. Give them the gift of an uncluttered mind and a heart of wisdom open to receive the most vital message of all: the gospel of Christ, given through the gracious media of the Word and the Spirit.

Disconnected Connections

July 11th, 2013

by Jeremy Daniel

In his book The Church of Facebook Jesse Rice quotes psychologist Janet L. Surrey as claiming, “Authentic connection is described as the core of psychological well-being and is the essential quality of growth-fostering and healing relationships. In moments of deep connection in relationship, we break out of isolation and contraction into a more whole and spacious state of mind and heart.” This is a statement that I can get behind. I understand that as beings that were created in the image of a triune God that humanity flourishes in deep, authentic, life giving community. However, it would seem that as we become more and more connected through our unlimited technologies, we are at the same time becoming more disconnected from the deep connections that Surrey is describing above.

In a world where a student may have a thousand Facebook friends who do not know them at all, it is extremely important that we encourage them to seek out and engage in meaningful community. This is a tall task to say the least, but primary for growth and maturity. To be known can be scary for anybody, but throw the insecurity and raging hormonal changes of the pre and teen years into the mix and it can be excruciatingly terrifying. We do not want our students merely connected, we want them known. We must become skilled in the art of asking good questions and following those questions up with good questions all the while trying to dig into their heart.

I would recommend Paul David Tripp’s Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands as a resource to fostering the types of relationships that we all so desperately need. If you are a parent take time to talk to your student this week. If you are a leader, take time to talk to a student this week. Tell them that you want to know them. The deepest, darkest, ugliest parts of them, and then show them that you mean it. Our connecting technologies are an amazing gift, and when we are redeeming these things as tools to spread the gospel, they get even better. But let us always remember that we cannot mistake our Facebook community for redemptive community.

Train Them Up

June 4th, 2013

Helpful tips for raising godly children

Cultural mores of casual sex, violence and relativism are redefining the traditional family, so Christian parents have an even tougher job of training their children in the ways of God, passing along their faith to the next generation.

I’ve tried, you’re probably thinking, but it just isn’t working. My kids dread Bible times. How are they ever going to understand the reality of faith and Christ’s salvation?

In a recent Focus on the Family survey, spiritual training was reported as one of the top three issues with which parents need help. Building a spiritual heritage takes a bit of planning, effort and creativity, but the most important thing is to make it meaningful.

Everyday experiences are a good place to start. You can use mealtimes, homework, games and such to teach biblical principles to your children. Still feeling a bit wary? The Heritage Builders ministry is available to spark your imagination and give you all the tools you need for passing faith on in these core areas:

Family Moments: Creating special, teachable moments with children is a precious, yet difficult, responsibility. But parents can capture moments throughout the day to teach and impress biblical principles on their children. Instead of listening to a secular radio station in the car, how about turning on a Christian station or playing a Bible song tape? When reading to your children at bedtime, choose a Bible story instead of a library book.

Family Fragrance: If your home is filled with tension and chaos, it would be difficult for spiritual values to be taught or caught. But if your home environment is sweet and restful, it’s more fertile ground for spiritual training. Heritage Builders encourages parents to create a home that fosters a Christ-centered AROMA through Affection, Respect, Order, Merriment and Affirmation.

Family Traditions: Whether you pass down stories, beliefs and/or customs, traditions can help you establish a special identity for your family. Heritage Builders encourages parents to set special milestones to help guide their children through spiritual development.

Family Compass: Ever had someone give you directions by saying, “Go north eight miles, then east five miles” when you had no idea which way was which? Parents have the unique task of setting standards for normal, healthy living through their attitudes, actions and beliefs, which give children the moral navigation tools they need to succeed on the roads of life

The Power of Teachable Moments

May 21st, 2013

A rainbow, a tube of toothpaste, a holiday dinner — how can these ordinary things be used to teach kids about the Bible? They can all be used to illustrate a “teachable moment.” The teachable-moment method of faith building enlightens your children about God in a way that captures their attention and changes their lives. No lectures. No manuals. No rolling of the eyes. No kidding!

Your children will learn biblical principles that they’ll never forget.

A “teachable moment” is like creating an on-the-spot commercial for biblical principles using simple, everyday language and familiar objects. If you see a beautiful tree growing near a lake, for example, you can point it out and say to your child, “Isn’t that tree magnificent? God says that people of faith are like that tree. Trees stay strong because they grow near the water. People stay strong when they grow closer to God.”

Once you discover the three ingredients of a teachable moment, you will have a method to make a life-changing spiritual impact through everyday events. A teachable moment gives you the resources to make the Bible relevant to your children today, right now, this very moment.

Teachable moments are perfect for working or single parents who don’t have a lot of free time to build a spiritual legacy. They can be incorporated into any family routine, no matter how busy. Teachable moments require no preparation. In fact, they often work best when you’re driving in the car or just having plain old fun with your kids.

But whenever you do have a chance, also try planning a teachable moment. Either way, your children will feel affirmed and will learn biblical principles that they’ll never forget.

Plain Old Fun

Before you begin trying to teach your children about God by using teachable moments, it’s a good idea to build up your parent-child relationship by having some fun. Being lighthearted creates the right atmosphere for teachable moments and cements the parent-child bond. If your children know you can relax and just play, they will see you in a whole new light and be more receptive to adopting your values.

Be sure there are times in your family life when you watch a movie, just for fun. When you have a water fight, just for fun. When you pitch a tent and sleep in the backyard, just for fun.

Here are more ideas:

  • At the dinner table, have a contest to see who can create the longest sentence with words that start with the letter B.
  • Put green food coloring in the orange juice.
  • Check out the music from old Disney movies from the library. Sing the songs in the car.
  • Learn to talk with a phony accent or make up a secret family language.
  • Have a fight with whipped cream or a sock war.
  • Go on a scavenger hunt.
  • Visit a pet store and hold a snake.
  • Play hide-and-seek outside.
  • Once you begin to have fun together, your kids will be relaxed and open — primed for a teachable moment.

Three Ingredients to Teach Without Preaching

Parents can deliberately and intentionally teach their children biblical truths using teachable moments — and the children can enjoy it. It’s not some fanciful dream or nebulous ideal you hear about only on the 700 Club. And you don’t have to be a natural-born teacher to use them. You just have to try out teachable moments and work with them for a few weeks, and soon you’ll know the secrets of teaching without preaching.

A teachable moment requires three simple ingredients.

The first is an open relationship between the parent and child.

Second, you need a catalyst — an event or object that illustrates the spiritual point. A catalyst is the conversation starter, the reason the teachable moment is occurring at that specific time and place. Often the catalyst is an everyday object like a bridge or a mousetrap. Or it can be some big milestone in your child’s life, like baptism.

Third, a teachable moment requires a biblical truth. The truth can be a Bible fact, a truth about God’s character, or insights into living a life of faith. You can gather a lot of truths through personal Bible study.

Here’s an example. A family of six went on vacation (ingredient #1 — a good relationship with time for fun) and the father found a billfold in a hotel parking lot. (The billfold is the catalyst, ingredient #2.) The billfold had money in it but no identification. The father took it to the front desk, tossed it on the counter and told the clerk, “In case someone comes looking for a wallet, here it is.”

His children witnessed the event, and he could have left the matter there but chose to talk about it instead. As a family, they discussed the virtue of honesty and why the father turned in the money instead of keeping it. He wasn’t trying to impress them with his virtue; he was impressing them with biblical truths. Perhaps they would have learned the lesson just by watching, but he couldn’t be sure without asking them what they were thinking.

The father wasn’t preaching. No one got a lecture; no one left feeling inadequate, overwhelmed or bored. It took only a couple of minutes to make the point (ingredient #3): “Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

Adapted from The Power of Teachable Moments by Jim Weidmann and Marianne Hering, Copyright © 2004, Focus on the Family. Used by permission.

Encouraging Your Teen’s Faith

May 13th, 2013

by Ron Luce

I received a letter from a father, who wrote, “One of the goals I had for my son in attending your Honor Academy was for him to make his faith his own. He grew up in a Christian home and he’s a great kid, but sometimes when teens leave home, they try new things.”

This father’s goal is probably not too different from that of many Christian parents. We want our sons and daughters to leave home with something more than just a good Christian upbringing. We want our teens to have a personal faith rather than just a family faith. But how do we encourage that kind of ownership?

I want to offer some hope, wisdom and personal insight to encourage you as parents. It’s never too late to build and maintain the essential bridges to the heart of your teens so that they continue to establish a personal relationship with Christ as they mature.

Be aware of who owns his heart

When our kids were very young, it was easy to see that we as parents still owned their hearts. If we are not careful, however, friends or media will begin to own the heart of our teens. And the bottom line — whoever owns a teen’s heart will have the most influence on him.

Somewhere in the process of moving from the influence of parents to the influence of peers and the culture, kids may decide that they don’t want to hear anything their parents have to say. In this situation, we may need to woo our teens back to relationships at home, watching for signs that we are once again the ones to whom they go for direction. We will need to spend time with them individually, talking about issues they might mention and discussing why our values may differ from those around us.

Let’s not forget to spend time doing fun things with our teens, creating opportunities to talk and letting them know we care. Depending on how hardened or influenced by friends and culture a teen may be, it could take a significant investment of time to win his heart back. But it’s absolutely possible.

We need to clarify for our teens that with more freedom comes more responsibility. They need to know we trust them to make right decisions, even though limits may be set on Internet and iPod use and time spent with friends. Allow for family meetings, pray together about making big decisions, and ask them frequently how they are doing.

Teach core values

What are our core values? Many of us would say, “I just want my family to live according to the Bible.” But if we don’t emphasize individual character qualities, we may end up not emphasizing any biblical qualities.

My wife, Katie, and I wrote down a list of qualities we wanted in our family and presented them in a list to our kids: honor, respect, honesty and responsibility. Together we agreed that this was the kind of family we wanted to be, and although we knew we were never going to be perfect, we committed to living by these four core values.

As parents, we need to model the values we choose to emphasize in our home, letting our teens confront us if they notice we are in violation of these values. Even if we make a big mistake, we can turn the situation around with a heartfelt apology.

Be deliberate

It’s imperative that we actively work with our teens to create a family culture that builds stability, sets expectations, ensures security and encourages faith. Here are some specific ways we can encourage teens to grow in their faith:

• Maintain a close personal relationship with the Lord that our kids can see and emulate.

• Encourage them to spend time with the Lord in a daily devotion.

• Challenge them to keep a prayer journal.

• Ask them what God is speaking to them on a daily basis.

• Take time to worship together and talk about whatever comes to mind during this worship time.

• Make time before bed to say a five-minute prayer together (or pray in the car as you go to school each morning).

Our home and the living out of our faith should be one deliberate faithful act after another. Through the purposeful time we spend with our teens and our modeling of prayer and devotion to God’s purposes, our kids will be encouraged to grow in their own relationship with God. Our teens will be intentionally challenged to have a personal faith — not just a family faith — as they launch into adulthood.

What Do I Say?

May 8th, 2013

by Patti Townley-Covert

Home from college, my son Josh perched on a stool at the kitchen counter while I fixed dinner. The glint in his steel-blue eyes indicated an internal struggle. “Mom, how do you know the Bible is true?”

I groped for words and responded, “Because God says so.” Dissatisfied with my lack of reasoning, Josh left the room. Concern replaced my tension as I began to realize the damage of my thoughtless answer.

Questions like that made me gulp. How was I supposed to know? Did answers even exist? If they did, I didn’t know where to look for them or have the time to do the research. Cleaning house, soccer games and grocery shopping constantly competed for my attention.

A parent’s dilemma

In the days to come, Josh’s difficult questions became more frequent and significant. “How could a good God send my friend to hell?” “If He’s powerful enough to overcome evil, why do children die?” “Don’t all religions lead to the same God?” The tough questions increased until my son turned away from the Christian faith. For me, separating sound reasoning from emotional feelings had been too difficult.

Genuine intellectual difficulties do exist, and these can draw our children away from faith unless they are taught a rational and biblical foundation for their beliefs. By the time they reach college, young people have been bombarded by conflicting intellectual messages: science — evolution as opposed to creation; philosophy — a relative truth; history — revisionist accounts. Paraphrasing philosopher C. Stephen Evans, it’s no wonder that young people, when separated from an environment in which religious faith functions as a kind of social necessity, find faith no longer a viable option.

During my son’s years of questioning, my faith no longer felt comfortable. My pat answers failed to satisfy Josh’s quandaries, and his uncertainty built hunger in me for mind-satisfying truth.

Finding answers

Once I began to study and base my faith on facts, Josh and I found common ground. Attending a one-day seminar at a local Christian university convinced me of many historical and scientific reasons why the Bible is true. Archaeology, eyewitness accounts and comparison of early manuscripts all gave me sound reasons for believing that the Bible is the reliable Word of God. This knowledge began to strengthen my understanding of the Lord.

As I studied and learned all I could, I discovered factual reasons to justify why I believe in Jesus Christ. Being able to discuss these concepts with my son gave him some of the answers he hungered for. It’s been many years since then, and I still search for more answers. No longer afraid of difficult topics that challenge faith, I’ve discovered a bigger faith, a bigger truth and a bigger God.

I have also realized that I will never know all the answers. Some issues are beyond my understanding. No easy or comprehensive answers exist for such topics as the problem of evil. God is simply bigger than my mind can grasp. It is important for me to learn all I can, and yet I need to understand that my lack of complete understanding is OK.

The bottom line remains: Answers to difficult questions won’t solve every problem. Intellectual reasoning alone doesn’t instill faith. But acknowledging good questions and investigating difficult topics can lead to fruitful conversations. Knowing all I can gives me faith to love beyond differences. And that kind of love keeps me close to my son.

5 Conversations Every Parent Needs to Have with Their Children

May 6th, 2013

A parent’s job doesn’t end with providing food, shelter, and clothing. It is necessary to talk with the children about making moral decisions throughout their lives. These five important conversations can help determine the paths they follow throughout their lives.

1.   The Value of Good Morals

Begin teaching your children about good morals during the toddler years. While they are playing with other kids, you can teach them the value of sharing with others and being kind. As they grow older, you can have discussions with the youngsters about subjects like honesty, fairness, the value of helping others and exhibiting good work ethics. These topics guide the way they act at school, work and in social occasions. Remember that these discussions are most effective if you model these good traits yourself. Doing so shows them how to implement the morality in their own lives.

2.    Peer Pressure

Once your children start school they will experience peer pressure. Elementary children experience this as well, but the pressure really escalates during the middle and high school years. Talk to your kids about how you have raised them to know the difference between right and wrong. Explain that their conscience helps guide them in making decisions and if something seems wrong or amiss, that is often better to follow their gut instincts rather than their friend’s inclinations.

3.    Discussing Alcohol Use

Adolescents may start dabbling with alcohol use in the middle school years or even earlier. It is vital that you discuss the detriments of this activity with them before they are tempted to drink illegally. Explain the way alcohol affects people and lowers their inhibitions. Tell them that being under the influence of alcohol may make them feel that doing something is okay, but that they wouldn’t do it under normal circumstances. The influence of alcohol might tempt them to engage in immoral acts, vandalism or some other illegal or immoral activity. It is difficult to know how to talk to your freshman about binge drinking, but the high school years are often a time when this kind of behavior becomes popular. Point out articles in the newspaper about the results of binge drinking or watch a movie together that shows the detriments of such behavior. Explain that it is not just the illegal aspects that worry you; it is the health and safety of your adolescent that is your primary concern.

4.    Talking about Drugs

Drug use is rampant on middle and high school campuses. It crosses every social and economic boundary. Teens often believe that they are invincible and that nothing bad will ever happen to them. Explain that even drugs that teenagers deem harmless — like marijuana — can be dangerous if laced with other substances. Tell the teens that drugs sometimes numb the person and make them feel like everything is okay in their world. After the drug wears off, the same problems and issues still exist. Some people have addictive personalities. A teen who has this tendency may find that a drug like marijuana no longer provides him with the high he desires, therefore, he goes on to experiment with stronger and more lethal drugs.

5.    The Talk About Sex

It is vital you talk to your kids about the birds and the bees before they learn it from their friends. Talk openly with your kids, but be sure to keep it age appropriate for your youngsters. Talk to them about sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. Be open about it, and engage them in the conversation and encourage them to ask questions they may have. It may awkward at first, but this is one of the most important conversations you need to have your children.

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