Raising teenagers today is not for the faint of heart. There are SO many worldly influences competing for our teen’s attention and affection, and keeping our teens (or any age) on the right path can feel overwhelming and sometimes even impossible. Now that I’ve raised one teenager to adulthood I can solidly say the toddler years were easier. And I nearly blacked out when they were two and three. But alas, there is hope. There are lots of good measures we can take to ensure our teens makes it through high school while maintaining their relationship with the Lord, Here are a few…
1#: Engage In Spiritual Activities Other Than Church
Not to be a buzzkill, but going to church on Sundays and praying over your meals is simply not going to cut it, if you want to raise strong Christian teens. Unless your kids have the advantage of Christian school, or homeschool, they’re most likely surrounded and encompassed in worldly atmosphere filled with unhealthy influences and faithless people for most of the week- minus the two hours of church and handful of hours we’re able to spend together as a family. Teens need more consistent spiritual nourishment. Here are some ideas:
- Pick one night a week to watch a sermon or series geared towards teens. Make this as fun and relaxed as possible, by incorporating snacks, making a fire, extending bedtimes so this feels less dutiful and more of a treat. My son and I enjoyed Francis Chan’s teachings during high school, but there are tons of good preachers/sermons out there if you Google around.
- Have family prayer time once a week. This doesn’t have to be long. Just maybe a 15-30 minute meeting once a week after supper or whatever works, sharing prayer requests and praise reports as a family and then taking turns praying. This might feel award at first but praying together is super bonding, and creates one more opportunity for your kids to stay connected to God, and the family each week.
- Join a ministry or volunteer together a few times a month. This can be a soup kitchen, joining a church ministry like the AV or childcare teams, joining a life group, going on a family mission trip once ever summer, etc
It’s All About Their Friends
In my fantasy world, there’d be free Starbucks, no such thing as crows feet, and we’d all have the magical ability to select our kid’s friends. Because frankly, it can be terrifying meeting your son’s new “friend” Jenny, with a shockingly consistent flare for fishnets and hooker heels. Sigh. We all know a teenagers’ peers have the greatest influence over their decisions, attitudes and lifestyles. So naturally, the more sway we can render their social life, the better. Making sure your teen stays involved in your church’s youth group is the obvious piece of advise. If they’re hesitant, I’ve never been above bribery, in matters of the kingdom. :). And if that doesn’t work, try sending them along with another Christian friend’s youth group, or encouraging them to invite a friend to theirs, to be more comfortable. We’ve literally switched churches when our kids got connected with a “better” youth group. Other than that, all we can do is make sure to monitor our kids social activities.
When the kids make friends with “non-Christians” (it’s gonna happen!) always make sure to meet the parents before they ask to hang with a new friend, and of course hacking into their phones/tablets/ithings on a regular basis is a must. Our kids know their phones will continually be checked without warning, just to give them that extra sense of accountability (for a great article on regulating your kids’ phones read here). When they do make close non – Christian friends, encourage your kids to invite them to youth group (most have social nights where it’s less preaching, more recreational) and make sure to constantly communicate with your teens about the importance of living above reproach (i.e. swearing and looking up trash on their phones, etc.).
#3 Lead by Example
This is perhaps the most difficult and frankly unpleasant : ). There is no better lesson than the one led by example. None. Ugh. This can be difficult for the best, squeaky cleanest Christian parents. None of us are perfect. We all have our moments, and our downfalls. Unfortunately the kids are always watching, and listening. Like little domestic narks, haha. They’re paying attention to everything from the language we use on our conference calls, to the tones we use with our spouse. And how we handle ourselves under times of stress, exhaustion and irritation. They’re observing how much we drink, how we treat strangers (even the slow driver ahead of us on the way to work…”sweet Jesus, do you have NO where to go, buddy?!”) what Netflix shows we have on when they come downstairs for a snack… “PAUSE…I SAID PAUSE THE KIDS ARE COMING!”…and on and on. In my opinion, older kids are the best accountability partners on the planet. We can’t really tell our teens to live wholeheartedly for the Lord and answer “no” when they ask us whether we tithe. Or quote Matthew 6:33 every day when they haven’t seen us reading the Bible in months. Let your concern for your kids spiritual well-being literally spur you on towards holiness.
#4: Be Proactive About Tough Conversations
I’ve always struggled in the area of communication. I hate awkward talks and I do anything to avoid conflict. But this weakness can be disastrous when raising kids. So alas, I’ve had to evolve. Because if we don’t talk to our kids first whether about sex, our views on marriage and gender issues, even our political ideologies and issues like being pro life….the world will get to them first. They’ll hear lies, twisted truths and agenda-driven propaganda through school, their peers, college, colleagues, etc. We live in Connecticut, so you can imagine the quandary. I was literally un-invited to a jewelry party when I posted about Trump a fear years back. Alright that one was a win but the point remains relevant. I’ve learned not to assume our kids will know and understand what we believe (and why) just from attending church and observing ancillary conversations about our beliefs when they hear us shouting “Amen!” to the Fox News commentators. I also think it’s important to have continual one-on-ones with each teen….just to check and and see how school, friends, activities, and just general life is going. It might feel forced and unproductive (especially with sons.,..good Lordy the silence) but if nothing else, they’ll feel valued and cared about.
# 5 Pray For Them
This sounds like such an obvious tip, but I’ve so often found myself either not praying daily, period (I repent!) or just simply forgetting to pray with power and specificity over the spiritual lives of each of my kids. We sometimes pray for immediate concerns or needs…help my son get into college, or make more friends, or play well in the playoff, or overcome struggles with self-esteem…but forget to pray for the ‘big picture’ necessities daily… like staying close to the Lord, overcoming impure thoughts, lustful desires, being drawn to the world, etc. I’m sorry to the gents out there, but there is no better prayer warrior than a fiery mama for her kids. We all of the gift of intuition when it comes to our kids and I believe each of us has a special ability to intercede over them daily. In a way, it works two-fold, because this kind of daily prayer life perpetuates a close and consistent prayer life of our own, as well.
Teenagerhood is full of unknowns: bouts of moodiness, annoying swells of attitude and so much more that no amount of advise-seeking can prepare us for. It’s a wild adventure. It’s also a vital and precious window between child and adulthood that we can’t afford to squander or just army crawl through ambivalently, hoping they’ll turn out all right. With the Lord’s help, we’ll get there. Despite the occasional eye roll. xo
For more on raising teen’s, check out this great Priscilla Shirer sermon, “Raising Kids in the Midst of Technology.”
For more on growing closer as a family, check out my post “4 Ways to Grow Closer as a Family, Starting Today.”