Our kids are growing up fast, and sometimes it can feel difficult to catch up with the questions and scenarios that confront them every day. Part of raising strong kids is being available for the hard topics that often come up when we’re least prepared.
Well, parents: here’s a chance to prepare yourself. Like any sport, we have to practice and train our minds. We need to have a game plan for when we’re faced with unexpected scenarios.
After spending years working with teenagers, I’ve compiled a short list of the most important things they want to know – from you. Yes, as much as your teen may seem to fight it, they really want you to be straight with them.
This article contains answers that were given anonymously in a survey given to children raised in a home of faith and attend Christian schools.
1. Peer Pressure
Having a discussion about what peer pressure is and what it means as you see it happening (pre-school) and prior to the child facing it helps them recognize when it is happening.
Why do others want us to join them in something that can cause hurt or harm?
Ask the child what they are experiencing and how it makes them feel.
Discuss how convictions are what make them strong and keep the topic of convictions an on-going dialogue.
Here’s what one surveyed student said:
“I wish they would have talked about it in a way that was referring to what kids imply about themselves when they try to pressure others, not just the action itself.”
What makes a person ready to date? Talk with your teens about markers of maturity that indicate the ability to form dating relationships. Ask them what they think dating entails and be interested in who they want to date and why.
One of the survey answers says it all:
“They just told me I was not ready. I wish I had had guidance as to what a healthy relationship should look like as an adult.”
It is not only important to discuss what they like and will look for in a person, but also what they do not want in a relationship.
It is just as important to ask them questions as they grow instead of waiting for them to ask us.
Students weighed in on this question from a lot of perspectives:
“If parents act embarrassed, the child believes that they can’t handle the answer.”
“I wish they would have just told me about it. Instead I learned about it in unhealthy ways, from other kids and media.”
“I wish they had just been straight about it. How it is not sinful.”
“If they had asked, I would have shared my questions and even hurts regarding sex, but I believed it was not open for discussion.”
What do we turn to when we … want to be cool, forget a hurt, can’t handle pressures?
For some, healthy outlets are chosen, but there are too many kids turning to a substance.
Talking to our kids about healthy ways to get through situations gives them options, rather than them having to try it on their own.
90% of the surveyed teens did not believe that they could turn to a parent for help with the temptation to try a substance, nor did those who struggle with already using a substance.
Here is an answer from a student who was able to talk about it:
“I saw the effects and they were just honest about it. I think it would also be good to tell kids that even if they use, that their life and safety are more important, so if they ever get in a hard spot it will be safe to call their parents for help and not be ruined by not calling for help.”
In our home, we did scenario discussions with options, Plan A, Plan B, Plan C so that they knew it was never too late to stop no matter what prior choices were made. I did tell my kids I would pick them up lecture free if they would just call me. “I would rather pick you up drunk than dead!”
5. Gender Preference
This is such a hot and hard topic. As with the previous topics, God needs you to be the one who plants the first seed. The kids surveyed, and who I talk to, wish that their parents had been more comfortable to talk about it.
So many are confused now that they have close friends and even family who are gay. If you want your child to understand your opinions on this topic, you’ll want to establish your home as a safe place to discuss it.
Remember, if it is a taboo topic, they will get their information elsewhere. The students I talk to want to know if God still loves them, their family member or friend if they are gay. They are scared to open up this topic because of how they have heard it discussed in church as well as in their home.
6. Questioning Their Own Faith
Kids question everything, and the faith they were taught at home is no different. Are our kids safe to ask why? Are they safe to disagree?
Survey replies –
“Sort of, but they weren’t really big on opening their minds to other possibilities. It was mostly their way or the highway.”
“I wish they had told me it’s okay not to always agree with the church, but instead of leaving, finding a way to help change it for the better.”
Getting our kids to invest in serving at church helps them experience the blessing, understand for themselves the importance of fellowship and teaches them to be a part of solutions. I have found and experienced that if they cannot question and even disagree with church fundamentals, they leave all together.
Do you have a Spiritual Game Plan for your family?
It is my prayer and passion that we disciple the next generation to lead our church in a mighty way. Get your free printable version of The Spiritual Game Plan here and join our team of parents who are serious about playing to win the battle for the heart of our teens.
Cheri Fletcher lives in the greater Seattle area with her husband, Todd. They have three grown children and are new to empty-nesting. She has had a passion to teach Bible classes to churches and high school students and to mentor youth to be leaders since 2002.
Her children practice instruments, lines for plays, routines, and game plans so they can perform or play with confidence. Yet Cheri knows planning for the spiritual battles they will face is often taken too lightly.
When Cheri is not volunteering on her church campus, you will probably see her on the road running with her friends. Get to know Cheri and Unlock Your Purpose.