By the time your children reach their teens, there is only a
limited amount of time left to influence them and get them
started in life in the right direction.
The teen years are a critical time for role models in your
children's lives. Often you will find teens have a hard time
talking to their parents. This isn't always the case, but even
in the closest families, teens often feel more comfortable
talking to another trusted adult about some of the things going
on in their lives.
Of course you would prefer your teen would go to an adult when
they need to talk something important out, instead of relying on
their friends who may not have the insight an older, more
experienced adult would have.
Obviously you have no real control over who your teen goes to for
advice, but there are a number of ways you can steer your teen in
the right direction.
The best chance your teen has for interacting with other adults
is in extracurricular activities. There are all kinds of
activities your teen can be involved with, here are some that
come to mind: church youth group, scouts, sports, music, school
clubs, community service, just to name a few. Personally I don't
encourage parents to involve their teens in so many activities
that it leads to burnout for both the parents and the teen, but
carefully selected activities led by good and capable leaders
will enrich your teen's life in a way few things can, and will
increase the likelihood that your teen will establish a
relationship with one of the group leaders.
One word of caution, however. Talk to your teen about their
activities and get a feel for yourself the effectiveness of the
group leader. Not to say that they have to excel in every way,
but just make sure that they are a good role model, and not a
negative influence in your teen's life. There is the potential
of bad leaders in any activity, including in a church setting,
and it is the parents' responsibility to make sure their teen is
in a positive atmosphere, influenced by mature leaders.
Involvement in group activities is especially great for teens of
single parents. Teens who don't have regular contact with mature
adults of both sexes often have a hard time later in normal adult
relationships. Being exposed to "normal" at this age very much
increases the teen's chances of growing into a well-adjusted
adult. I have seen this often with boys who are raised by their
moms with not much influence or negative influence from their
Placed into group settings, with responsible adult male leaders,
these teen boys have much less difficulty transitioning into
adulthood. It also takes of a lot of the pressure off the often
From my own experience, I have found that often other adults can
help my teen in ways that I can't, mostly due to big differences
in our personalities. I am more of a quiet introspective
thinker, and my daughter is very outgoing, and has a lot of
potential leadership qualities that are hard for me to help her
develop because I do not possess those qualities myself. Knowing
how important it is to help her develop her natural
abilities at this impressionable age, I make sure there are other
adults in her life who can help influence her in ways I can't.
My daughter and I are very close, but there are just a lot of
things that I can't help her with, so I encourage her in
developing relationships with adults who do have those abilities.
My daughter and I both respect our different abilities. It is
very easy to be critical of people who are not like us, and
parents and teens very easily fall into this trap. The best
thing to do is be honest about your own abilities, and of the
abilities of your teen, and do whatever is necessary to find
outside influences for your teen. The more you can help your
teen develop their abilities now, the less they will have to do
on their own later (often, the hard way).
And don't forget, you are a role model too. Get involved in the
lives of your teen's friends, or volunteer to help in a group
activity in some way, even if only occasionally. There are teens
out there who really need to hear what you have to say.
Copyright 2002. Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and
Christian wife and mom. For complete resources for the Christian
home, visit her web site at http://www.Christian-Parent.com. To
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