Parents often start talking about dating when their child comes home announcing he or she wants to go on a first date. Sadly for many teens, creating a heart that is ready to date on God’s terms, should have begun many years earlier when they were still children.
Christian parents often think they are protecting their kids by refusing to talk about dating, sex, purity, marriage and other similar topics until the teen years. What these parents don’t realize is that their children are most likely already having these conversations with peers or using television shows, movies and the internet to learn about them.
Having these conversations with your kids is uncomfortable even for those comfortable talking about those topics with their spouses and other adults. And for those who aren’t comfortable, having their teeth pulled without novocaine sounds a lot more fun.
If you don’t have these conversations though, you are setting your kids up for failure. The pressure to act in ungodly ways is hard enough on any teen or young adult. For those who haven’t been given enough tools to deal with it in godly ways, they will be particularly likely to give in to peer pressure.
So what sorts of conversations should you have with children about these sensitive, but important topics?
Have you ever felt like a caterpillar? Did you ever go through a stage when you believed you would never turn into a moth, much less a beautiful butterfly? For some women, those feelings can last for decades, while others may only feel like that for a few weeks of their lives. I would imagine if you ask most women when those feelings peaked though, they would tell you the tween/middle school years.
When our daughter was in late elementary school, we found the Secret Keepers by Dannah Gresh. (This link is what I believe is the current edition. Ours had cassette tapes!) The program was about modesty, beauty and all of that fun girl stuff from a Christian perspective. The series itself was fine, but what made it so special was the “date” we went on for each lesson. I only remember one now, because our daughter got to bring a friend and it involved trying on a lot of clothes – not normally a favorite thing of mine to do. We had a blast though.
For some teens, the most exciting things they learn in the Bible are that Jesus turned water into wine and the Bible calls drunkenness a sin – not drinking. What your teen may not realize is that just because something is permitted, doesn’t mean it is wise to do it. (I Corinthians 10:23 and 6:12) In fact, many Christians have decided to avoid all alcohol for a variety of very valid reasons.
The problem is parents rarely share those reasons with their kids. In fact, some parents are still experiencing “Iwannabepopular” syndrome and may have not resolved their own issues with alcohol. It’s difficult to help someone navigate an issue with which you are still struggling.
For topics like alcohol, most teens need real, honest discussion beyond the “It’s a sin. You could go to Hell. End of discussion.” lecture common when I was younger (FYI – not from my parents.). It’s not that drunkenness isn’t a sin. Or that your kids shouldn’t make obeying God their top priority. It’s just that they are still spiritually immature and may need additional information and/or motivation before making a wise spiritual choice.
So what bits of information does your child need to know about drinking, drunkenness and God? There are a lot of things you can share, but here are a few that seem to resonate with teens.
When you read through secular research on young people and decision making, one thing is mentioned repeatedly. Young people have a tough time making consistently good choices. The causes behind it are many and vary some from child to child. What is problematic for Christian parents is that these bad choices can have not just long term, but eternal consequences.
There is a developmental aspect to making good choices, which is probably why God requires baptism of young people only at the age of accountability. As your kids approach that age, it’s important to really focus on decision making skills – especially in relation to what God wants our decisions to be. You can and probably should, start some early training with even very young children. The earlier you start training them, the easier making good choices will be for most kids.
If you have ever homeschooled your child, I am sure you have had this conversation many times. You mention you homeschool and the other parent very quickly says “I could never do that. It’s too hard. (Fill in excuse.).” Now most parents aren’t quite that brave about admitting 100% Christian parenting is too hard, but you can tell they are thinking it. Or that’s it really not that necessary to “try so hard” or “do so much”.
After having ministered to kids and their families for several decades now, I can see a lot of patterns. I watch as parents parent young children in certain ways and then I see how the children grow (or don’t grow) in their faith as they become teens and then adults. It may not be 100% accurate, but it is pretty close. The parents who do certain things and avoid others almost always raise children who become faithful, productive Christians. Those who don’t, may get lucky once in a blue moon or may have adult children who attend church for family, social or business reasons, but there is a definite difference.