Thursday, July 16, 2015

Parenting Your Christian Teen, Part 3

A Look Back at My Own Youth (Class of 1984, and Class of 1989)

I don't remember being boy crazy as a teen. Looking back, time spent with my best friends was more of a highlight for me, especially since I wasn't close to my sister, brother, or to my parents. My best friends and I went out for a lot of girl-talk frozen yogurts, and boys didn't necessary monopolize our conversations.

I can still smell that frozen yogurt shop aroma like it was yesterday.

Life is so very short. Next March I'll be 50 and I can still feel the bench under me and I can still see my friends' faces as we sat there, eating our favorite dessert three to four times a week, from age 16 up to college.

All my friends went to San Diego State and I went to UCSD in La Jolla, CA, about 40 minutes away. There were still yogurt stops after that and we got together for dinners all through college, but never at that same shop near our high school.

The most daring thing we did in high school was participate in Senior Ditch Day, by going to Balboa Park in downtown San Diego. We visited the museums and toured the pretty grounds that day. I can still feel the giddy joy like it was yesterday.

Yes, life is short.

Today we went to the thrift store and Mary picked out a costume-style wedding veil. She put it on and danced around looking beautiful and my tears flowed because yes, the years pass so quickly and in a snap a real veil will be on her head.

While all my friends were very nice and lacked any rebelliousness, I think one steered me away from spiritual things without either of us realizing it. She rejected all religion, thinking it nonsensical, though she went to Catholic Church with her parents as long as they required it.

We were important in each other's weddings and were fairly close until I moved here in 2005 (though less so after I became a Christian at age 31 in 1997). To this day while she remains a good person, she's agnostic or atheist and we exchange Christmas cards and letters, not having anything in common now, other than each having four children.

My Worldview and How it Developed

The whole experience reminds me that even when our children's friends aren't dangerous, in terms of drinking, using drugs, or going to wild parties, they can still negatively influence our children. I adopted some of my friend's views, even if I didn't become another person entirely. The hours we spent together allowed her to influence my worldview more strongly than my own parents, with whom I scarcely spoke about anything serious.

My parents were ignorant of the importance of instilling a worldview, so I adopted one from the world, surmising that the majority view must be the right one. Though it was a whole lot tamer than today's version, my worldview was: Moral Relativism. Go with your conscious. If it feels right to you, it probably is. When I say a lot tamer, keep in mind that I didn't know of anyone having sex in high school. 85% of kids were still kids in the early 1980's.

I didn't receive much attention from boys as a teen, possibly due to shyness and acne I couldn't hide. My first date was the summer before my senior year, at age 17 and a half. I'm not sure what my parents were thinking, but the date was with a 23-year-old college student I'd met while working in a frozen yogurt shop. He wasn't unkind to me or anything, but I regret going to prom with someone who didn't even go to my high school. I broke up with him after my freshman year of college.

Thinking back to my high-school classes, there was one goofy boy I enjoyed sitting behind in Spanish. He was funny and nice. Then there was another nice, more serious boy who sat behind me in Algebra 2 and he did ask me out senior year, but I had to say no because of the college student. I still regret that to this day. That boy would have been a far healthier choice for a nearly 18-year-old girl.

The World is Different Now

Fast forward all these years, and things are drastically different. Girls are taught early from the media, from clothing outlets, from movies and shows that it's cute to be boy crazy. In fact, girls are aggressively pursuing boys, prompting me to buy the book Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys a couple years ago.

I think it behooves every Christian parenting couple to sit down and decide what kind of young lady (or young man) they want to raise (before the teen years), and also decide what boundaries will be put in place and why. Consult your Bible as you do this, and read from sites or books that write from a Christian worldview.

While all the groundwork for your child's growing faith (and for their positive relationship with you) were hopefully laid out in their earlier years, there's still much work to be done to prepare for the pivotal adolescent years. The stakes are very high and we cannot afford to stumble into these years as parents.

Keep a running journal and prayer list as you contemplate these questions. I put in links to helpful articles throughout this list.

1.  What will be done, if anything, to guard your daughter's (or son's) purity? Will your child know she (or he) can come to you if she does mess up, and still be loved and cherished by her parents?

2.  What kind of attire will be tolerated and how will it be enforced?

3. Will there be texts and phone calls from your daughter to teen boys? Or vice versa? Starting at what age?

See Real Women Don't Text Back at Christianity Today. And Real Men Don't Text.

4. Will there be a social media presence? At what age and for what purpose?

5.  Will you know your daughter's or son's friends well? How will it be accomplished and what types of friends will be acceptable?

See How Do I Teach My Kids to Handle Peer Pressure?

6. Will your daughter be allowed on dates, and if so, at what age? Dates alone, or with groups? And who will make an acceptable chaperon?

7. Will Dad interview the dates beforehand?

8. Will you teach sexuality from a biblical perspective, and with what materials, other than the Bible?

9. How will you grow your child's heart for God in the teen years? 

10. How much participation in youth group will there be, and how will the interactions be monitored? Can you make time to get involved?

My boys just went today to help build VBS props at church, along with other youth and the women involved. The youth director talked to the kids about Man Night, which is an all-nighter coming up at church for youth boys. He wanted to show PG-13 movies that have scary content, and so he asked Paul how old he was (11 years old). "Oh, that will be a problem", said the youth director. He said he still might show Gladiator, but not the others he was thinking about, considering my son's and other incoming middle schoolers' ages.

So, apparently, the youth director has much different ideas about movies than we do. We don't do PG-13 or R, and he talked about Gladiators, which I looked up and found to be R. The Christian review said it was very gory. My kids can't do anything remotely scary or there are sleep problems.

Ask me sometime about the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and how the cheese-touch thing in that movie freaked out my girls. Beth needed me in her bed for 3 nights after that. Yes, the cheese touch.

We haven't even been able to see the Narnia films because they are also scary. Everyone has a different tolerance for scary material, and I suppose if you never show them, the tolerance doesn't build up, even for good but scary movies. The age difference between our children also presents a problem. The boys didn't like Wimpy Kid much, but it certainly didn't affect their sleep.

I don't know whether my boys will actually go to Man Night or not, (still praying) but this is an example of how we all have to decide how much influence youth pastors and workers will have on our children. They won't necessarily share our philosophies and values. Discussions may have to follow or precede some events, and some events we might have to pass on.

How do you like your church youth group so far? How are you managing these parenting years?

See Part 1 of this series here,
Part 2 here
Part 4 here


Anonymous said...

These pubescent and pre-pubescent years are where it really shows if you have a good working relationship with your children or not. My children, thankfully, still always come to me first, and sometimes to Daddy. I was so relieved when my 15 year old, who has a big crush on a girl - we'll call her Carrie - at school (his first crush, and probably the first time he's felt genuine affection for anyone) said he thought it would be better to be friends with Carrie than 'boyfriend and girlfriend'. Although we have discussed these things, I was so glad to see him make that choice for himself! It is very difficult, though. I pray. A lot. Both my girls have had boys 'ask them out'. Thankfully they have both said no, but I do wonder how much of this 'asking out' is a product of our over-sexualised culture.

Christine said...

Yes, it doesn't seem like normal development to me when 10- and 12-year-old girls are being asked out. Where has childhood gone? Especially, it seems like this is premature for boys, who typically are attracted to girls physically in middle school, but ready for a relationship far later. Your kids did a good job responding to what felt premature and wrong for their stages of life!

Anonymous said...

Yeah we have a thing in the UK - e.g. if a little girl's tooth falls out, they joke that she's been 'kissing too many boys' and it's not abnormal for 7 and 8 year olds to call one another 'girlfriend' and 'boyfriend' and adults joke about it. They don't really know what it means but... I don't trust it within the context of our culture, if that makes sense? It's worse now (the overt sexualisation), but it was there when I was a kid. Sadly. And there was very little by way of good advice from *anyone*, let alone from within Christianity (and of course I was already screwed up because of the abuse). All it amounted to was 'don't have sex outside of marriage' but that was it. Which is beyond inadequate.

On the other hand, I would hate to go back to the way it was in my grandmother's day, around 100 years ago. When she was a teenager and began menstruating, she thought she was dying. No one told her a thing and she married a really awful man who took advantage of her and abandoned her with two children in the days when divorce was a terrible stigma. Poor woman, she was such an innocent person. Very kind, very modest. She was a Christian, though, and that was such a comfort when she died last year.

Anyway, I've waffled on. You and your family remain in my prayers. It's a real blessing to be able to pray x

Christine said...

Thank you for praying, Sandy. We sure appreciate the prayers and sometimes when our day turns around for the better, I wonder if someone prayed. :)

In America we smile and joke about young kids and their boy friends or girlfriends too, but it's more of small talk intended to make people giggle. I've had physicians do it to my kids and they just laugh and get embarrassed, and then tell me in the car on the way home that it was annoying. Such things are good starters for conversations about what God desires. One physician who took off my son's arm cast last year was really obnoxious about it and we were all annoyed because it wasn't just a couple quick comments. He seemed to think he was a comedian.