I have two teenage boys, and through their years we have gone through countless books, studies and family worship times… but some of the most productive conversations have happened just as we were “doing life,” on trips, back and forth to ball practice, watching a ball game. But, few of these discussions happened by accident. What I mean is that there were topics which I knew needed to be discussed, but I was waiting for the right time. For boys especially, there are conversations that need to take place side by side, meaning on a trip or watching a game, but in a situation without having to stare eye to eye and experiencing those awkward moments. There are other times that there needs to be eye to eye contact and direct attention. The natural question is how do we know what needs to be “side by side” and what needs to be “eye to eye”? My answer would be that depends on your child. One of my boys does much better with eye to eye and face to face, the other does much better when he can escape some of awkward feelings. Regardless of how you have conversations with your teens, below are topics that really need to be worked into a discussion as a parent. I hope the list below gives you some ideas.
Today I write on behalf of teenagers. Frankly, I’m glad I’m not one today for many reasons – not the least of which is I would not want to face the temptations teens face today. I do remember my teen years, though, and I still think about some of the times when I desperately wanted guidance and encouragement back then. Here are some of the conversations I wish someone had shared with me:
“You’re not the only one struggling as a teenage Christian.” I was certain I was. Surely nobody was battling temptations like I was. At least, nobody was talking about it. That was part of the problem.
“Let’s talk about pornography and lust.” I cannot say strongly enough how I wish a Christian man had cared for me enough to initiate that conversation. Fathers, waiting until you catch your teen in this habit is an abdication of your responsibility.
“I’ll show you how to read the Bible and pray every day.” I wanted to do it because my pastor told me I needed to do it. Nobody taught me, though, so I struggled trying to be obedient. No teenager should have to learn these disciplines on his or her own.
“God forgives you, but you’ll probably remember your sinful choices the rest of your life.” Had I known forty years ago that I’d still occasionally hurt over my past sin today, I think I would’ve made some different choices then.
“Be ready for God to change your plans.” As a teen, I knew exactly what I was going to do when I grew up: teach high school English. God had other plans.
“Let me help you learn your theology well because you’ll be challenged often.” High school classmates respected me, but they disputed my beliefs. College professors in a public institution questioned my faith. I’m sure the battles are worse for teens now.
“Date only believers.” My experience is that more often than not, the non-believer influences the believer more than the other way around.
“Don’t be a jerk.” I was at times, especially when I thought I was better or smarter than others. I wish someone had confronted me in my arrogance then so perhaps I wouldn’t deal as much with arrogance now.
“Even teenagers die.” That’s morbid, I realize. None of us knew that fact, though, until a classmate died – and no one talked us through our questions.
“The choices you make today can come back to haunt you.” That’s probably even more the case today. Facebook posts, tweets, and other social media options reveal a teen’s foolishness to others, including college recruiters and future employers.
Parents and grandparents, have the conversations with your teens. Someday, they’ll be glad you did.