I DON'T DO TEENAGERS ◽ HOME
Our teens need friends to hang out with, friends to chat with, friends to trust and grow into adulthood with…all the things. And right now, it’s been hard for our kids to have any contact with friends and really hang out as usual. Nothing’s been usual about life for us, or for our kids. And it’s important that our teens have good friends! But are there really any good friends, when one is a teenager?
I was chatting with a friend about her daughter going to summer camp, and I said I hoped she’d find some good friends with good influence. But we both agreed that finding teens that are a good influence is downright hard! Teens just basically are hormonal, act on impulses, are self-absorbed and only worried about influencing themselves to be all they can be…at least that’s the way it seems.
So what’s a parent to do, when it comes to teens and their friends? We, as parents, want our kids to have solid friendships with their peers, but is that possible? How do we guide them toward that goal, and what if those friends are bad to the bone?
Here five suggestions to consider:
Monitor the hangouts. Whether the kids are hanging out on line, through text, by playing games, or actually in person…observe them. Observe your teens after they’ve been with that friend and see if their behavior has changed for the worse…or the better. What is their conversation like? Is there rivalry or jealousy? It’s not wise to just leave our teens with friends and hope for the best. We can pray, observe, guide and observe behaviors and attitudes.
Be a good friend. It’s always said that parents shouldn’t be their kids’ friends. But I beg to differ. Obviously, we should not be their friend in the sense that we just go along with them and never parent. But a parent can be the best example of a friend our teen will ever have. We can listen well, encourage, laugh, and keep in confidence things that are told us in secret. We can be a parent they can trust and admire, and train them to be that kind of friend to others.
Comfort in disappointment. Our teens are going to be hurt by mean friends that talk behind their backs, like them one day and not the next, move away to another state or country, or any number of things that come in life to separate good friends. We know how that feels, as we too have lost friends over the years. It hurts, and it hurts deeply. This is when we point our teens to Jesus, the best friend a kid can have. It starts early, this pointing to Jesus, because we want our teens to run to him for solace and to find comfort in his word. Teach that, model that, and help them through as they find new friends when old ones leave.
Step in. Do you see your son being belligerent and defiant every time, after hanging out with that guy? Maybe the girl he’s been interested in is manipulative and dangerous. Or perhaps the friend your daughter had over is asking to borrow things, making fun of your daughter, or worse… You are still the parent and you can step in, to stop bad connections. Pray, and then have a talk with your son or daughter. We are always to be a family of acceptance to people to help them out, but when a person becomes poison to our children, we need to step in. We can talk to that teen and see if they’ll listen to instruction, if we’ve built a connection with them. It can be awesome when a teen listens and changes. But sometimes, that teen has to go back home and stay away if they are truly hurting our family.
Welcome and love. If your teens feel your home is loving and you are kind, hopefully they will ask their friends in to visit. Be a parent that encourages and speaks kindness to your teens’ friends, a mom or dad that models love and acceptance, and a parent that cares. Invite that friend to a family dinner hangout and play games. Encourage them to be with the family. It will be evident right away if that kid is trying to pull your child away into hiding and deceiving. Open your doors, invite them in, but then be the keeper of the gate and the warrior in prayer.
Whatever we do, we cannot assume that once our children are teens that will make wise decisions when it comes to friendships, or that they will be attracted to good kids. There’s always that appeal to the dark side, and it only takes one bad friend pull our kids away into a dark world full of all kinds of danger. Teens need friends. But those friends are going to be good influences or bad, and probably our own teen will be a bad influence at one point as well! God is acutely aware of our desires and hears our prayers when it comes to our kids.
Once I found a journal on the dash of my car, after I’d dropped off my daughter at school. She “accidentally” left it there, and inside I saw a note from a boy that wasn’t appropriate. I think God was all over that “accident” because it enabled my daughter and me to have a conversation that was needed, about guys, their intentions. She too realized that God was looking out for her…
He’s looking out for your teens as well, just keep your eyes on the dash…