I asked my friend Parker, our Youth Minister, to help me write this blog. He is effective with teens and has great insights. He has worked in Youth Ministries and has served as the Administrator of a Children’s Home. He and his wife are raising three beautiful children.
It was a great opportunity to ask some questions.
Me: What’s the biggest challenge that parents of teens are facing?
Parker: Without a doubt, it’s helping them cope with peer pressure. Teens struggle with everything: how they look, with their friends, with social media, who they’re dating, and so forth. There is massive peer pressure related to all of it. Peer pressure is a dominant influence in their lives.
Me: What are teens struggling with the most?
Parker: Pornography is huge. One study reported that 93% of teen boys and 62% of teen girls have at least seen pornography. Then there’s gender identity, sexual orientation, and coercion to be sexually active. Girls struggle with pressure from boys to engage sexually. A really disturbing thought is that teenage boys are learning about sexuality from watching pornography. They imitate what they see, thinking that what pornography shows them is what they should do with girls, and how girls should be treated. It has caused, and is causing, serious emotional damage. Boys become men and take that into their marriages.
Me: How does pornography become so prevalent?
Parker: It’s the internet. Its crazy to think that a 13-year-old kid, who has 24-7 internet access, isn’t going to discover pornography. Parents can be naïve or even choose to ignore it. Sometimes they don’t want to know. Parents often lack the ability to check their kid’s devices, and the kids learn to delete their browser history to cover their tracks. In our culture, preschool kids are better with technology than their parents, and are way better at it than their grandparents.
Me: What about spiritual development for teens?
Parker: Parents get spiritually involved when the kids are young. But they tend to be less involved when the kids start school. Then, when they become teenagers, the parents don’t always have the relationship they need to be a spiritual influence. I can tell when a teen has a strong connection at home because they will say, “My dad and I were talking about that.” Or, “My mom and I had a good discussion.” As a Youth Minister, it doesn’t take long to find out if the home, and the church, are positive influences in a kid’s life.
Me: It sounds a little discouraging.
Parker: It can be. We must understand that there are so many different voices saying so many different things, and saying them loudly and repeatedly. If teens aren’t positively influenced at home, and at church, and from good mentors, then they live unprotected. They exist with little more than an umbrella while an avalanche of worldly-mindedness crashes down on their heads. Although the parents voice is strong, it’s only one voice, and the internet has 1,000 voices contradicting their one. And it’s happening day and night. Teens need their parents, their families, the church, their youth group, they need all the help they can get.
Me: What do you do to keep your kids headed in the right direction?
Parker: There is so much that’s needed, but one thing that I make sure I do every day is to tell each of my kids that I love them.
I appreciate Parker and his candid remarks and practical advice.
Parents, kids in the elementary years are vulnerable. Don’t assume they are safe, don’t assume that year by year they just go along doing fine.
You can’t wait till they become teenagers to get close. If you do, you may discover they don’t want to be close and they don’t want to listen.
Sometimes teens go their own way regardless of how hard you try. It can be heartbreaking to be a parent.
Don’t Forget: You’re the best thing thats ever happened to your kids. Hang in there.
Tomorrow: Pt 6, Wrapping It Up