I wrote this post at the invitation of my friend Judy at Ben Makes Ten. (Follow the first link below to her wonderful blog)I wasn't going to post it here as it is already published on Judy's blog, but decided to go ahead and post it here as well as it is a bit of a follow up to my previous post A Plea To Parents. Some of this post repeats what I said in that first post, but it also expands on it as well.
This article came about after I responded to a post titled Raising Our Teens on Judy’s Ben Makes Ten blog. She has graciously invited me here to expound on my thoughts begun in her comment box.
First, I think I should tell you that I do not write this as a parent; I have no experience in that area. I am writing as one who has worked in the field of education for the last 24 years; fourteen of those years were spent teaching seventh and eighth graders in public schools, the last 10 years I have been working for a nationally known learning center as a Director of Education. My work brings me into contact with many teens from all sorts of families from many different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.
The other perspective from which I write this is from that of an adult child of parents who loved me very much, but were and still are quite worldly. It is perhaps from this perspective I can speak best to parents who are raising children in these difficult and scary times.
Because of my parents’ worldliness, my sister and I were raised to be very independent women. We heard a lot of “Go to school and establish yourself in a good and stable career, then if you like, get married.” What we didn’t hear a lot of, except from the Sisters who taught us in Catholic school, was how God and our faith should be the basis of becoming who He created us to be. In looking back over where my life has led me, I believe this to be a fatal mistake because the world took center stage in my life.
I ended up leaving the Church during my college days, perhaps even before that. I went away to college. I am not so sure that this is the best thing for teens. I don’t know too many 18 year olds who are ready emotionally and spiritually to be on their own, sometimes very far from home. (I digress here, for that could be a blog post all on its own)
At the age of 24 I became pregnant, but believed I had a “choice” about whether or not to continue that pregnancy; I “chose” not. Four years later, the father of that child and I would marry, but the marriage would end 14 years later.
By God’s grace and a friend’s persistence and prayer, I came back to my faith, and found healing for the sin of my abortion.
I tell you all of this because I firmly believe that because of the lack of faith in my family life, I began to listen to the false prophets of this world who work for the Enemy and do nothing but lie. Oh, it all sounds very nice, and can even be a bit fun, but it leaves deep and lasting scars. If grace is not allowed in, it can do even worse than that.
My own experiences coupled with my experiences in working with teens has taught me much. First of all, raising teens begins the day they are born. Raising a healthy family takes exactly one more than the total number of people in that family because you must include God; without Him the chance of trouble ensuing greatly increases. Don’t get me wrong, I realize that even in the best God fearing families, children can leave and get into trouble.
What I tend to see a lot of in the students I work with is that many of them come from homes where there are no boundaries. Parents are afraid to say no when they know they should, they allow this culture to dictate how their children dress, what they watch on TV. And listen to in their choice of music, which most times is extremely immodest or just plain immoral. They want to be their children’s friends, and there is very little family time being spent~ everyone seems to be going in a hundred different directions.
If my own daughter were here with me today, she would be about to turn 21. People who have heard my post abortion witness will often ask me what I would say to her if she were here. More often than not, that question usually comes from the teens to whom I give my witness. That is difficult because at the time she would have been born, I was very far from God and my faith, so I may have followed my parents example. However, as her 21st birthday approaches, what I would tell her now would be the things that would show her that before being my child, she is God’s first, that He has a plan for her life and that she will only be happy following that plan, not mine, not even her own. I would tell her that while I love her more than anything, her Heavenly Father in the person of His Son, Jesus, loves her more than I or anyone ever could. I would go on to explain to her what a gift her femininity is and that only the man she marries is entitled to that gift, if that is the vocation God is calling her to, and that within that vocation is the openness to the gift of new life. I would let her know that I am always praying for her, but that she too needs to pray so as to know what God is asking of her. Finally, I would tell her to guard her heart and her senses because there are many who will try to lead her astray, even those who seem well meaning.
I will end this article by telling you that none of this is meant to cast blame on my parents. I truly believe their intentions were good, but misguided. All I want to do is give you my own experiences. Take what you will from it. As I said in a blog post I wrote, parents need to be on their knees praying for their children. They also need to be praying with their children.
The one thing I definitely know to be true is that children of every age learn by example. Show them that you and your husband love God and each other. Go to Mass/Sunday Services as a family and eat dinner as a family. Make sure it is your good and faith based example they are learning from, not the world’s superficial and dangerous one. These are some of the building blocks of raising healthy, Christian teens.
I thank my dear friend Judy for this opportunity to share my views and experiences concerning this all important topic. We need more couples like her and her husband who draw their strength and wisdom from the One who is the source of all strength and wisdom. Their family, while I am sure they have had their ups and downs, is living proof of what results when you allow God to rule and reign in your lives.
God bless all of you and your families!
Related Post: A Plea To Parents