As the last one of our three kids is about to graduate and leave the nest, I wanted to pass along some wisdom from this mother looking in the rear view mirror of her parenting…some tips that might better prepare you or, at least, help you be more purposeful about the time with your teens that is going to fly by at mach speed.
1. Choose 3 Character Traits
Ask yourself who you want your young adult to be. What qualities are most important for you to pass on? Or, for them to leave home with? Is it faith, courage, passion, hard-working, compassionate, generous, merciful, etc?
Once you have chosen your top three, determine how you will go about transferring those characteristics. Some ideas my husband and I have used:
- Make the trait a dinner discussion.
- Employ formal teaching on the chosen quality.
- Use teachable moments to emphasize these traits.
- Reward the kids as you see them grow in this area. We even had a Badge of Courage that would be awarded for specific acts of bravery – the teen got to wear it or keep in their room for a week.
- Pray for your kids to desire and choose these qualities.
2. Know Your Kid & Their World
Be a lifelong learner of each child. Don’t allow yourself to assume their likes and dislikes or fears and dreams remain the same from year to year. Ask yourself how well you know…
- their friends & social media
- their music, TV shows, books, or movies
- their stresses, frustrations, & disappointments
- their hopes, dreams, & passions
Enter their world as much as possible, even it feels uncomfortable. Sit with them and watch one of their favorite shows. Play one of their favorite video games with them. Tag along as they go to their favorite hangout. (if they’ll let you) Go outside and shoot baskets with them. Don’t live in two separate worlds!
3. Help Navigate & Prepare
I believe it’s our job as parents to help each one of our kids to discover their strengths & grow in their weaknesses. When it comes to their strengths, I encourage you to have them take online spiritual gift testing, go through Strength Finders 2.0, or even have them ask their five closest people what they perceive their strengths to be. Constantly strengthen and affirm their strengths.
When it comes to their weaknesses, help them see those for themselves. Brainstorm with them about ways to overcome habits or change attitudes. Lead them through books or Bible studies that address their weaknesses. Equip them to deal with issues and grow. Please don’t think that is the school’s or church’s or youth group’s job to help your kids overcome their weaknesses. And don’t hesitate to get counseling if the situation warrants it.
Two critical spiritual components for foundational preparation are the Word of God and authentic community. Do your kids know what they believe and why? Can they study Scripture on their own? Do they know the Old Testament as well as the New Testament? How important do your teens believe it is to walk this life alongside of other believers? Are they involved in a small community that will pray for them, encourage them, confront them, and keep them accountable. We were not created to navigate life alone.
If not, you and I have more work to do.
4. Ask Your Teens For Direct Input
Once my second child hit the beginning of her junior year, I decided that I needed to ask her what else we needed to teach her before she left home. Where did she feel ill-equipped? What other things did she want to know? So she composed a list for us and it was fascinating to learn that we had missed teaching such basic life skills up to this point. Her list included things like: changing a flat tire, cooking meat to the right temperature, and ways to help her keep from procrastinating. Her list became our list of “To Do’s” as parents.
5. Use Your Mightiest Weapon At All Times
The greatest weapon we have at our disposal is the power of prayer and there is no such thing as praying too much. The truth is that, as I look back, I only wish I had prayed more.
Pray very specifically for your kids – for their salvation, for their readiness & desire to be baptized, for their inner circle of friends, for their input in the classroom, for their temptations, for their disappointments in life, for their commitment to solve problems, for godly adults in their life throughout their teen years, for their faith to become their own, for them to see God’s power on their behalf, and the list goes on.
I would encourage you to gather with other moms to pray over your kids – maybe once a month or four times a year. Fast and pray for your kids at least once a year. Pray Scripture over each one. (I am currently praying my kids through Colossians) Fight for your young adults through prayer.
A Few Loose Ends as Bonus
I would highly recommend cell phone and driving contracts signed by both parent and child. Clearly state the agreement that will be upheld by both parties. Help them understand what a privilege it is to have a phone or a car and that responsibility comes with it.
I would highly recommend FPU, Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsay. What a great way for young adults to begin their lives financially with sound wisdom.
Celebrate the milestones – turning 13, 16, and 18 in special ways. At 13, our kids were given a ceremony fitting their personality that recognized our changing role as parents and their changing roles as young adults. They also received a “Book of Wisdom” that contained letters from various adults in their lives sharing about what it truly means to be a woman or to be a man. And at 16 they go out to a special dinner with their dad to talk about how to live a life with “no regrets.’ Lastly at 18, the boys got to go on a special fishing trip with just their dad and I took my daughter on a trip for just the two of us – amazing memories were made to launch them into the college years.
Don’t just hear from me as a mom about to live in an empty nest! Let’ s hear from all those who have gone before us…
What have you done as a parent to intentionally build relationship with your kids and prepare them to leave home well?