The Tools You Need

Here are some practical ways to stay involved in your teen's life

Although my parents didn’t have “The Talk” with me, I have extended grace to them on that issue, because their parents did not “talk” to them. No one ever gave them the “tools” they needed to help them build an atmosphere of open, healthy communication into our family life.

If our lives are a platform for living out truth, what we build is ultimately up to us. My parents could have done more, but I'm not a perfect parent either. 

I have to take responsibility for my own choices. So do my kids.

That’s a hard reality. We have to allow our children to make choices and even mistakes. It’s part of their life story.

That said, it’s our responsibility to keep our “toolboxes” full. We need to collect all the tools we can and keep them at-the-ready so that we can equip and encourage our kids to make wise decisions.

I believe one of the most important “tools” we can share with our teens is:

A Definition of “Sexual Integrity/Wholeness”

The Legacy Institute defines “sexual integrity” as: expressing the gift of sexuality throughout life in a way that is true, excellent, honest and pure.

This definition is elaborated as follows: 

Sexual: Involving the two sexes, male and female

Integrity: Honesty, living by morals and in a sound condition (free from injury, damage or disease)

True: Authentic, loyal, faithful

Excellent: Extraordinary, remarkably good

Honest: Honorable in principles, intentions and actions; respectable, having a good reputation

Pure: Free from anything inferior; physically chaste or undefiled

This tool can help us to build a solid platform that will make our own lives more fulfilling and also help us to model healthy relationships to our kids.

Here are some other “tools” I recommend to parents:

- Bond over Movies and Pop Culture.

Why just watch movies when they can be tools? Discuss what you’ve heard and seen. Talk about the story a song tells or the longings it expresses. Can you relate? Share that with your kids! Comment on the choices a movie character makes. Talk about that character in connection with your own experience. Ask your teen if he can relate to that character.

- Use Car Time To Your Advantage.

Turn off the radio a few times a week while driving somewhere together. Ask questions (see "conversation starters," below) or allow for silence. Maybe your teen will start the conversation. When the radio is on, bond over the songs. Sing along to the good ones. Talk about thought provoking lyrics. Ask: “Do you like this song? What does it mean to you?” If something about a song doesn’t sit well with you, share why it’s unsettling and ask your son or daughter (in a non-judgmental way) if there are any songs/lyrics he/she finds disturbing. Riding in the car is a great place to talk, because you don’t have to look directly at each other, and for some kids (or parents) that feels more comfortable.

- Invite Conversation by asking questions-- How do you feel about ... ?”

Some conversation starters include:

  • What was the funniest (or grossest or most outrageous, frightening, interesting or enlightening) thing you heard at school today? What was your reaction?
  • How would you react if … (make up a scenario)
  • What would you say to a guy/girl who …
  • Is there anything you wonder about guys/girls? About other kids (regardless of gender)?
  • What do you like about our relationship? Is there something you would change? 
  • While walking through the mall — What do you think about that style where girls (or guys) wear …
  • Share a memory from when you were your child’s age.

- Role play conversations together.

Teens might resist this at first, but it can become a kind of game, trying to think of funny or serious teen relational issues. If role playing seems too “contrived,” simply talk about situations at casual times. Teach your child to think ahead by asking, “What would you do or say if … ?” Give your teens the “tool” of being prepared to say “no” when some slick-talker feeds them a line. Equip them with “come back lines” (creative ways to stand firm in your decisions). Example/line: “If you love me, you’ll show me.” Come-back/response: “If you love me, you’ll show me some RESPECT. Love doesn't make demands.”

- Pursue Your Teen.

Dads, especially — your daughters (and sons) need YOU! When it feels as if you “just can’t relate,” that’s the time to press in, not retreat. Sitcoms portray dads as overbearing or as buffoons. Not true! Real Dads are intelligent and relational. They love their families, pursue their kids and show that they care. Make a point to spend one-on-one time, not just watching them at a sporting event or dance rehearsal (though these things are important ways to show your support). Spend actual time together. Do something your kids like to do. Allow them to
teach you something. Plan adventures or just hang out. Life is busy, but “making time” is a tool that fosters actual relationship. 

- Be Your Teen's Facebook Friend.

Or no Facebook. Period. Facebook is actually a great way to stay involved in your kids' lives and a meaningful place to write encouraging notes that affirm them before their "friends."

- Evaluate what tools your child already has in his/her tool belt.

What does he still need? How can you better equip him for the near and
distant future?

- Your child is: Mind, Body, Spirit.

What else does he need to build something beautiful with these “materials?"

  • Directions … (written and verbal building instructions — letters you write to him, books to read, things you say, good talks)
  • Tools … (coping skills, a journal, books, prayer, music, an attitude of
    gratitude, etc.)
  • The Gift of A BLESSING. Pursue your child at every age. Affirm him/her. Share attributes that you like about him/her. Tell why these qualities will lead to success in your child’s life. Speak aloud words of TRUTH over your kids. They will become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Say “I love you!” often. 

There is POWER in these tools. Now it's time to get to work!   


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