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Deacon Pat's Books - Popular Catholic novelist and author!
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Idaho Catholic Podcast

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How To Raise A Teen With Christian Values

How does one raise a teen today with strong Christian Values?
Almost everywhere you look, the world is attempting to undermine all the work you put into shaping your child's conscience.
I have seen even the best of Christian families have trouble with their kids. The parents have not been bad parents, and the kids are not bad kids, but somehow the teen has lost the grasp of living a life grounded in Christian principles.
So what can a parent do to try and avoid the secular trappings, the pitfalls that lay awaiting for their kids?
Remembering that each day offers us countless opportunities to say, act, and live by the characteristics we value in life. Here are a few suggestions to help you and your kids along the painful journey through adolescence.

Spend time together.
In order to have conversations and to relate to real life examples, we must have a relationship with our children. This is essential as they grow and leave our boundaries and enter circles where the values and virtues may be different from those they have learned at home.
Learn to actively listen, without immediately forming opinions. Let children talk through issues and share their own opinions. Then talk about the differences, if any, between you and your child.
Make time to talk, turn off the TV (if you own one), and play a game or take a walk. Show your children they are a priority in your life.

Talk about the things that are important to you.
If you highly value honesty, talk about why it is important. Use the media, a book, or real life example of someone else's life to share consequences.
Take an example from a television show or a movie and ask your family, "what would happen in our home if that happened?" Be willing to talk about alternative choices or additional reasoning that children may not have thought about.
Take opportunities of daily life to share ethical dilemmas we adults face.
Honestly share how we feel and solve the problem. It's also good to review the problem after the fact and look at what we felt good about or what we would do differently the next time.
Avoid telling your children what they ought to believe and instead, lead them through a problem solving strategy to help them identify good choices.

Model the actions you expect from your children.
Be careful of your tone of voice and timing of discussions with children.
Are you showing them the same respect that you expect from them?
Do we ask them to be deceitful on the phone when we don't want to speak to a telemarketer by saying "she's not home?" Our actions will speak louder than our words.

It is important to keep in mind that each day offers many teaching opportunities from their life or ours. Learn to value the time spent in conversation and savor the moments when they come to positive conclusions on their own.
Maybe there are areas that you want to make improvements in. Select one, ponder what avenues you want to take, and then work in that one area. Don't try to do too much at once, but take little steps to remain on a positive course.
Pray With Them
Although most teens like to isolate, hibernating in their rooms, spending a great deal of time away from the family, becoming more 'independent," make sure that a day doesn't go by without praying with them. Keep God in the picture and in the relationship!
For most of us, we made many mistakes in our adolescence. It was a part of who we were and from learning from them, it has made us who we are now.
Parents have the temptation to try to keep their children from making the same mistakes, or at least to set a standard that they will be a better kid than they were.
Be careful, this could turn into a Big Mistake!
Wanting the best for your child, that is always good. But don't get caught in the trap that you are setting the bar so high that they will never reach it.
Kids will make mistakes, but if they can learn from them, and if they truly want to make good choices in life, truly want to do the right thing, then success has been accomplished.
At some point, 15, 16, 17 years of age, they need less "telling them what to do," but rather helping them become the person that in the end will make them proud of who they are. A person that is filled with peace.....
There are so many Christian parents who became strong Christians later in life, at least after they had kids, and they want their kids to have the same degree of faith in their lives. That is a good desire, but their strong faith life only happen through God's grace and through a life journey, a journey that included many mistakes.
All parents love their kids, but for most teenagers, the feel a need to be listened to and supported. They really just want to feel loved and cared for. I know most parents have difficulty with this, because they love their kids, and cannot comprehend that their child feels unloved, but it is true.
They are walking through the caverns of inferiority and just want to feel good about themselves.
Please don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we lower our standards, we as Christians should expect our children to look and act much different than the typical child who lives in the secular world. But we must also remember, they are on a journey, a journey that is difficult and painful, and we should be the heavenly image and representation to them just as Jesus is to us. Yes, He will judge, and justice is necessary, but Mercy always has priority and overshadows Justice.
Pray each night for each of your children that God will give them the grace to withstand the temptations in life, and when they fall, as we all do, that we will be given the grace to love them even more.

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