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An Escape Plan for Teens

** The following article was copied from theparentcue.org

What would your kid do if, while at a friend’s house, someone offered them a beer? What would your kid do if a friend started playing an inappropriate YouTube video and expected them to watch, too?

We all want our kids to make good decisions in the face of peer pressure. But for a 13-year-old or 17-year-old just trying to fit in, making good decisions can be a daily challenge.

As a small group leader for the past ten years, I’ve had the opportunity to walk with dozens of middle school and high school students as they navigate potentially compromising situations. Underage drinking, cheating on tests, watching inappropriate movies, pushing boundaries with a girlfriend . . . students are consistently facing peer pressure that can lead to poor decisions.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned working with students, it’s that they need a plan—an escape plan. They need to know how to escape those pressure-filled moments. Because the truth is, most teens don’t wantto cave into peer pressure, they just don’t know how not to.

This is where you—the parent—come in. As a parent, you have the opportunity to work with your teenager to create an escape plan—a plan to help them avoid those poor decisions. Here’s what that escape plan might include . . .

For escaping the big situations—like a party that’s gotten out of hand or an inappropriate movie that just started playing—there’s the X-plan. If you’re not familiar with it, the X-plan encourages kids to text “X” to a parent if they find themselves in a compromising situation. When a parent gets that text, they know their kid needs to be picked up immediately. (Read more about the X-plan here.)

But what about escaping the spur-of-the-moment situations when there’s no time to send an emergency text? Like if a friend offers your kid a beer, asks them to help cheat on a test, or asks them to watch an inappropriate music video? A student only has a few seconds to respond in these situations.

For these moments, preparing a few “escape phrases” that a student can use in a pinch can be instrumental. And you can brainstorm with your kid what those escape phrases could be.

If your kid is still growing in their faith, convictions, and decision-making, the goal might be simply getting out of a tough situation. If a friend offers a cigarette, the escape phrase might be, “No thanks. My parents would be able to smell it on me and I’d never get away with it.” Or if a student is trying to get out of cheating, the escape phrase might be, “Sorry, if I get caught cheating even once I’m off the soccer team, and I can’t let my team down.”

If your kid is maturing in his or her faith, though, it may be time for them to more closely stand by their convictions and beliefs. If someone asks them to watch an inappropriate YouTube video, maybe their escape phrase is, “Sorry, I really try to avoid watching this kind of stuff. I just don’t see any upside to it. Can we watch something else?” Or if someone offers a beer, maybe their escape phrase is, “No thanks. I really don’t think it’s wise to drink alcohol in high school. I’m going to stick to soda tonight.”

Your teenager will be far more likely to resist peer pressure in a difficult situation if they’re prepared. And you have the chance to discuss with your teen what that escape plan looks like.

It may be tempting to assume that these ideas only apply to teens that are running with “the wrong crowd.” But the truth is, all students run into these situations every now and then. And it only takes one poor decision to send a kid down a destructive path.

Preparing an escape plan with your teenager probably won’t be easy. It’ll require time and effort on your part to get your kid to open up and have a conversation about this. And they’ll probably never come home and say, “Mom, I used one of the phrases in our escape plan and it worked!” But there will be situations that make your kid uncomfortable, and these phrases will come to mind. And it will have been worth it.

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The Secret of Superman

** This article was copied from www.theparentcue.org

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Superman. Seriously! I still remember the day my parents handed me a box from Sears and Roebuck that contained a red cape, blue tights with a red-and-yellow “S” shield on the chest. When I put it on, something magical happened. It transformed me from a shy six-year-old to a super hero with unique powers.

I was more powerful than my dad’s parked car.

I could leap tall fences with a single bound.

I was faster than our speeding fox terrier.

Looking back, I am absolutely positive that I could jump higher, run faster, and do more whenever I put on that suit. That was the year I got in trouble with my mom for running across the roof of our house in my red cape and underwear. It was just one of those days when I had to get suited up fast, so I left the tights off and just went with the cape. And don’t ask me how I got up on the roof. You should know. I flew, of course. At least that’s what I remember.

I don’t actually recall when I stopped believing in Superman, but his story did convince me of something that is true.

Good will ultimately win over evil.

It’s ironic that the story of Superman was created in 1938 by two high school students in Cleveland Ohio. Superman literally showed up in the nick of time. It just happened to be the same year, Hitler appointed himself as the supreme commander of the armed forces of Germany and set the stage for the most horrific war the world would ever know.

It’s intriguing that while nations were drawn into a world war that would threaten their existence, a fictional story of a superhero would entertain the imagination of a generation to suggest that good will somehow always prevail. I guess you should just never underestimate the power of a good story.

The point is the stories you tell to your kids every week really matter.

Why do you think…
Frodo in Lord of the Rings
Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia
and a boy named Harry have such an appeal to the imagination of kids?

Because they echo an aspect of an ancient narrative that God put into motion at the beginning of time.

They remind us of…
the struggle between good and evil.
the existence of a supernatural and miraculous power.
the potential to be personally restored and transformed.

The right story can inspire.
The right story can incite faith.
The right story can give hope.

If you want to change the way kids and teenagers see this world, then make sure you give them stories over time.

That’s why we like to tell parents that stories over time = perspective.

Everybody loves a good story.
You latch on to someone who is going against the odds.
You identify with their struggle to push through.

Stories are powerful. Especially when they reflect God’s story.

So do whatever you can to amplify the best stories around you.

Read them.
Watch them.
Tell them.
Create them.
Write them.
Illustrate them.
Video them.
Live them.
Collect them.

They can make life fuller, faith deeper, hope stronger.

So, what if I was never able to fly? There’s a secret I’ll always know because of Superman.

Good wins in the end.

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What Your Kids Want Most – Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker has a great new podcast and in Episode 1 she talks about what all of our kids want more than anything else.  Click here to go to her site and find Episode #1.

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Why Our Son Doesn’t Have a Smartphone

** This article was copied from The Gospel Coalition.com

Our son wants a smartphone with an Instagram account.

He’s 12. He’s in seventh grade. He wants to be able to text his friends, send pictures, and chat in the afternoons and evenings.

His mom and I say “no.”

We’ve opened an Instagram account on my wife’s phone that he can use to post an occasional picture or, under our supervision, see what his friends are up to during the summer. But we’ve drawn the line at him having a phone at this age and all the social media accounts that go with it.

Crazy thing is, we’re the oddballs. Only a handful of his classmates are without a phone.

I’m not judging the decisions that other parents make, so long as they are informed and involved in their children’s lives. Every child is different. Parents can use discernment and come to different conclusions on this matter. I am, however, confident that we’re making the right decision for our families.

Naturally, our son has asked the question several times in several ways: Why not, Dad? Why not, Mom?

The easy answer would be: “There’s bad stuff on the internet and we don’t want you to access it.” We could talk about sexting and pornography and all the potential dangers of being online. But I know there are certain filters and barriers that impede that deluge of filth. Besides, the potential for future, sexual temptation is not our greatest concern anyway.

No, the real reason why our son doesn’t have a phone is because we think his middle-school years will be better spent without one. The answer I’ve given, over and over again, is this: I want you to be free from middle school drama when you’re at home.

Of course, our son thinks the phone represents a new rung on the ladder, the next step toward the freedom of adulthood. We think the phone, at his age, is a step down into slavery. It traps kids, just like it can trap adults, into the social game of likes and comments and never-ending comparisons.

James K. A. Smith describes the scene for an adolescent, and it’s one that virtually any adult could read him or herself into:

“The teenager at home does not escape the game of self-consciousness; instead, she is constantly aware of being on display—and she is regularly aware of the exhibitions of others. Her Twitter feed incessantly updates her about all of the exciting, hip things she is not doing with the ‘popular’ girls; her Facebook pings nonstop with photos that highlight how boring her homebound existence is. And so she is compelled to constantly be ‘on,’ to be ‘updating’ and ‘checking in.’ The competition for coolness never stops. She is constantly aware of herself—and thus unable to lose herself in the pleasures of solitude: burrowing into a novel, pouring herself out in a journal, playing with fanciful forms in a sketch pad. . . . Every space is a kind of visual echo chamber. We are no longer seen doing something; we’re doing something to be seen.”

There’s nothing wrong or immoral in the content the teenager in the above paragraph may access. But something still isn’t right about the whole scene.

Many Christian parents are rightly concerned about the content that their kids may access on the phone. But it’s not just the content that shapes us. It’s the entire device and how it operates, and the assumptions about our world that are smuggled in with it. The smartphone has apps tailored around one’s own desires, so that the phone says, all day every day, “The world revolves around you.”

In a recent essay in CommentPeter Leithart writes:

“Tools want to be used this way and not that. My phone “wants” my wants to head in a certain direction. My phone trains me to expect instant satisfaction of my infinite desires. . . . Our world is jigged by phones, computers, and tablets toward self-absorption and roving, inattentive consumption. My phone turns my self into a cellph.”

This is a big deal. It’s why I devoted the first chapter of This Is Your Time to the smartphone (“Your Phone Is a Myth-Teller”) and how we can use this newly invented tool faithfully.

Social media promises to do two things simultaneously: resolve the human longing to “be known” andthe human longing to be “in the know.” The thirst for knowledge goes back to the Garden of Eden. We want to be “in the know,” and we want to “be known and loved.”

In the book, I call this “double thirst”—when you drink something that temporarily quenches your need for water, but that “something” has an ingredient that creates in you a greater thirstiness.

When you go to the phone, believing the myth that it can quench your thirst for knowledge, you’re inundated with information that makes you feel insignificant in the bigger scheme of things. That’s when the second longing kicks in, the desire to be known. Now you go to your phone in order to put yourself out there, to post selfies and comments because being present online helps you fight the feeling that you are insignificant.

Then, there’s a deeper aspect to all this. We recreate ourselves online because we worry that if we were truly known, we would not be loved.

It will be our generation’s task to chart the way forward in what faithful use of the smartphone will be. How does the gospel shape our smartphone habits? That’s an important question, and it’s why I’ve written a chapter on this subject, and why I’m heartened to see articles in Comment as well as a new book by Tony Reinke pressing us into deeper reflection on our habits.

For now, the simple “no” is best for our son. But this discussion should lead us as parents, who are too often glued to our phones, to contemplate what we’re saying “yes” to.

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Three Reasons Your Teen Tunes You Out

** The following article was copied from iMom.com

As my kids get older, I tend to wax nostalgic over those baby and toddler days– how sweetly they would look at me, how eagerly they would listen. Sure, most of our conversations centered around Teddy Grahams and Dora the Explorer. But I loved their desire to spend time with me. I couldn’t wait until they were older so that we could have deep, meaningful conversations about real issues.

Little did I know my older kids would spend more time sighing and rolling their eyes than actually talking to me. The tween and teen years are fraught with challenges. But the truth is, our kids just want to be heard, validated, and understood.  After navigating some tricky talks, I’ve learned a few things about why kids tune parents out and how to change it. Here are some tips for communicating with teens.

1. You’re talking too much

It sounds counter-intuitive, right? If I want my child to listen to me, shouldn’t I be sayingsomething? But if you really want your child to listen, you must return the favor. How often do we as women tell our husbands to stop trying to fix our problems and just listen? Yet we tend to forget that our children might need the same thing from us. Yes, sometimes they are being petty or overdramatic or are stressing more than the situation warrants. But maybe now isn’t the time to point it out. Maybe now is the time to listen and hug (if they’ll let you) and let them know you’re on their side. There will be time for advice later when the initial onslaught of emotions has had time to abate. For now, let them know if they’re talking, you’re listening.

2. You’re dictating

“Gracie, here’s what you need to do.” I interrupted my daughter time after time with those words and then watched her shut down. All she heard was, “You are incapable of handling your life. Let me step in and do it for you.” Of course, I just wanted to help! But if our kids don’t learn how to solve today’s problems on their own, they won’t be prepared to handle the bigger issues at college, in the workplace, or in their marriages and families.

Instead of dictating what your child should do in a given situation, consider asking questions. When people are encouraged to think through situations for themselves, they can take ownership of the answer and learn how to apply the experience in other areas of life. When we hand a solution to our kids on a silver platter, they rarely think of it beyond that given set of circumstances—if they even accept the advice we gave in the first place.

3. You’re interrogating them

We tend to think of face-to-face conversation as the ideal, but sometimes it is hard to stare someone in the eyes and lay open your soul. Looking at your mom while sharing your problems is almost more than most kids can bear. If you sense your teen has something they want to share—or if you’re just hoping for an opportunity for a slightly deeper conversation—try talking in the car. Take them with you to run errands and leave the radio off. Something about being able to be close while looking out the window can help them to open up. If they’re still keeping quiet, check out these ideas for getting them to open up.

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How To Talk To Your Kids About Sex

* This article was copied from fulleryouthinstitute.org

How to talk to your kids about sex (with as little awkwardness as possible)

{blog-author_related:title}   Kara Powell

Nervous to talk with your kids about sex?

You’re not alone. Especially if faith is important to you.

According to two different sets of data, the more important religion is to parents, the more difficult it is for those parents to talk with their kids about sex.[1]

That’s both sad and ironic. As followers of Christ, we should be at the front of the line to talk with our kids about sex. We know that sex, as something God created, is good—really good. And yet somehow with sex (as well as other controversial topics), our families have been robbed of healthy, balanced, scripturally guided conversations, the type of conversations that foster good decisions and strong faith.

This Valentine’s Day, topics of romance, love, and intimacy are bound to be at the forefront of our teenagers’ minds. Furthermore, young people today are inundated with notions and standards that fall short of God’s good intentions for sex—and they need us to help them discern what is true and what isn’t.

So how can we leverage Valentine’s Day, or other cultural references, as springboards for better conversations about sex with our kids? Here are four suggestions to help you have better “sex talks” at home.

1) It’s about listening, not lecturing.

It’s the rare teenager who looks forward to talk to their parents about sex. Not only is talking about sex with parents awkward, it usually devolves into a lecture.

Parents who are best at talking with their kids about sex bite their tongues—sometimes literally—when they feel tempted to lecture their kids. The reality is that your kids probably already have a hunch about what you might say about sex. So do your best to let them do the talking.

2) It’s about asking, not judging.

Wondering how to get them talking? Most teenagers won’t launch into a monologue about sex, so if we’re going to help them do the talking, we have to ask questions. And it’s best if we avoid the “What are you thinking? You must be crazy!” tone of voice when we ask.

In one of the parental interviews we conducted for The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Familyone amazing dad described inventing a family game called “What do you think will happen next?” During car trips, over dinner, or at bedtime, the dad would give a challenging ethical situation, often involving sex. And then ask his kids, “What do you think will happen next?”

So if he wanted to talk to his daughter about date rape drugs, he’d start with, “You go to a party and are handed a cup. You’re not entirely sure what is in the cup and you don’t know the guy who handed it to you very well. What do you think will happen next?”

His daughter would give her best answer. And then he’d follow up with, “Okay. So what do you think will happen next?”

She’d answer. And he’d ask the same question again.

He would do this for as many rounds as his kids would play along because he had one main goal: He wanted his kids to think ahead. And he used questions to help them learn how.

3) It’s about them, not me.

Maybe asking, “What do you think will happen next?” would never work in your family. If so, then take the cue from wise parents who use what’s happening to other people to launch their families into discussions about sex.

The bad news is that sexualization has infiltrated our culture from top to bottom. The good news is that gives us all sorts of conversation fodder.

Valentine’s Day cards. Movies. Music. What’s going on with your kids’ friends. Politicians. YouTube videos. News headlines. Clothing choices. School policies about dating.

If asking kids directly what they are thinking and feeling about sex feels too pointed and all too likely to cause your kids to shut down, start by talking about all of these topics—and other people (whether they are your kids’ friends or media celebrities)—and see if the conversation organically progresses to get more personal.

4) It’s a process, not an event.

Are you gearing up for “the sex talk” with your kids? Looking forward to crossing it off your list? Maybe even planning on having that discussion this month?

Well, it’s not about one sex talk. It’s about lots of them.

With both of our two older kids, and we’re about to do this with our youngest, we’ve bought them a book and read through it with them together—two chapters per week. Dave and I read through it first, underlining the portions we want to discuss with them, and then our child reads it.

We have intentionally made those discussions about book chapters as natural as possible. We’ll have them while we’re talking in our child’s bedroom, or sitting on the couch in our living room after dinner. We want talking about sex to feel as normal as possible.

If you want to do a special weekend away or purity ritual, by all means go ahead. Just don’t view it as a one-time event. It’s more like a series of conversations, because sexuality involves a lifetime of choices.

What other steps have you taken to leverage cultural references for better discussions with your kids about sex?

*Portions of this post adapted from Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family and Good Sex 2.0.


[1] Those two data sets are the National Study of Youth and Religion and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Mark D. Regnerus, Forbidden Fruit (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 60-73.

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6 Short Sentences Your Child Needs to Hear You Say

**This article was copied from allprodad.com

6 Short Sentences Your Child Needs to Hear You Say

In raising our five children, Susan and I have tried to consistently convey to each of them these 6 short sentences. We’ve done it with our words and our actions. And, as I write this post, I’m realizing I need to say these things even more because they can’t be said enough.

Saying these six short sentences will give your child a strong sense of security, identity, belonging, and value.

1. “I’m here for you.”

Being available for your child is incredibly important. They may not need you when you tell them this, but they’ll remember you promised to be available to them when they need you the most. This sentence is more than just giving them permission to find you when the going gets rough…it’s an invitation to them. It tells them, “I will do whatever I can to help you whenever you need me.”

2. “I’m proud of you.”

Some middle-aged men I’ve talked to have never heard, or have waited years to hear, their dad say “I’m proud of you.”  And many of them thought if they just performed better, if they just made it big in sports, or if they just had a thriving money-making career, their dad just might notice. Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t make your kids wait. Tell them today.

3. “I believe in you.”

Remember back to your teen and early adult years?  How confident were you in yourself? And how confident are you today in yourself? Self-doubt and second-guessing come with the territory of being human. And you can be a great source of support to your child through these struggles. Your child needs to know that somebody somewhere in this world believes in them and their immeasurable value.

4. “I want the best for you.”

This sentence has a couple of benefits. First, it tells your child that you have a purpose behind your parenting. They may not understand how you see “what’s best” and they may not even agree with you, but they will hopefully start to appreciate it over time as they see you working hard to do what’s in their best interests. I have often said to each of my kids, “I’m doing this or saying this because I always have your best interests at heart.” And they know they can always trust me. Second, it puts you in their corner. Again, they may not always see how your ideas, your standards, or your consequences are really for their benefit, but giving them this regular reminder at least assures them, in the depths of their heart, that you are for them, not against them.

5. “I will stand with you.”

I saw a video recently of a dad dancing with his daughter at a talent show. The girl had a severe and rare disorder that keeps her from having almost any muscle tone, control, or physical abilities of her own. But as her dad picked her up out of her chair and danced around the stage, her nearly inexpressive face suddenly blossomed with a huge smile. This girl knows that her dad is willing to risk embarrassment, harassment, or scorn from any person in order to be counted with her. This sentence tells your child that you are willing to be identified with them even when they’ve made a mistake or have to do hard things.

6. “I love you.”

This is, quite simply, a sentence that cannot be said too many times. Big family moment?  “I love you.” Quiet and quick goodnight? “I love you.” Dropping them off at school or a job? “I love you.” Just for no particular reason at all in the middle of the day? “I love you.”