A Confusing Culture for Teens and Parents


Teens today have to process an incredible amount of information, a lot of which is conflicting. Here's how you can help them sort through the confusion.

Most teenagers would love for their parents to get a taste of how confusing this culture is for them.  They face a difficult world and have to process an amazing amount of information and conflicting values every day.  They are overwhelmed on many levels.

The cultural pressures teens face today are far worse than we faced when we were that age.  Any given day your teen may be exposed to pornography, perversion, immoral lifestyles, and encouraged by peers to participate in self-destructive behaviors.  They live in a raw culture where what is right, healthy, and nurturing is deemed to be all wrong and what is wrong is thought to be all right.

Teens need to fit in, no matter how bizarre this world has become. So the dilemma Christian parents face is how to train their children to maneuver through their culture without allowing it to control them or to either dilute or counter your spiritual beliefs.

The parenting mistake I see most often today is that instead of giving children the opportunity to practice steering their own rudders when they are younger, some parents withdraw them from potentially rough waters.  So when the teen reaches the older teen years, they don’t know how to navigate on their own.  They are quickly overwhelmed and get off course in life.  Did you know, for instance, that over 80% of teens who had attended church before age 18, abandon the church and never darken the doorways of a church again when they become an adult?

The second mistake I see among Christian parents is how they react when their teen makes a mistake.  Many parents tend to withdraw themselves, as though making the relationship a tool of punishment.  It shouldn’t be.  Or, they become overly critical and make their teen feel like a failure by continuing to bring up their past mistakes again and again.  In this they fail to realize that their teen is just learning how to live and will not be perfect.  Teens make mistakes and they need lots of grace — and with grace comes forgetting the failures — just a God shows us grace when we make mistakes.

Even when you don’t like what you see, my advice is to stay involved!  Don’t jump ship when the waters get rough.  You need to be there with them as they ride those rapids.

Make it a habit to ask your teen thought-provoking moral questions and allow them time to answer them in their own way.  They may not get it right, but they’ll at least think about it.  Show an interest in things and activities they are interested in, and spend one-on-one time with them every week.  Talk it out and allow reasonable consequences to be their teacher when they make mistakes, not lecturing, condemnation or brow beating.

I would hasten to add — it is important to know your enemy.  You need to understand and respond to the culture and all its pitfalls, not ignore it.  Know the fads and the trends today, so you’ll know how to respond appropriately.  Expecting your teen to avoid participation isn’t helping them at all, because they will participate, only they’ll do it behind your back.  So, find ways for your teen to fit into the culture, without compromising your values.  Help your teen know where you draw the line, and why.

Make sure you know what they are reading, saying and showing on their personal web pages and social media. Monitor their Internet use with a good Internet monitoring program and keep an eye on their cell phone call log.  If you are worried that they may be secretly using drugs, you can now find out through a hair follicle drug test, using just few strands of the teen’s hair.

My prayer for you is to see God’s hand amidst these potentially difficult years.  Continue to have hope and know that God has not ignored or turned His back on you or your teen, even if you are struggling through a difficult and confusing time.  Your kids need you to be there for them, to train them, and to be tough with them as they learn to navigate today’s culture, anchored securely in your love and acceptance of them no matter what they do or don’t do in life.

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