Posted on March 17, 2017 by Phil
Camp is right around the corner! While your kids are experiencing many different emotions as they prepare for Camp, we know that you too find yourself excited, then nervous for them, and maybe even a bit scared too. These are very normal emotions that we all experience as parents. As you prepare, I’d like to share these 11 Tips to consider as you get ready for this summer’s camp experience. See you soon!
– Phil Berry, Director and Camp Parent
1. Plan together. Instead of planning the entire event for your child, involve your son or daughter in the choice to attend camp, what kind of camp to try, and how long to stay. Children who feel some control over their camp experience are more likely to enjoy it than children who feel forced to attend.
2. Express enthusiasm. From the start, your discussions about camp should be positive, even if some of your own childhood memories of camp are not quite stellar. Sharing that story about the time you and your cabin mates narrowly escaped a treacherous lightning storm while rapelling a sheer stone wall in the Canadian Rockies won’t inspire junior to take the plunge. Instead, talk about camp in truthful, glowing terms in order to instill a positive attitude about the experience.
3. Shop together. Part of giving a child some ownership over his or her camp experience involves reading the camp’s packing list and shopping together for key items. Perhaps a new flashlight, a toiletry kit, or bottle of shampoo is on the list. Rather than picking up these items on behalf of your child, bring your son or daughter with you to the store. Lay out a budget and let them do the shopping. It’s another great way to instill positive attitudes (and ensure you don’t buy the nerdy underwear or the dorky-colored toothbrush).
4. Label everything. It’s really easy for kids to lose stuff at camp, but if you want it back, it has to have your child’s name on it. The iron-on labels are OK, but they rarely withstand more than six or eight trips through the washer. I like laundry markers (such as the Sharpie “Rub-A-Dub” marker) and indelible stamps. Most big-box, office-supply stores can custom-make a rubber stamp. Blot it on a permanent ink pad and voila! You can label just about anything with your child’s full name and phone number. Label tapes (such as the P-touch) also work well for labeling items like tennis racquets and sunglasses. Yes, you have to label everything.
5. Spend practice time apart. The best way for your child to learn how to cope with the separation from home is … you guessed it … spending some practice time away from home. As I talk about in my DVD-CD set for new camper families (The Secret Ingredients of Summer Camp Success), both parents and children benefit from arranging a long weekend at Grandma’s or several overnights at a friend’s house. Children who learn how to cope with their normal feelings of missing home will arrive at camp confident and enthusiastic.
6. Pack together. You’ve planned and shopped together … now it’s time to get everything ready to go. Double-check the camp’s packing list and be sure you’ve labeled everything. (Did I mention that already?). Once again, joining your child in this important preparation, rather than doing it for him as a “favor,” will instill a sense of pride. Be sure to pack in the recommended container (e.g., trunk, duffle bag, suitcase, etc.). If your camp recommends a trunk or footlocker, I suggest rolling your clothes and arranging them like pencils in a can. That way, your child can see everything she has all at once. The traditional fold-and-stack method of packing hides everything but the top layer.
7. Never make a pickup deal. It’s normal for any child to ask, “What if I feel homesick?” But research shows that almost all children have at least some feelings of homesickness during their stay at camp. So, please, don’t ever say, “If you feel homesick, I’ll come and get you.” The subtext of such dreaded pickup deals is: “I have so little confidence in your ability to cope with this normal feeling that I think the only solution is for me to come and rescue you.” Not surprisingly, pickup deals make homesickness worse. When your child asks, “What if I feel homesick?”, tell him: “You probably will miss some things about home, but your practice time away has taught you how to deal with those feelings. Plus, your cabin leader or counselor will be there to help.”
8. Make a letter-writing kit. If you want any chance of correspondence this summer, you’ll need to grab a large, zipped freezer bag and pack it with paper, pens, and a stack of pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes and postcards. Your child is going to be having a blast at camp, and chances are that he won’t be thinking much about you or home. (Sorry.) Don’t worry. When it comes to camp, no news is generally good news. But, letters are fun to give and receive. I recommend you send two or three letters a week.
9. Express confidence. “You’ll do great at camp” is something every parent should say to their children, whether they’re headed to day or overnight camp. Of course, there will be some challenges. Making friends, spending time away from home, and adjusting to a new routine aren’t easy. But they are possible. And when your child accumulates a pile of small successes at camp, she will start to feel even better about herself. Remember, self-esteem is borne of actual accomplishment, not parental platitudes. What your child needs going into camp is your vote of confidence. It’s normal for you to be a bit nervous about the time apart, but share your own jitters with a partner or spouse, not with your child.
10. Be honest on your child’s health form. Yes, some well-intentioned parents will withhold crucial medical and psychological information from their child’s camp health form. (Not you, of course, but other parents.) Leaving out critical data about any diagnoses, conditions, or medications cripples the camp’s doctors and nurses. Instead, fill out the health form completely—even add a supplemental narrative if you want—so the camp’s healthcare professionals are in the best possible position to support your child. And if your child takes a helpful medication—such as a stimulant medication for ADHD—please keep him on that medication during camp. He will need to pay attention and control his impulses at camp just like at school. Withholding helpful medications only puts your child at a behavioral and emotional disadvantage. (And if you want some extra brownie points with the camp nurse, send in the completed health form when it’s due, rather than bringing it on opening day.)
11. Eleven? Yes! A free bonus tip! Be on time for opening day. Nothing throws a family’s mental state off more than arriving late on the first day. (I’ve even had parents arrive on the wrong day.) Believe me when I say that it’s a good idea to read all the correspondence you get from camp, including information about the day and time for opening drop-off. A lot of introductions and orientation happen in the first hours of camp, so it’s important your child is there on time to begin integrating into the camp community. It’s equally important that you be on time for closing day. No child likes to be the last one to be picked up, so plan for traffic and weather, and know that even if your child is a bit sad to leave camp, he sure is glad you were on time. My own mother still reminds me of the first words that came out of my mouth when she and my dad picked me up after my first overnight camp stay: “Next summer, I want to come for four weeks, not just two!”
These eleven steps are from an except written by Dr. Chris Thurber, and were featured in an article in CampBusiness magazine. Also consider Dr. Chris Thurber’s book Summer Camp Handbook which can be found easily with a google search.
Dr. Christopher Thurber is a board-certified clinical psychologist and father of two. His preparatory materials for new camper families include the bestselling Summer Camp Handbook and a DVD-CD set called The Secret Ingredients of Summer Camp Success, which has been shown to lower the intensity of first-year campers’ homesickness by 50 percent, on average. Visit DrChrisThurber.com to order these materials or learn more about Chris’s work with kids and camps.
For more packing tips, visit our #AskCamp Video FAQ Wall…. available April 2017
Posted on November 3, 2014 by Sharon
We recently saw a blog post that one of our parents posted about their daughter’s first experience at Crestridge this past summer. Betsie attended Starter Camp at the end of the summer and could not stop talking about her time at camp! Her best friend was able to attend as well and it’s safe to say their friendship was strengthened.
We love hearing how God uses Crestridge and Ridgecrest to grow these campers! Read more about Betsie’s experience from a parent’s perspective…
Posted on March 12, 2014 by Phil
Campers often describe camp as their “happy place”” or “the best two weeks” of their year. And, from my own observation, I’ve seen that kids and the counselors who work with them are obviously happy at camp. They smile a lot. They look relaxed. There’s a lot of laughter. So many fun things happen at camp every day that it’s no surprise it’s such a happy place for kids.
Recently I’ve read several books about the science behind happiness and the research that’s being done to determine the specific elements that cause people to “flourish” in life. (See my reading list below.)
Traditionally, psychologists have focused on studying psychological diseases – depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc. – and their cures. But led by Martin Seligman (University of Pennsylvania), a new breed of psychologists called Positive Psychologists have, for the past decade, been studying the positive side of people. They ask not what is wrong with people, but what is right. They research what makes us do well in life and the reasons why some people thrive and find success and happiness in life.
Originally, Seligman had a theory of “happiness” outlined in his book Authentic Happiness, but he moved away from only using the word “happiness” to a new theory that focuses instead on well-being or “flourishing.” Seligman determined that it’s inaccurate to use the term “happiness,” as some people simply don’t have the personality to appear outwardly happy to others, even when they are doing quite well in life. I’m an extrovert who smiles a lot, so, objectively, people would probably say I’m pretty high on the happy scale. But how do we account for an introvert who doesn’t show a lot or emotion or display the outward symptoms that we equate with happiness? He may not smile a lot or appear outwardly happy, but, Seligman contends, he could still be flourishing. So, instead of using a one-dimensional definition that’s dependent on momentary emotions and personality traits, Seligman developed a more thorough theory of well-being that moved beyond his original happiness theory.
Seligman’s uses the acronym PERMA to define his theory and the five measurable elements he has determined lead to well-being. As I read about each pillar of PERMA in Seligman’s book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, I kept having “ah-ha” moments. “This happens at camp!” I would think. “And this, too!” In fact, as I read, I determined that ALL of the elements of flourishing that Seligman describes happen at camp. According to Seligman, “No one element defines well-being, but each contributes to it.”
I’ve always been sucked in by inspirational quotes and quick sounds bites about how camp contributes to happiness, but I love knowing the science behind why kids flourish at camp.
PERMA at Camp… Read more… from Sunshine Parenting…
Posted on January 8, 2014 by Phil
a post from Jeff Strong’s blog meredisciple.com
It might be difficult for some parents to read through, but here’s a top ten list that I’ve been wanting to write for a while. Over the next several days I’ll be expanding on each of these in succession, but for now, here is my top ten mistakes Christian parents of teens make:
10. Not spending time with your teen.
A lot of parents make the mistake of not spending time with their teens because they assume their teens don’t want to spend time with them! While that’s true in some contexts, teens still want and need “chunks” of one-on-one time with parents. Despite the fact that teens are transitioning into more independence and often carry a “I don’t need/want you around” attitude, they are longing for the securing and grounding that comes from consistent quality time.
Going for walks together, grabbing a coffee in order to “catch up,” going to the movies together, etc., all all simple investments that teens secretly want and look forward to. When you don’t carve out time to spend with your teen, you’re communicating that you’re not interested in them, and they internalize that message, consciously or unconsciously.
9. Letting your teen’s activities take top priority for your family.
The number of parents who wrap their lives/schedules around their teen’s activities is mind-boggling to me. I honestly just don’t get it. I know many parents want to provide their children with experiences and opportunities they never had growing up, but something’s gone wrong with our understanding of family and parenting when our teen’s wants/”needs” are allowed to overwhelm the family’s day-to-day routines.
Parents need to prioritize investing in their relationship with God (individually and as a couple), themselves and each other, but sadly all of these are often neglected in the name of “helping the kids get ahead.” “Don’t let the youth sports cartel run your life,” says Jen singer, author of You’re A Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either). I can’t think of many good reasons why families can’t limit teens to one major sport/extra-curricular activity per season. Not only will a frenetic schedule slowly grind down your entire family of time, you’ll be teaching your teen that “the good life” is a hyper-active one. That doesn’t align itself to Jesus’ teaching as it relates to the healthy rhythms of prayer, Sabbath, and down-time, all of which are critical to the larger Christian task of “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
8. Spoiling your teen.
We are all tempted to think that loving our kids means doing all we can to ensure they have all the opportunities and things we didn’t have growing up. This is a terrible assumption to make. It leads to an enormous amount of self-important, petty, and ungrateful kids. A lot of the time parents are well-intentioned in our spoiling, but our continual stream of money and stuff causes teens to never be satisfied and always wanting more. Your teen doesn’t need another piece of crap, what he needs is time and attention from you (that’s one expression of spoiling that actually benefits your teen!).
There are two things that can really set you back in life if we get them too early:
a. Access to too much money.
b. Access to too many opportunities.
Parents need to recognize they’re doing their teens a disservice by spoiling them in either of these ways. Save the spoiling for the grandkids.
7. Permissive parenting.
“Whatever” — It’s not just for teens anymore! The devil-may-care ambivalence that once defined the teenage subculture has now taken root as parents shrug their shoulders, ask, “What can you do?” and let their teens “figure things out for themselves.” I think permissive parenting (i.e., providing little direction, limits, and consequences) is on the rise because many parents don’t know how to dialogue with and discipline their children. Maybe parents don’t have any limits of boundaries within their own life, so they don’t know how to communicate the value of these to their teen. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to, because their own self-esteem is too tied up in their child’s perception of them, and they couldn’t handle having their teen get angry at them for actually trying to parent. Maybe it’s because many parents feel so overwhelmed with their own issues, they can hardly think of pouring more energy into a (potentially) taxing struggle or point of contention.
Whatever the reason, permissive parenting is completely irreconcilable with a Christian worldview. I certainly do not advocate authoritarian parenting styles, but if we practice a permission parenting style we’re abdicating our God-given responsibility to provide guidance, nurture, limits, discipline and consequences to our teen (all of which actually help our teen flourish long-term).
6. Trying to be your teen’s best friend.
Your teen doesn’t need another friend (they have plenty); they need a parent. Even through their teens, your child needs a dependable, confident, godly authority figure in their life. As parents we are called to provide a relational context characterized by wisdom, protection, love, support, and empowerment. As Christian parents we’re called to bring God’s flourishing rule into our family’s life. That can’t happen if we’re busy trying to befriend our teen. Trying to be your teen’s friend actually cheats them out of having these things in their lives.
Sometimes parents think that a strong relationship with their teen means having a strong friendship—but there’s a fine line that shouldn’t be crossed. You should be friendly to your teen but you shouldn’t be your teen’s friend. They have lots of friends, they only have one or two parents—so be the parent your teen needs you to be.
5. Holding low expectations for your teen.
Johann Goethe once wrote, “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat as man as he can and should be, and he become as he can and should be.” All of us rise to the unconcious level of expectation we set for ourselves and perceive from others. During the teenage years, it’s especially important to slowly put to death the perception that your teen is still “a kid.” They are emerging leaders, and if you engage them as such, you will find that over time, they unconsciously take on this mantle for themselves. Yes, your teen can be moody, self-absorbed, irresponsible, etc., but your teen can also be brilliant, creative, selfless, and mature. Treating them like “kids” will reinforce the former; treating them as emerging leaders will reinforce the latter.
For an example of how the this difference in perspective plays out, I’ve written an article entitled “The Future of an Illusion” which is available as a free download from www.meredisciple.com (in the Free Downloads section). It specifically looks at my commitment to be involved in “emerging church ministry” as opposed to “youth ministry,” and it you may find some principles within it helpful.
4. Not prioritizing youth group/church involvement.
This one is one of my personal pet peeves (but not just because this is my professional gig). I simply do not understand parents who expect and want their kids to have a dynamic, flourishing faith, and yet don’t move heaven and earth to get them connected to both a youth group and local church.
I’m going to let everyone in on a little secret: no teenager can thrive in their faith without these two support mechanisms. I’m not saying a strong youth group and church community is all they need, but what I am saying that you can have everything else you think your teen needs, but without these two things, don’t expect to have a spiritually healthy and mature teen. Maybe there are teens out there who defy this claim, but honestly, I can’t think of one out of my own experience. As a parent, youth group and church involvement should be a non-negotiable part of your teen’s life, and that means they take priority over homework (do it the night before), sports, or any other extra-curricular commitments.
Don’t be the parent who is soft on these two commitments, but pushes their kid in schooling, sports, etc. In general, what you sow into determines what you reap; if you want to reap a teenager who has a genuine, flourishing faith, don’t expect that to happen if you’re ok with their commitment to youth group/church to be casual and half-hearted.
3. Outsourcing your teen’s spiritual formation.
While youth group and church is very important, another mistake I see Christian parents make is assuming them can completely outsource the spiritual development of their child to these two things. I see the same pattern when it comes to Christian education: parents sometimes choose to send their children/teens to Christian schools, because by doing so they think they’ve done their parental duty to raise their child in a godly way.
As a parent–and especially if you are a Christian yourself–YOU are THE key spiritual role model and mentor for your teen. And that isn’t “if you want to be” either–that’s the way it is. Ultimately, you are charged with teaching and modelling to your teen what follow Jesus means, and while church, youth groups, Christian schools can be a support to that end, they are only that: support mechanisms.
Read Deuteronomy 6 for an overview of what God expects from parents as it relates to the spiritual nurture and development of their children. (Hint: it’s doesn’t say, “Hand them off to the youth pastor and bring them to church on Sunday.”)
2. Not expressing genuine love and like to your teen.
It’s sad that I have to write this one at all, but I’m convinced very few Christian parents actually express genuine love and “like” to their teen. It can become easy for parents to only see how their teen is irresponsible, failing, immature, etc., and become a harping voice instead of an encouraging, empowering one.
Do you intentially set aside time to tell your teen how much you love and admire them? Do you write letters of encouragement to them? Do you have “date nights” where you spend time together and share with them the things you see in them that you are proud of?
Your teen won’t ask you for it, so don’t wait for an invitation. Everyday say something encouraging to your teen that builds them up (they get enough criticism as it is!). Pray everyday for them and ask God to help you become one of the core people in your teen’s life that He uses to affirm them.
1. Expecting your teen to have a devotion to God that you are not
cultivating within yourself.
When I talk to Christian parents, it’s obvious that they want their teen to have a thriving, dynamic, genuine, life-giving faith. What isn’t so clear, however, is whether that parent has one themselves. When it comes to the Christian faith, most of the time what we learn is caught and not taught. This means that even if you have the “right answers” as a parent, if you’re own spiritual walk with God is pathetic and stilted, your teen will unconciously follow suit. Every day you are teaching your teach (explicitely and implicitely) what discipleship to Jesus looks like “in the flesh.”
What are they catching from you? Are you cultivating a deep and mature relationship with God personally, or is your Christian parenting style a Christianized version of “do as I say, not as I do”?
While having a healthy and maturing discipleship walk as a parent does not guarantee your teen will follow in your footsteps, expecting your teen to have a maturing faith while you follow Jesus “from a distance” is an enormous mistake.
You are a Christian before you are a Christian parent (or any other role). Get real with God, share your own struggles and hypocrisy with your entire family, and maybe then God will begin to use your example in a positive and powerful way.
To order a copy of Mere Disciple: a spiritual guide for emerging leaders, click here.
Posted on December 18, 2013 by Phil
One of the hidden treasures that the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon, left the church was a little book titled Come Ye Children. In it, Spurgeon contended earnestly that one of the most important tasks given to a parent, teacher, or minister is teaching kids the gospel. Spurgeon writes:
There must be doctrine, solid, sound, gospel doctrine to constitute real feeding. When you have a joint on the table, then ring the dinner-bell; but the bell feeds nobody if no provender is served up. Getting children to meet in the morning and the afternoon is a waste of their steps and yours if you do not set before them soul-saving, soul sustaining truth. Feed the lambs; you need not pipe to them, nor put garlands round their necks; but do feed them.
As a parent, teacher, or minister, teaching your kids the gospel is the most important task you have. So, what is your plan? Just like kids grow physically in proportion to the food they eat and emotional support they receive, they grow spiritually in a similar manner. Are you intentionally feeding your kids the gospel? It is estimated that pastors have 104 hours a year with kids in their ministry, while parents have 8,736 hours a year.
By the end of 2014, will your kids know the gospel?
Posted on December 13, 2013 by Sharon
Christmas is a great time for traditions and doing things with your family and friends. One again this year Ridgecrest Summer Camps has an idea to try! It’s called “Elfing”. It’s a great thing to do with your kids that will help them bless someone else. Here’s a short video to explain the concept. Your printout is located below the video…
Below is the link to the note you leave with the Christmas treats. Happy Elfing!
You will need to print this document out to start Elfing….Elfing Directions 2013
Posted on November 13, 2013 by Phil
When I look at my phone, I see my daughter leaving for camp on my home screen. She stands at the bottom of an airport escalator, an orange backpack over her shoulder. She’d cut her long, strawberry blond hair the day before, so the person smiling from under the carrot top doesn’t look familiar. But the image of a kid who just needs a backpack and a ticket is one I recognize. Some parents may have to nudge their children to camp. For the last two summers, our daughter has run out the door. “Yukon ho!” she yelled when leaving this year, an expression she learned from Calvin and Hobbes‘ main character Calvin, whom she now resembles.
I hadn’t been at the National Airport departure gate for her first trip as an Unaccompanied Minor. I was in the stands at my son’s baseball tournament. For pickup my wife and I flipped the load-sharing. She did baseball duty, and I flew to Minnesota, driving almost four hours to a packed-dirt road lined with birch trees that ended at the shores of Lake Pokegama: Camp Mishawaka. Thirty-six years earlier, I had been the 9-year-old flying alone from Washington to this place with a new haircut.
When I was at camp, my parents didn’t know what was happening to me. We weren’t allowed to use the telephone, so even on my birthday I just received word that they’d called to wish me a happy one. All they got on their end was a handful of sentences written in loopy script with scattershot spelling. Technology makes hovering easier now. For the last few weeks, my wife and I ended our days poking around on the camp website, scanning photographs for the flash of red hair among the campers playing capture the flag and canoeing. Now, as I stood on the soft grass at the edge of the compound, I was doing the same scan, watching my daughter fling herself around along with the other campers, passing time before the organizing ring of the dinner bell.
Posted on October 23, 2013 by Phil
Some interesting thoughts from Tim Elmore…
Yesterday, I shared with the Huffington Post community the following thoughts that I wanted to share with you as well…
We live in complex times. As I work with thousands of parents and faculty each year, I’m increasingly convinced we have a more engaged set of adults who care about kids today than at any time since I began my career in 1979. Simultaneously, however, I am observing a more troubled population of kids, especially by the time they reach their teen years. It appears at first like an oxymoron. How can such a cared-for generation experience such emotional difficulties?
Today, more kids struggle with depression and anxiety than at any time in modern times. In The Price of Privilege, Dr. Madeline Levine argues America’s newly-defined at-risk group is preteens and teens from affluent, well-educated families. In spite of their economic and social advantages, they experience the highest rates of depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders and unhappiness of any group of children in this country. Adolescent suicide has quadrupled since 1950.
Diagnosing the Emotional Health Problem in Many Kids Today
As I speak to psychologists and career counselors, I’ve begun to hear a term over and over, as they describe the emotional state of young people. This term appears to be a paradox, but it aptly defines perhaps millions of adolescents in America:
“High Arrogance, Low Self-esteem”
How can someone be cocky, yet not have a healthy sense of identity? Consider the reality they face. In a recent undergraduate survey, Dr. Art Levine reports that grade inflation has skyrocketed. In 1969, only 7 percent of students said their grade point average was an A- or higher. In 2009, it was 41 percent. In that same time period, students having a C average dropped from 25% to 5%. But with grade inflation at an all-time high, it’s surprising to note that 60 percent of students believe their grades understate the true quality of their work. They believe they deserve a higher mark. One has to wonder — are kids that much smarter than forty years ago, or do we just give them higher grades to keep the customer? The fact is, while student scores continue to decline when compared to other nations, the one statistic that remains constant is that our kids continue to assume they’re awesome.
Sheltered by parents, teachers and coaches who fear that unhappy kids are a poor reflection on them, we have rewarded them quickly, easily and repeatedly. Kids naturally begin believing they are amazing. Case in point: My son recently took part in a theatre arts competition. Parents paid dearly to enable their kid to get on stage, and now I know why. Every single student got a medal, just for showing up. When they performed, they received extra medals. The medal levels were: gold, high gold and platinum. (Did you notice that gold was the lowest award possible?) Here’s the clincher. If your kid didn’t get the award he wanted, trophies were on sale after the competition. This is not uncommon. Kids today have received trophies for ninth place in Little League baseball. They get fourth-runner up medals at competitions. Ribbons and stars are given out routinely. Of course they are arrogant. With little effort, they’ve been awarded a prize.
The problem is, as they age, they begin to suspect this affirmation is skewed. In fact, mom may be the only one telling them they’re “special” or amazing. By college, kids meet all kinds of other “special” students, who are as smart or athletic as they are. Between the ages of 17-24, kids now experience their first real “failure.” They bump up against hardship and difficulty and often aren’t resilient enough to bounce back. Truth be told, when a kid has been told they are “excellent” without working hard or truly adding value to a team, it rings hollow to them. We must realize that our affirmation must match their performance. Low self-esteem hits them at this point (often their freshmen or sophomore year in college) because they suddenly recognize their esteem may be built on a foundation of sand.
Solving the Emotional Health Problem in Many Kids Today
My point is not to suggest your child isn’t special in his own right. My point is that this is only part of the story. In preparing our young people for adulthood, we must give them a sense of the big picture. We must drip doses of reality with all the praise. When I see troubled kids from upper-middle class homes, it makes me wonder:
• Question: Are they fragile because they’ve been sheltered?
• Question: Are they unmotivated because they’ve been praised too quickly?
• Question: Do they get anxious or fearful because they’ve never taken risks?
• Question: Are they self-absorbed because they’ve been rewarded so often?
• Question: Do they move back home after college because they’re ill-prepared?
I believe two sets of messages must be communicated to students during the first two decades of their life. Sadly, very often only one set of messages gets through. The first ten years, we must communicate childhood messages. If we have done this well, they are prepared for necessary adolescent messages that prepare them for a challenging adult world:
1.You are loved.
2. You are unique.
3. You have gifts
4. You are safe.
5. You are valuable.
1. Life is difficult.
2. You are not in control.
3. You are not that important.
4. You are going to die.
5. Your life is not about you.
I recognize this may sound harsh, but I find myself having to communicate the second set of messages far too often to a college student. If we love these students, we will relay both messages. They deserve the truth from us and they deserve a childhood that prepares them for the life that awaits them as adults. Whether they are emotionally ready as they enter adult life… will be up to us.
Want to learn more about how to raise emotionally healthy kids? Bring home a copy of Artificial Maturity to drill deeper.
Posted on October 9, 2013 by Phil
I remember my son looking up from a disappointing test grade, annoyed with my advice and yelling at me, “You don’t understand; math has changed!” I literally laughed out loud.
Then I looked at his study sheets. I didn’t recognize a thing. It was true. Math had changed.
This is not our middle school or high school anymore, folks, and it threatens our ability to relate. But, we can relate to the charged emotions our teens are facing. And we can better enter into the necessary, hard conversations at times by attending to those emotions rather than avoiding them.
I learned this the hard way. I can be a knucklehead as a dad. I’m great at picking up on things with other people, but it took me a little while to begin seeing what I was missing in my own family.
It’s easy to label our teens as acting out, or having attention-seeking behavior, or being manipulative, or focusing on themselves instead of God, and those may be valid issues at times. Still, when it comes time to address these issues and have hard conversations with your child, let’s replace the idea of our kids needing attention with the idea that they need a connection. And we can best connect with them by attending to the emotion before attending to the solution.
In other words, we need to slow down before we try to fix the problem.
OK, but where’s the spiritual part? In fact, a spiritual focus needs to be at the core, and it is, because the spiritual can’t really be separated from the emotional and still be healthy. When we acknowledge our son or daughter’s anger, or sadness, or excitement, or fear, we are with them right in the middle of the Truth. Even if they don’t realize it yet.
So how do we get them to go there with us or let us in to that part of themselves? Basically, we have to cultivate honesty by rewarding honesty. Remember, truth doesn’t taste good unless it’s seasoned with grace. When there has been a breach in the family rules, grace says, “You’ll be in less trouble if you tell me the truth.” Then we have to back that up.
Reward their honesty. If we lower the boom anyway, we just taught them how to not trust us at all.
Cultivate safety in conversation by being safe at other times. So when you hear something inappropriate that your teen’s friend is doing, question out loud the behavior or decision, discuss the possible outcomes, but do so without criticizing the friend. If we model judgment all the time, we’re going to eventually create a lack of safety with our own kids.
Remember to parent each kid as an individual. In our house when a consequence has to be levied, each child responds differently. One kid cries at the mention of punishment, one kid argues a position against the injustice of it all, one kid chimes “OK” and then skips down the hall, and one kid gets eyes like The Incredible Hulk. Each one is different, responds differently, needs different things. The Hulk calms down with a valid reason. The Actress wants to feel that no one is mad. The Lawyer needs time and music to relax her opinion. The Skipper apparently has her own magical fairy dust, so we just leave her alone with it.
I have found it to be incredibly important to find each kid’s “open window” for conversation. Find the time and place that makes them comfortable. It might be a consistent moment or time of day (bed time, after dinner). It might be an activity (going for a walk, playing catch). It might involve a certain structure (sitting at the table, written in an email first). Or, maybe it’s a location (coffee shop, park, the car). Whatever it is, we need to lean into those natural opportunities for hard conversations.
There are lots of roles we fill when communicating with our teens: Coach, Advocate, Crime Stopper, or Judge. It helps if I pay attention to what role I’m speaking out of in a specific conversation. Am I using the voice I intend? Am I being a Judge when it’s time to be a Coach? Am I being an Advocate when it’s time to be a Crime Stopper?
As parents, we have to concede that there are decisions and influences that we have already put into practice with our kids that didn’t work or missed the mark. It’s already in play. It’s too late for a retraction. It’s not too late for a course correction. When I have blown it, I have to make things right, repair the relationship, and move forward. And we need to give ourselves grace. We need to give our kids grace. We need to extend a love and a trust and an absence of shame to them that we haven’t even necessarily had for ourselves at times.
Death is hard
Death as a topic is unsettling. I could give you pointers on talking only about death, but under the surface of that is loss. And our kids are going to be facing loss for the rest of their lives. The formula is simple: “When there is loss – grieve.” Look at your kids and tell them to cry, shout, make a fist, hit a pillow with a tennis racket, mention who and what has been lost, and don’t avoid it.
Look at them and tell them, “Don’t let anyone rush your grieving process, including yourself.” Grieving a loss won’t hinder their life – it will free it up for the future. The space in my counseling office is regularly filled by people dealing with issues of unresolved grief that linger into adulthood. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Sex frequently makes the ‘tough conversations’ list
And given limited space here I’m going to refer rather than be too brief. There are lots of great resources to help you talk through issues of sex. Kevin Leman and Kathy Flores Bell’s book, A Chicken’s Guide To Talking Turkey With Your Kids About Sex (Zondervan 2009) is right in line with building trust, giving support, and cultivating safety. As far as your emotions, just pray for the ability to be the least anxious person in the room, no matter what.
Self-discipline hinges on understanding responsibility
And responsibility begets responsibility. Just help them bridge the gap between your desire for them to be responsible and how it fits into the greater good, the bigger picture, the endgame. Ask them, “Whose responsibility is that?” Ask to help them problem-solve a better way, or different way, to get something done. Allow them to discover how they are making a contribution, not just following a demand.
Remember, the emotional and spiritual can’t be separated. God created that, not me, not you, not our kids, not culture. God did it. So work with them – use them both to connect to your kids. Move toward emotions for connection. Move toward Scripture for solutions. Attend to both – emotion and solution – when you attend to hard conversations with your teens.
No, they may not rise and call you blessed. They may not understand why you are pouring into their lives in this way. You may feel frustrated and toxic at times. You’re human, you’re normal, I get it. So ask for help. Seriously, I don’t know how anyone does parenting without Jesus.
When I’m in the pit, Psalm 40 reminds me that He’s in the pit with me. When I’m walking the right road, Zephaniah 3:17 reminds me that He’s celebrating me. And when I’m at the top of my game and a bit arrogant, 2 Sam. 22:28 reminds me that He will humble me to keep me healthy and in step with Him.
He attends to me. He loves me well. Even when I don’t realize it yet. That’s our model for parenthood.
This article is courtesy of Parenting Teens Magazine.
Toby Simers is a therapist in private practice in St. Louis, Missouri. He spent 12 years in vocational ministry, graduated from the Willow Creek Internship program, and earned a Masters in Counseling at Covenant Theological Seminary. But more importantly, he’s a devoted and growing husband, father of two, and stepfather of two.
Posted on August 21, 2013 by Teeny
“And if Chris has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Therefore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.” 1 Corinthians 15:17-19
How can you keep this conversation going at home? Try bouncing some of these questions around at the dinner table, as you’re driving your kids to school or an activity, or even while you’re shopping together:
Why did Jesus die?
What do you want to say to Him because He chose to die for us?
What does Jesus’ death say about His commitment to obeying God?
What is one way you can do something that you don’t want to do but will show people who God is?
Why were the women serving Jesus after they thought He was dead?
Who do you know that honors Christ in ways that other people find foolish? What does that say about his or her faith?
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