Preparing your Child for Adolescence
Preparing for Adolescence
Recommended for ages 10+
The best way to prepare your child for the changes and challenges of adolescence is to set the stage. Mom with daughter, dad with son, or a single parent with either sex should spend time giving their preadolescent child a basic understanding of what’s coming before the cataclysmic transition begins. Help your child prepare for coming changes in a proactive and positive way. Here’s a quick guide to the when, what, and the how of that time together:
Often parents are concerned that they will overwhelm their preteen or encourage premature curiosity if they jump the gun in preparing them for adolescence. A greater concern, however, is the likelihood that someone else will beat you to it. Children are typically ready before their parents are, usually around eleven years old. Of course, not all children are the same. That’s why it’s important to spend time with your preteen getting a sense of where they are developmentally. Ask God for wisdom about the timing of your conversations.
You should plan to address the many areas of change your son or daughter will encounter during the transition to adulthood, especially bodily changes, decision-making, and the changing relationship to you.
- Body: It’s important to frame the physical changes ahead as much more than a plea for sexual abstinence. Your son or daughter needs a vision for how these internal and external changes will prepare the body for the joys of marriage and the miracle of creating new life.
- Decision-making: Increasingly, your child will need to make and assume responsibility for his or her own decisions. As you maintain your overall family values in media choices, individual responsibilities (chores, homework, etc.), drugs and alcohol, you also need to direct your son or daughter in how to make wise decisions in areas of health and integrity. The first nine chapters of Proverbs can help guide an early teen on choosing wisdom over folly.
- Relationship to You: Consider explaining to your preteen that over the next decade your role will progressively change from a teacher to that of a coach. You will begin to guide him or her in the transition toward independence. It is also a great time to intentionally foster relationships with other godly adults who can influence your child’s life.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Create an environment for open communication for your child to share, talk, and discuss with you.
- Listen! Allow your child to share thoughts and questions without being judgmental or quick to give a lecture.
- Have fun. Your child is much more likely to listen and be open with you if you have established a good relationship by creating fun times.
THE TALK FAQ
How early should I talk to my child about relationships, sexual integrity, and dating?
Every child is different, but you know it is time to discuss sexual integrity if any of the following is true:
- Your adolescent child shows interest in having a girl/boy friend
- You notice texts, emails, social media posts, etc. from the opposite sex
- Your child has any sort of internet access including, but not limited to, a smart phone, tablet, gaming device, etc.
How can I talk to my daughter about modesty in a fun way?
Go on a shopping trip together and discuss fashion and basic guidelines to tell if something is modest or not. Let them go through the list and tell you what they feel comfortable with. Suggested guidelines:
- Fingertip length on shorts/skirts
- Practice sitting (watch the back of bottoms)
- Swimsuit (jump up and down and make sure everything stays in)
- Tops must fully cover breast/cleavage even when bending forward
How do I help my child set healthy social media/online boundaries?
Set a time to discuss the following questions with him/her:
- What is a healthy/appropriate amount of time per day to spend online?
- What guidelines will keep our identity and personal information private?
- What kinds of pictures are/aren’t appropriate to post (i.e., no swimsuit or pajama pictures or pictures with too much skin showing)?
- Emphasize the importance of never responding to someone online we don’t know in person.
How do I protect and help my child in the temptations they face with technology and media?
- Even if you believe your child is not yet tempted, take the following proactive steps:
- Do not allow your child to have a computer or television in his/her room.
- If your child has a mobile device or phone, have them turn it off and plug it in the kitchen at a certain time each night.
- Limit and monitor all text messages.
- Put parenting controls on your television.
- Be careful of the shows/television that you watch in the company of your child to avoid sending mixed messages.
- Check services such as pluggedinonline.com for content details on any movies, music and television shows they want to watch.
- Set controls/accountability on all computers, phones and other electronic devices in your home using services such as the following:
How can I expose my child to the influence of other godly adults to reinforce what we are teaching at home?
When a child enters the adolescent years, it becomes important to help him or her glean from the example and influence of other godly adults, some of whom may become important voices into your child’s life when he/she reaches the Rite of Passage milestone. Here are a few suggestions:
- Start with extended family including grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. Invite godly relatives to take an interest in your child’s activities by attending his/her concerts, games, award assemblies, etc. Ask them to invite your child to breakfast or ice cream once in a while to connect and speak into his/her life.
- When you eat meals with Christian friends, invite your adolescent son/daughter to sit at the adult table rather than with the kids. Simply including him/her in these conversations can help establish a bond with other godly adults.
- Introduce yourself to the student pastor and/or small group leader and consider offering to volunteer in Student Ministries. This may help you get to know other adult leaders who might be willing to take a special interest in your child, and you can be that person for someone else!