No matter what, a day will come when our children will leave home. It often starts gradually, but suddenly it is accelerated and ‘wham’! They’re gone! The time we have with them now is a privileged time to invest in their lives.
Here are seven things to do deliberately in order to prepare them to face the outside world.
1. BUILD THEIR SELF-ESTEEM
Teenagers battle with low self-esteem. It is our duty to build in them a sense of personal self-worth. They need to know that they have value. One of the ways to do this is to tell them often that you love them. When they travel, tell them that you miss them. Pay more attention to their area of strength rather than always complaining about their weak points. Let them know there are things they do excellently. Let them know that they have a right to make their own choices even if it will be different from their friends’.
They should be able to admit their mistakes without feeling that it lowers their self-esteem. Once they have a good self-esteem, it will help them withstand the peer pressure waiting for them outside the home.
2. TRAIN THEM TO BE RESPONSIBLE
Encourage your children to be able to take personal initiatives in solving problems. Sometimes give them challenging tasks that will make them think and put in their best. And if you are not at home and they take decisions that show efforts at solving problems but if in the process, they increased the burden, don’t be too swift to condemn them. Anytime they take personal initiative to help solve a problem, first appreciate the effort before you show where they were wrong. Do your best never to kill their initiative ability. Also, allow them to finish tasks they started, resist all their efforts to abandon what they were doing when they are bored. When you are not around, can they use their personal money to purchase what is needed to get things running in the house?
3. TEACH SOUND JUDGMENT
We live in a world where deceit is common, yet many teenagers are naïve and gullible. This makes them vulnerable if untaught. Teach them not to take things at face value, the saying ’all that glitters is not gold’ is very true. Tell them not to be carried away by people who have an overly sweet-tongue. They should also learn to be patient and not rush into taking decisions if they feel uneasy about it. Let them know the importance of learning from past experience.
Also, when it comes to forming an opinion over issues, they must separate facts from hearsays. And to take final positions, they must weigh it from various angles, and put it beside the word of God to reveal the true nature of what is being considered. This ability can also be called discernment. Discernment is acquired through association with wise people and close acquaintance with the Bible. Having a firm understanding of the word of God is also a sure way of sharpening discernment. In addition to this, encourage development of right values. Development of right values can be done by praising them when they do things that show they reflect good values.
4. TEACH THEM HOW TO HANDLE MONEY
Money is a tool that they need to know how to handle before they leave home. We have seen parents who refuse to allow a child handle money under the guise of not wanting him/her to be exposed to money as money leads to temptation. Give them opportunity to handle money, when you send them on errands, let them give a proper account of how they spent the money. In addition, allow them to have their personal savings that they can decide what to do with. For example when someone visits and gives them money, let them keep it, but they should be prepared to give an account at the end of a period of how much came in and how it was spent. Let them know right early that it is not everything that comes to them that must be expended on themselves alone. They should learn how to apportion part of it to bless others. They may save to help a needy person. They should also tithe every the income that comes their way. But remember to let them know that they are not to tithe designated money like their school fees because that one is not given to them, but given to them to go and pay the school authorities.
5. BALANCE FREEDOM WITH CONTROL
Sudden exposure to independence can intoxicate anyone that is not used to it. In preparing our youths to face the outside world, let us begin to relax some of our tight ropes according to their ability. For example, if earlier on you don’t allow him to visit friends; you may start giving in to such a request with time limits. There are times they long for certain things that you feel are not a necessity, you may give in once in a while for them to have those things. And in the same way you should give them selective exposure to the outside world. For example, allow them to do holiday job or Industrial Training at a firm where the people are non-believers in Christ. This short-term exposure will allow them to see how the world relates unsentimentally with issues. But while doing this, make sure you are communicating to know what they have heard and what it was doing to them.
6. TEACH BASIC SURVIVAL SKILLS
They must know how to take care of themselves. How to shop for basic needs, how to prepare their meals, take care of their laundry, clean the house, handle themselves while they are sick and also be able to handle the younger ones. This is irrespective of whether they are male or female. If we do not teach them these basic skills when they are young, it will become a major problem for them in future. So, start giving them responsibilities. For example, you may allow your first child to know she will be responsible for Saturday lunch preparation, while your younger child is responsible for Sunday dinner. If they are not used to it, they may whine initially, but they will soon adjust to the challenge.
Another good idea is to divide the chores and make a roaster so you will know who is responsible when there are lapses. You should also pick them to follow you out when there is shopping to do. When they’ve gone with you a couple of times, allow them to do the shopping alone. You may follow them to the market, but stay in the car while they go and do the shopping. This may not be easy but training is costly.
7. PREPARE THEM SPIRITUALLY
It is important to ensure the spiritual stability of our children. Really, we should have started to explain things that have to do with God, for example, God’s purpose in sending Jesus Christ and why they should accept Jesus as their saviour while they were still very young. But in case they have not done so, it is not too late. Explain God’s plan of salvation to them. Then follow up by investing in their spiritual lives. If you see any book that will help them know God more, buy it. If there are youth programmes organised in Christian settings encourage them to go. Create an atmosphere that will encourage godliness in your home. If they love music, buy CDs of their favourite Christian artistes. It is assumed that you have a time set aside daily where your family gathers to read the Bible, to discuss and to pray. Give them opportunities to handle such times regularly while you sit as a participant, it challenges them to grow.
At other times, you may ask your teenagers to draft Bible study outlines on a particular topic which they will teach other members of the family, while you sit down and watch. This will challenge them to pray and study because they wouldn’t want to mess up. They will make mistakes, but it will all be a part of the learning process. All these that we have discussed must not be done in a legalistic manner. Let it be fun. One major thing we must aim at is for them to be loyal to Jesus and be committed to the word of God. A teenager that has learnt to value the word of God is at a great advantage. The word of God will act as their guide when no one is around to give him/her instructions. It is also a shield for them because if they have learnt to apply God’s word to every area of their lives, they will scale through a lot of pitfalls that easily ensnare the youths of today. (Proverbs 30:5)
Best results are obtained when we start early. In a tone that carries robust confidence and authority, the Bible says:
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (PROVERBS 22:6 KJV).
Many parents don’t start training early because they feel the boy or girl is still a child so will not understand. It’s true that at some earlier stages, a child may not fully understand the reason why an action is good or bad, but he surely understands that some actions win a sign of approval while some earn a frown or even a smack. And since every human being prefers approval to rebuke, he will keep doing the things that will win your approval. That is the first positive sign that will show you that the child is imbibing some values.