"I want to spend time with you! Sincerely, your teenager"
Yeah right! Your teen? The one who acts like you are a complete stranger - an alien from another planet... Yes, the same teen that seems embarrassed to be around you in public... Well, I've got a surprise for you! They WANT to eat dinner with you every day. They might not admit it to you, but they crave it.
“Kids are actually looking for this daily ritual,” says Kathleen Ferrigno, CASA’s director of marketing and director of Family Day. 72% of surveyed teens stated that they think that having a regular family dinner was important to them. Only 60% (58% according to other surveys) of those teens get to enjoy that privilege.
Teens who have three (3) or less family dinners per week are four times (4x) as likely to use drugs in the future than those who eat family dinner 5 days a week!
Is that shocking to you? It should be, considering the heroine epidemic in the Chicago metro area.
Here are some more facts for you:
As a student pastor I talk to, counsel, and help students and parents for a good chunk of each week. The one thing that I have found is at the root of nearly 99% of the problems I encounter is a lack of communication. I hear things from "Mom doesn't understand me" and "My daughter doesn't listen to a word I say" and "It's like I'm speaking to a brick wall" and "my Dad doesn't even care about me, he never talks to me." Communication, communication, communication.
You may think that you don't have time to have a family dinner every day - the fact is, you don't have time NOT to!
With the hustle and bustle parents experience with work, house-work, making appointments, and managing their lives there is enough on your plate to overwhelm and exhaust you. It is certainly important that you get some free-time and relaxation, but more important than that is that you do a good job promoting the health of your entire family.
There is one time of day where you can really have an impact in your child's life. But to access that time you have to turn off the TV, shut down the computers, stack your cellphones at the charging docks and sit at that table together. Whether TV dinners, carryout, delivery, or home-cooked - a meal together can save your child, and yourself, a WHOLE lot of pain - and even a life!
"But life is so busy!" Life is also too short to have your priorities out of whack. You have 18 short years (maybe) to influence your child before releasing them to their own devices. And chances are, if you are reading this, that is now narrowed down to 1-6 years remaining. You don't have time to MISS influencing your child.
If you want your child to understand priorities - then MODEL that for them! If you want them to place a high premium on family and what you have to say to them, then set the example. If you want them to place God above all else, then be at church every time the doors are open (yes, even when there are family parties, birthdays, sport games, etc).
Are your interactions simply "do this, do that, don't forget to...?" Then your relationship with your child is shallow. When is the last time you listened to them and asked them questions about life? Do you even know who their friends are, the music they listen to, or what's going on behind their "screens" (computer, phone, tablets)? You should. And it's OK to have a "shakedown" every once in a while as Bill Cosby says in this amazing video (which, most of what he says doesn't only apply to the poor, or to one race). A shake down is when you go into their room (really, YOUR room) and put it under inspection. YES you have the right (and responsibility) to read their text messages, e-mails, facebook accounts, and check under their mattresses.
Several of my students have recently told me that they have deleted 100's of explicit songs from their music collections. My question is, how did they get there in the first place? With what credit card?Parents, you should be "shaking things down" a little more often. God gave YOU the responsibility of TRAINING a child in the way he SHOULD go (not the way he wants to go). Training is ACTIVE. Don't let consumer media raise your children because you are too busy to do so yourself.
Before you stone me, I DO understand that teens are sneaky and can find ways to get away with a lot of stuff (and can be exhausting), and I say to that: "Then be ALL THE MORE diligent!"
I also know that working with teens for ten years and studying teens in a graduate program is not the same as raising my own. But I don't think you would be reading this if you didn't value my role in your child's life, so I don't think I need to try to justify anything.
Here's more on what the Bible has to say about raising children:
Deut 6:5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (NIV)
Do you think God considers your influence important?
While I'm not saying that dinner is the only time that you can accomplish this, I am saying that creating an expected routine of family dinners can add immeasurable value to your family.
The more often and consistent the routine is held, the more likely you and your teen are going to be able to communicate freely. The "walls" will be much shorter and the opportunities much more abundant for open dialogue and communication. Once everyone is comfortable with the experience, it will become much easier to open up and have intimate conversation.
Here are some other benefits of eating a family dinner together.
1. Keeps your children out of trouble
2. It's bonding time
3. It offers stability
4. Time for family updates
5. Chance to resolve conflicts
6. Educates your kids
7. Healthy for the whole family
READ HERE for details on each of those benefits.
Here's a secret that I haven't told you yet. I scheduled nearly HALF the activities this year for EDGE. Why? So that I could schedule TWICE the amount of "hangouts" and opportunities to spend one-on-one and group times together, eating, having fellowship, building community and communicating more directly. I don't want to babysit or entertain your children, I want to influence, impact, and build lifelong relationships with them and between them and God. That doesn't happen with more ice-skating and organized parties. It doesn't even happen with more church services and rally's (all important). But it DOES happen during QUALITY TIME spent in OPEN and LIVELY communication.
Working together we can accomplish great things in your teenager's life. Your influence as a parent is infinitely more powerful than mine as a student pastor. While I may be able to breakthrough to them (with the power of God) when they have their walls raised against you, YOU ultimately influence every area of their life either directly or indirectly. They ultimately learn from you, so create consistent pockets of opportunity to maximize your influence.
Last September at our Youth Retreat one of the subthemes for the retreat was “Filter”. We discussed how important it is to set up filter in our life from things that can be harmful or that can take away from God and family. Many parents don’t know just how dangerous it is out there. Here are a few resources to help you protect your child from dangers on the Internet, as well as at the movies.
If you go to this link it will give you a discount on the best internet filter software available:
It’s difficult to decide what movies are safe or appropriate to watch now days. MPAA ratings don’t quite tell you everything you need to know. The following two websites will give you in depth descriptions of the most popular movies to help you make an educated decision on what to watch.