Parents have a distinct and essential role in the lives of children and teens. This is to teach social and moral obligations, the basics of right and wrong, family values, religious principles based on family beliefs, and the dynamics and responsibilities of family and family members. They encourage children, youth, and teens to strive for their best, to make goals that will help them succeed, to strive for education, a sound career, and a healthy, happy, productive life. They nurture through love, understanding, guidance, and discipline. They help children and teenagers grow in ways that will benefit them as they become young adults and members of society.
If our children and teens are relying upon other children and teens to teach them these values, then they are not learning the necessary skills for becoming successful adults. All youth and teens make mistakes as they learn these lessons, but when they are relying on other youth and teens for direction, they will make more and greater mistakes, some that may have life-long consequences.
Examples that come to mind include those of a high school couple (sophomore and junior) allowed to marry and a high school freshmen who became pregnant because she felt she owed sexual relations to a “protector” in her group.
When our children and teenagers are allowed to spend the majority of their time with those their own age, depending upon them for guidance, it should not be surprising when they refuse to listen to the reason of their parents in critical situations. The young couple who married as sophomore and junior in high school argued for three months with their parents, insisting that they would run away if not allowed to marry. Having allowed these young people to educate themselves in life lessons through the experiences of friends rather than the guidance of family, these parents quickly found that their conversations were falling upon deaf ears. They eventually agreed for them to marry, thinking they could at least give them guidance if they remained close to home. Instead, the sophomore quit school to work when the junior got pregnant. Rent, doctor’s bills, and other necessities became too much for two teenagers who were not properly educated in how life and finances work in the real world. They remain married, but live in the separate homes of their parents, who are constantly arguing with each other over the best care for their teens.
The “preventative” for this situation is open lines of communication within the family and a primary concern for the well-being of children and teens. It is a hectic world and life can often seem out of control; however, had the parents of these two made the decision to spend the times with them in their early years rather than allow them to spend most of their time in the unsupervised company of friends freely exploring the grown-up aspects of life, they might not be spending so much time with them currently, attempting to remedy their mistakes. When parents make the time for open communication – when they listen as much as they talk and they draw their children and teens to them rather than push them off into unknown environments – they develop relationships that allow for the guidance and nurturing that teens desperately need. None of us come into this world knowing everything we need to know to be successful adults. That is why we have parents. Others teens are no fair substitute. Additionally, it is a bit much for parents to expect respect for their decisions and opinions when their children are almost grown if they have not been enforcing their authority all along.
As for the young lady who became pregnant because she felt she owed her “protectors” sexual favors – protection and guidance are meant to come from the family. When teens are placed in situations where their primary influences are those of the same age, there is small likelihood for proper guidance and direction. It is very easy for others to exact peer pressure to engage in risky behaviors such as underage drinking, drugs, and sex. When our teens are depending upon other teens for information and a source of approval, they are sure to be steered in the wrong direction. As parents, we must take control of those situations so that we are the primary influence in their lives. Our children and teens will have plenty of time to be grown-ups and make grown-up decisions after they grow up. In the meantime, it is our jobs as parents to guide them, educate them and protect them from those who would taken advantage of their youth. When we relinquish them into the company and “protection” of other teens, we are relinquishing our influence and we are ultimately responsible for the trouble they find in such situations.
It is important that we stress to our children and teens the importance of family in their lives. The best way we can do this is by providing them the proper example – being the family that nurtures, guides, protects and teaches them all the lessons they need to be healthy, happy, successful adults. Yes, it does take time out of an already busy life; however, most parents are aware that children are a time-intensive commitment when they decide to include them in the family. This being said, once the decision is made, it must be honored. Parents will have time when their children are grown to concentrate upon their own lives again. Children are an amazing responsibility that deserve our time and attention.