Four years ago, our family moved to Collierville. With a freshman son playing high school football at Houston and a daughter one grade behind at St. George’s, we’ve spent every fall enjoying the Friday Night Lights. Before both of our children had their driver’s licenses, there was even a stint where I would shuttle back-and-forth, catching plays of our son Mark on the field while getting Annika to and from her own school’s game.
This year, fall will be different. Our #54 won’t be on the field to watch… and in just nine more months, our nest will be completely empty. What our parents and grandparents said is in fact true: it goes by so quickly.
At Highpoint Church, we’ve called the parenting journey 7000 days because that’s what we’re given. From crib to college, we have 7000 days to pour into our children’s lives. As the new school year begins, everyone is so busy that it’s easy to simply survive many of those days rather than being focused and intentional as parents. So, how can you not waste one of those remaining days? How can you be an asset to your children during a season when you see them less and less? And, as families of faith, what can you do now to help your children take their faith with them when they head to college?
Don’t make it complicated but, equally, don’t miss the chance to proactively pray and act on behalf of your teen during each of their high school years. Here are two specific ways you can impact your child during this exciting season of their lives…
Pray: Friends make us or break us. Ask the Lord to lead your child to friends who will make them better. The first two months of the school year are strategic in your student establishing a sense of belonging. Pray that your child won’t compromise in order to be accepted.
Act: Strategically invite a handful of godly men for your son (or women for your daughter) to make an investment in your student’s life. For each of our children, this provided other trusted adults who could be a safe place to find wisdom throughout their teenage years. Help establish these relationships by asking the adult to take your son or daughter on an outing or out for lunch. Or here’s something that’s worked well for our family: For our children’s 13th and 16th birthdays, we invited those strategic adults to come to a dinner and bring a letter to read aloud, sharing some encouragement and challenging them as they took steps into adulthood.
Pray: It’s typically the year of new temptations because most sophomores turn 16. A driver’s license is a whole new world of freedom that’s a whole new level of responsibility. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us that God always provides the way of escape when a temptation is presented. I’ve spent many days asking the Lord to do whatever is necessary to shove my children through the way of escape. Intercede on their behalf!
Act: Grab a wide margin Bible and start a journey through Scripture you will never regret. Mark will leave for college with a letter from his dad specific to the passage on any page every time he opens this Bible. There may be days he wouldn’t open just any Bible, but we’re trusting he’ll want to read a letter from his dad… and God will take it from there.
Pray: Pray they get caught. Our goal is not to have good kids, but to raise children into godly adults. They will make mistakes. It’s better for them to occur under your roof so you can coach and guide them. Don’t bury your head in the sand and think “everyone’s doing it.” Fight for your child’s heart through prayer and brush them off when they fall.
Act: Invest in yourself. It’s so easy, yet so dangerous, to make your child the center of your world. They were created to leave our homes and be independent. One of the best gifts you can give your teenager as they go off to college is the confidence that mom and dad are going to be just fine without them. Be sure to prioritize investing time in healthy friendships and meaningful places to use your gifts now. You’re helping yourself while modeling healthy habits to your children.
Pray: Seek God’s heart for your child’s next step. Whether it’s deciding on a college or another path, God knows the bent of your child and things that neither you nor your student can see. Only God knows what’s best, wants what’s best, and can give what’s best. If that’s true, it only makes sense that we would seek His wisdom. When visiting schools, be just as interested in knowing about healthy churches and college ministries in the area as you are about the strength of the academics or athletic programs.
Act: Spend some money on dinner… or whatever it takes to have meaningful conversations with your teen. Having an uninterrupted, quality dialogue is a challenge with teens, but most of them get hungry and will gladly meet you if you’re willing to pay for dinner! Even a cheap run to fast food can give you the time to stay engaged in your child’s life. A standing weekly, one-on-one date with your child provides the needed space to help transition the relationship and normalize inevitable conflicts that will arise as each of you find yourself in a different season.
If parenting is like a football game, it requires us to be engaged all four quarters. As we reflect back on the game so far, we’ve chosen to believe that a healthy relationship wins out over time. If you fight every battle of the teenage years, you might win those battles, but you’ll lose the relationship. Pray and Act with the end in mind… and celebrate the touchdowns along the way.
Karin Conlee Highpoint Church Women’s Ministry Director and author of Miss Perfect: Discovering God’s Purpose without the Pressure