Do you take inventory of your teen’s words, actions and appearance often? It’s important that you purpose to do that, and not just let circumstances unfold, hoping you catch on to anything you need to know. Expect some natural adjustments as hormones take over, and allow for individuality and personality adaptation, but don’t loosen the reins so much that you let go completely.
As I cover in each Hot Buttons book, some of the most serious issues your teen will encounter creep in slowly and insidiously. Before you know it, your teen is in the clutches of substance abuse, a sexual relationship, a faith crisis, or depression. By being proactive about watching for signs, you’ll be able to reach out and deal with them far easier than if you wait until the danger is out in the open.
There are some questions you can ask yourself that will help you recognize any potential danger zones.
1. Have there been any “incidents” lately? Times when your teen wasn’t where you’d agreed. Lies? Missed curfews? Etc. Everyone makes mistakes and your teen should be shown grace when erring on a judgment call. But there’s a difference between an error in judgment and blatant, pre-meditated deception.
2. Any changes in appearance? More revealing clothing? More makeup? Less attention to appearance? Etc. Obviously styles change and your teenager will explore clothing options and appearance, but drastic flip-flops can signal trouble.
3. Music selections, movie and television choices–have they changed? Often these kinds of choices will show you the types of influences her friends are being and clue you in to any weaknesses in the “armor”. If your teen who only listened to Christian music is now absorbing things outside of your comfort zone, it could signal a heart change.
4. Friendships–are there new people hanging around? A lot of times, as teens start to shift into a more troubled time, they shed “good” friends and take on questionable associations. It’s important to be on the alert as those friendships take shape. Check up, verify, meet parents…be a pain!
5. Complaints about going to church? Maybe your teen stays up too late and it’s hard to get up in the morning. Maybe you’re hearing the age-old it’s-my-only-day-to-sleep-in argument. Or maybe your teenager is feeling at odds with Biblical teaching. Trust me, Mom and Dad, this is NOT the time to loosen up on those expectations.
Those are just some places for you to start your exploration. But in true Hot Buttons form, we want to turn this checklist into a conversation, or series of conversations you can have with your teens to guide them toward realizing the power of good choices.
The Hot Buttons column gives you a fictional scenario you can use to put your teen in the heat of moment and help him/her figure out what to do when that real life situation happens. You should take this as an opportunity to see where your teenager may need some help or might face a struggle one day.
Now, tell your teen this story as though it’s really happening to him/her:
Your BFF has been making some pretty scary choices lately and you’ve seen a pattern of change in several areas. Worst part is your friend seems depressed. You really have no idea why–and anytime you try to talk about it, your friend changes the subject. One part of you says to let it go, that the changes signal nothing more than normal changes a teenager goes through. The other part of you can’t seem to let go of your worry. You’ve got to do something, but what?
Present the following choices to your teenager:
- You ignore your concerns. Your BFF knows you’re a good listener.
- You give it another try and approach the problem with your friend. Even if nothing changes, at least it’s clear you’re worried.
- Your friend’s behaviors are dangerous so you’ve got to do something, so you stage an intervention with a few mutual friends and confront the issues.
- This isn’t time to mess around. You bring your concerns to your parents and let them decide what to do.
Now let your teen make a choice between the responses without feeling judged or directed. You want the response to be as honest as possible. Remember, you’re most likely battling peer pressure and a potentially weakened self-image.
Here are some discussion points you can use to lead the conversation after the choice is made:
- What are dangerous behaviors?
- Why do changes signal a potential problem?
- How should a parent respond when those changes happen?
- What kinds of changes might I be seeing in you right now?
- Why or why not should I be concerned?
- Pray together for wisdom and strength against peer pressure.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8