Questions Parents Ask
“How can I get my child to talk to me?”
“Should I enforce a curfew?”
“How can I help my daughter gain a balanced view of dieting?”
Those are some of the 17 questions answered in this Appendix. The material is divided into six sections and cross-indexed to the appropriate chapters in both Volume 1 and Volume 2 of Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work.
Read the material. If possible, discuss it with your spouse. Then use the advice in helping your children. The answers you will find here are trustworthy. They are based, not on fallible human wisdom, but on God’s Word, the Bible.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
307 Sex and Dating
311 Emotional Issues
Is there really any harm in arguing with either my spouse or my children?
In marriage, disagreements are inevitable. How you handle them, though, is a matter of choice. Youths are profoundly affected by their parents’ arguments. This is a matter of concern, since your marriage is, in effect, a model that your children are likely to follow if they marry. Why not use disagreements as an opportunity to demonstrate effective ways to resolve conflicts? Try the following:
Listen. The Bible tells us to be “swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” (James 1:19) Don’t add fuel to the fire by ‘returning evil for evil.’ (Romans 12:17) Even if your spouse seems unwilling to listen, you can choose to do so.
Strive to explain rather than criticize. In a calm manner, tell your spouse how his or her conduct has affected you. (“I feel hurt when you . . .”) Resist the urge to accuse and criticize. (“You don’t care about me.” “You never listen.”)
Take a time-out. Sometimes it is best to drop the matter and resume the discussion when tempers have cooled down. The Bible says: “The beginning of contention is as one letting out waters; so before the quarrel has burst forth, take your leave.”—Proverbs 17:14.
Apologize to each other—and, if appropriate, to your children. Brianne, 14, says: “Sometimes after they’ve argued, my parents will apologize to me and my older brother because they know how it affects us.” One of the most valuable lessons you can teach your children is how to say humbly, “I’m sorry.”
What, though, if the problem involves arguing with your children? Consider if you are unwittingly adding fuel to the fire. For instance, look at the scenario that opens Chapter 2 on page 15 of this volume. Can you identify some things Rachel’s mom did that contributed to the argument? How can you avoid arguing with your teen? Try the following:
● Avoid sweeping assertions, such as “You always . . .” or “You never . . .” Such statements only invite a defensive response. After all, they are likely to be exaggerations, and your child knows it. Your child may also know that sweeping assertions are really more about your anger than his or her irresponsibility.
● Rather than using blunt statements that begin with the word “you,” try expressing how your child’s behavior affects you. For example, “I feel . . . when you . . .” Believe it or not, deep down, your feelings are important to your teen. By letting your teen know how you are affected, you are more likely to elicit his or her cooperation.a
● Hard as it may be, hold back until your temper is in check. (Proverbs 29:22) If the issue that is causing the argument involves chores, discuss it with your child. Write down specifically what is required of him or her, and if necessary, make clear what the consequences will be if your expectations are not met. Patiently listen to your child’s point of view, even if you feel that view is incorrect. Most teens respond better to a listening ear than to a lecture.
● Before hastily concluding that a spirit of rebellion has taken control of your teen, realize that much of what you observe is part of your child’s natural development. Your child may argue a point just to prove that he is growing up. Resist the urge to get involved in disputes. Remember, how you respond to provocation teaches a lesson to your teen. Set an example in patience and long-suffering, and your son or daughter will likely imitate you.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
How much should my children know about my past?
Imagine yourself in this situation: You’re eating dinner with your spouse, your daughter, and some family friends. During the conversation, your friend mentions someone whom you dated—and broke up with—before meeting your spouse. Your daughter nearly drops her fork. “You mean you dated someone else?” she gasps. You haven’t shared this story with your daughter before. Now she wants to know more. What will you do?
Usually, it’s best to welcome your child’s questions. After all, anytime that he or she is asking questions and listening to your answers is time that you’re communicating—something most parents desire.
Just how much should you tell your son or daughter about your past? Naturally, you might prefer to withhold embarrassing information. Yet, where appropriate, revealing some of your struggles can be helpful to your children. How so?
Consider an example. The apostle Paul once disclosed about himself: “When I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me. . . . Miserable man that I am!” (Romans 7:21-24) Jehovah God inspired those words to be recorded and preserved in the Bible for our benefit. And we do indeed benefit, for who cannot relate to Paul’s candid expression?
Similarly, hearing about your good choices and your mistakes can help your children relate to you better. Granted, you were raised in a different era. However, while times have changed, human nature has not; neither have Scriptural principles. (Psalm 119:144) Discussing challenges you’ve faced—and how you overcame them—can help your teenagers as they work through their problems. “When you discover that your parents have faced challenges similar to your own, it makes your parents seem a lot more real,” says a young man named Cameron. He adds, “The next time you have a problem, you wonder if your parents have been through this before too.”
A caution: Not all stories necessarily need to end with counsel. True, you might be concerned that your teen will draw the wrong conclusion or even feel justified in making similar mistakes himself. But instead of summarizing what you want your child to take away from the discussion (“That’s why you should never . . .”), briefly state how you feel. (“In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t done such-and-such because . . .”) Your son or daughter can thus learn a valuable lesson from your experience without feeling as if he or she has been given a lecture.—Ephesians 6:4.
How can I get my child to talk to me?
When they were little, your children probably talked to you about everything. If you asked a question, they answered without hesitation. Often, in fact, you didn’t have to ask questions at all; information would gush forth like a geyser. In contrast, getting your teenagers to talk may seem as futile as extracting water from a dry well. ‘They talk to their friends,’ you say to yourself. ‘Why won’t they talk to me?’
Don’t let their silence cause you to conclude that your teenagers have rejected you or that they don’t want you to be involved in their life. The fact is, they need you now more than ever. And the good news is, research reveals that most teenagers still value the advice of their parents—even over that of their peers or the media.
Then why are they so reluctant to tell you what’s on their mind? Consider what some youths say about why they hold back from talking to their parents. Then ask yourself the accompanying questions and look up the cited scriptures.
“I find it hard to approach Dad because he has a lot on his plate, both at work and in the congregation. There never really seems to be a convenient time to talk to him.”—Andrew.
‘Have I unwittingly sent the message that I’m too busy to talk to my teenagers? If so, how can I make myself more approachable? When can I set aside some time regularly to talk with my children?’—Deuteronomy 6:7.
“I approached my mother in tears about an argument I’d had at school. I wanted her to comfort me, but instead she just reprimanded me. Since then, I haven’t approached her about anything important.”—Kenji.
‘How do I respond when my children approach me with a problem? Even if correction is in order, can I learn to stop and listen with empathy before giving advice?’—James 1:19.
“It seems that every time parents say we can talk and they won’t get angry, they still become upset. Then the teen feels betrayed.”—Rachel.
‘If my child tells me something that is upsetting, how can I control my initial reaction?’—Proverbs 10:19.
“Many times when I opened up to Mom about very private matters, she turned around and told them to her friends. I lost confidence in her for a long time.”—Chantelle.
‘Do I show consideration for my child’s feelings by not spreading private matters that he or she has confided to me?’—Proverbs 25:9.
“I have a lot of things I want to talk about with my parents. I just need their help to start the conversation.”—Courtney.
‘Can I take the initiative to talk to my adolescent? What times are best for talking together?’—Ecclesiastes 3:7.
As a parent, you have everything to gain by building bridges of communication between you and your child. Consider the experience of 17-year-old Junko in Japan. “One time,” she says, “I admitted to my mother that I felt more at ease with my schoolmates than with fellow Christians. The next day, there was a letter from Mom on my desk. In the letter she told me how she too had felt the lack of friends among fellow believers. She reminded me of individuals in the Bible who served God even when there wasn’t anyone for them to be with who would encourage them. She also commended me for the efforts I had made to cultivate wholesome friendships. I was surprised to learn that I was not the only one who had faced this problem. My mother had too, and I was so happy to learn about it that I cried. I was very encouraged by what my mother told me, and I was strengthened to do what was right.”
As Junko’s mother found out, teenagers tend to open up to parents when they are assured that their thoughts and feelings will not be met with ridicule or criticism. But what can you do if your teenager seems annoyed or even angry when he or she speaks to you? Resist the urge to respond in kind. (Romans 12:21; 1 Peter 2:23) Instead, as hard as it may seem, show by example the type of speech and behavior that you expect of your teenager.
Remember this: As they grow to adulthood, teenagers are in a stage of transition. Experts have noted that during this period, adolescents tend to fluctuate in their behavior—on one occasion acting older than their years and on another occasion acting more like a child. If you notice this with your teenager, what can you do—especially on an occasion when he or she acts younger than his or her years?
Resist the urge to lash out in criticism or get embroiled in a childish dispute. Instead, appeal to your teenager as an “adult in training.” (1 Corinthians 13:11) For example, if the childish side of your teenager emerges and he or she says, “Why are you always nagging me?” you might be tempted to respond in anger. If you do so, however, you give up control of the conversation, and you will likely become trapped in an argument. On the other hand, you could simply say: “It sounds like you’re really upset. Why don’t we discuss this later after you’ve cooled down?” That way, you stay in control. The stage is now set for a conversation, rather than an argument.
Should I enforce a curfew?
To help answer that question, imagine yourself in this situation: It’s 30 minutes past your son’s curfew, and you hear the front door slowly creak open. ‘He hopes that I’ve gone to bed,’ you think to yourself. You haven’t, of course. In fact, you’ve been sitting near the door since the time your son was supposed to come home. The door is now fully open, and your son’s eyes meet yours. What will you say? What will you do?
You have options. You could make light of the matter. ‘Boys will be boys,’ you might tell yourself. Or you could swing to the other extreme and say, “You’re grounded for life!” Rather than act impulsively, listen first, in case there is a valid reason for his being late. Then you can turn a broken curfew into a powerful teaching tool. How?
Suggestion: Tell your child that you will discuss the matter with him or her tomorrow. Then, at an appropriate time, sit down and talk about how you will handle the matter. Some parents have tried the following: If their son or daughter comes home after the time agreed on, then for the next outing, the curfew will be moved 30 minutes earlier. On the other hand, if the boy or girl regularly comes home on time and builds up a record of reliable behavior, you might consider granting reasonable freedoms—on occasion, perhaps even extending the curfew to a later time. It is important that your child clearly knows what time he or she is expected to be home and what consequences will be meted out for failure to abide by the curfew you have set. You then need to enforce those consequences.
Note, however, that the Bible says: “Let your reasonableness become known.” (Philippians 4:5) So, before imposing a curfew, you might want to discuss the matter with your child, allowing him or her to suggest a time and offer reasons for that preference. Take this request into consideration. If your child has demonstrated himself or herself to be responsible, you might be able to accommodate his or her wishes if they are reasonable.
Punctuality is a part of life. Setting up a curfew, then, isn’t just about getting your child off the streets. It’s about teaching a skill that will benefit your child long after leaving home.—Proverbs 22:6.
How can I handle conflicts with my children over clothing?
Consider the opening scenario on page 77 in this volume. Imagine that Heather is your daughter. You cannot help but notice the skimpy little outfit she’s wearing—a little too much of nothing, in your view. Your reaction is immediate. “Go upstairs and change, young lady, or you’re not going anywhere!” Such a response may well get results. After all, your daughter has little choice but to comply. But how do you teach her to change her thinking and not just her clothes?
● First, remember this: The consequences of immodesty must matter as much or more to your adolescent than they do to you. Deep down, your adolescent does not want to look foolish or invite unwanted attention. Patiently point out that immodest styles are really not flattering, and explain why.b Recommend alternatives.
● Second, be reasonable. Ask yourself, ‘Does the garment violate a Bible principle, or is this just a matter of personal taste?’ (2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Timothy 2:9, 10) If it is a matter of taste, can you make a concession?
● Third, don’t just tell your adolescent what styles are not acceptable. Help him or her to find clothes that are appropriate. Why not use the worksheets on pages 82 and 83 of this volume to help you reason with your child? It will be well worth your time and effort!
Should I allow my child to play electronic games?
Electronic games have come a long way since you were a teen. As a parent, how can you help your child identify the potential dangers and avoid them?
Little good will be accomplished by condemning the entire industry or by dogmatically asserting that electronic games are a complete waste of time. Remember, not all games are bad. However, they can be addictive. So analyze the amount of time your child spends playing these games. Also, consider the type of games to which your child seems attracted. You could even ask your child such questions as these:
● Which game is the most popular among your classmates?
● What happens in the game?
● Why do you think the game is so popular?
You might find that your child knows more about electronic games than you thought! Perhaps he or she has even played games that you feel are objectionable. If that is the case, don’t overreact. This is an opportunity for you to help your child develop perceptive powers.—Hebrews 5:14.
Ask questions that will help your child determine why the attraction to objectionable games exists. For example, you could ask a question like this:
● Do you feel left out because you aren’t allowed to play that particular game?
Some youths may play a certain game so that they will have something to talk about with their peers. If this is so in your child’s case, you will likely not address the situation the way you would if you found that your child was attracted to games containing gory violence or sexual overtones.—Colossians 4:6.
But what if your child is attracted to the negative elements of a game? Some youths may quickly insist that they aren’t affected by computer-generated gore. ‘Just because I do it on screen doesn’t mean I’ll do it in real life,’ they reason. If that’s how your child feels, draw his or her attention to Psalm 11:5. As the wording of the scripture makes clear, it is not just being violent that merits God’s disapproval but loving violence does too. The same principle applies to sexual immorality or any other vice that God’s Word condemns.—Psalm 97:10.
If electronic games pose a problem for your child, try the following:
● Do not allow electronic games to be played in a secluded area, such as the bedroom.
● Set ground rules—for example, no games before finishing homework or dinner or some other essential activity.
● Emphasize the value of activities that require physical exertion.
● Watch your children play their electronic games—or, better yet, play with them at times.
Of course, to guide your children in the matter of content, you need to have freeness of speech. So ask yourself, ‘What kind of TV shows and movies do I watch?’ Make no mistake—if you have a double standard, your children will know it!
What if my child is addicted to the cell phone, the computer, or other electronic media?
Does your adolescent spend too much time online, send and receive too many text messages, or have a better relationship with his MP3 player than he has with you? If so, what can you do?
You could just take the device away from your child. But do not write off all electronic media as evil. After all, likely you use some form of electronic media that was not available to your parents. So instead of simply confiscating your adolescent’s device—unless there is compelling reason to do so—why not use this as an opportunity to train your son or daughter to use electronic media wisely and with moderation? How can you do that?
Sit down and discuss the matter with your adolescent. First, state your concerns. Second, listen to what he or she has to say. (Proverbs 18:13) Third, work out practical solutions. Don’t be afraid to set firm limits, but be reasonable. “When I had a problem with texting,” says a teenager named Ellen, “my parents didn’t take away my phone; they set guidelines. The way they handled it has helped me to be balanced in my use of texting, even when my parents aren’t there to monitor me.”
What if your son or daughter reacts defensively? Do not conclude that your counsel has fallen on deaf ears. Instead, be patient and give your adolescent some time to think about the matter. Chances are, he or she already agrees with you and will make needed adjustments. Many youths are similar to a teen named Hailey, who says: “At first I was offended when my parents told me I was addicted to my computer. But later, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they were right.”
How much independence should I allow my child?
This question may seem to get complex when you consider privacy issues. For instance, what if your son is in his bedroom with the door closed? Should you barge in without knocking? Or what if your daughter left her cell phone behind as she rushed off to school? Should you peek at her stored text messages?
These are not easy questions to answer. As a parent, you have a right to know what is going on in your adolescent’s life and an obligation to keep him or her safe. But you cannot forever be a ‘helicopter parent,’ suspiciously hovering over your child and monitoring his or her every move. How can you strike a balance?
First, recognize that an adolescent’s desire for privacy does not always spell trouble. Often, it is a normal part of growth. Privacy helps adolescents ‘test their wings’ as they forge their own friendships and think through their problems using their “power of reason.” (Romans 12:1, 2) Privacy helps adolescents develop thinking ability—a vital quality if they are to function as responsible adults. It also gives them opportunity to meditate before making decisions or answering difficult questions.—Proverbs 15:28.
Second, realize that attempts to micromanage your adolescent’s life may breed resentment and rebellion. (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21) Does this mean that you should back off? No, for you are still the parent. However, the goal is for your child to acquire a trained conscience. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7; Proverbs 22:6) In the end, guidance is more effective than surveillance.
Third, discuss the matter with your adolescent. Listen to his or her concerns. Might there be times when you could be yielding? Let your adolescent know that you will allow him or her a measure of privacy as long as your trust is not betrayed. Outline the consequences of disobedience, and follow through if it becomes necessary. Be assured that you can give your adolescent some privacy without relinquishing your role as a caring parent.
When should my child leave school?
“My teachers are boring!” “I get too much homework!” “I struggle just to get passing grades—why even try?” Because of such frustrations, some youths are tempted to quit school before they have acquired the skills they will need to make a living. If your son or daughter wants to quit school, what can you do? Try the following:
● Examine your own attitude toward education. Did you view school as a waste of time—a ‘prison sentence’ that you had to endure until the day you could pursue more important goals? If so, your attitude toward learning may have rubbed off on your children. The fact is, a well-rounded education will help them acquire “practical wisdom and thinking ability”—qualities they need in order to reach their goals.—Proverbs 3:21.
● Provide the tools. Some who could be getting better grades simply don’t know how to study—or they don’t have the appropriate environment for it. A good study area might include an uncluttered desk with sufficient light and research tools. You can help your child to make advancement—whether secular or spiritual—by providing the right setting for pondering over new thoughts and ideas.—Compare 1 Timothy 4:15.
● Get involved. View teachers and guidance counselors as your allies, not your enemies. Meet them. Know their names. Talk to them about your child’s goals and challenges. If your child is struggling with grades, try to determine the cause. For example, does your child feel that excelling at school will make him or her a target of bullying? Is there a problem with a teacher? What about the courses? Your child should be challenged by the curriculum, not overwhelmed by it. Another possibility: Could there be an underlying physical cause, such as poor eyesight, or a learning disability?
The more involved you are in your child’s training, both secular and spiritual, the better chance your child has of success.—Psalm 127:4, 5.
How will I know when my child is ready to leave home?
Serena, quoted in Chapter 7 of this volume, fears leaving home. What is one reason? She says: “Even when I want to buy something with my own money, Dad won’t let me. He says that’s his job. So the idea of having to pay my own bills is scary.” Serena’s father no doubt means well, but do you think that he is helping to prepare his daughter to manage her own household?—Proverbs 31:10, 18, 27.
Are your children overprotected and thus underprepared to face living on their own? How can you know? Consider the following four skills, also mentioned in Chapter 7 under the subheading “Am I Prepared?”—but now do so from a parent’s perspective.
Money management. Do your older children know how to fill out a tax return or what they need to do to comply with local tax laws? (Romans 13:7) Do they know how to use credit responsibly? (Proverbs 22:7) Can they budget their income and then live within their means? (Luke 14:28-30) Have they felt the pleasure that comes from acquiring an item that they bought with money they earned? Have they experienced the even greater pleasure that comes from giving of their time and resources to help others?—Acts 20:35.
Domestic skills. Do your daughters and sons know how to cook meals? Have you taught them how to wash and iron clothes? If they drive a car, can your children safely carry out simple maintenance, such as changing a fuse, the oil, or a flat tire?
Social skills. When your older children have disagreements, do you always act as the referee, imposing the final solution to the problem? Or have you trained your children to negotiate a peaceful solution to the problem and then report back to you?—Matthew 5:23-25.
Personal spiritual routine. Do you tell your children what they should believe, or do you persuade them? (2 Timothy 3:14, 15) Rather than always answering their religious and moral questions, are you teaching them to develop “thinking ability”? (Proverbs 1:4) Would you want them to follow your pattern of personal Bible study, or would you want them to do something better?c
Without a doubt, training your children in the above areas takes time and considerable effort. But the rewards are well worth it when the bittersweet time comes for you to hug them good-bye.
SEX AND DATING
Should I talk to my child about sex?
The subject of sex is being introduced to children at a remarkably young age. The Bible long ago foretold that “the last days” would be marked by “critical times hard to deal with,” in which people would be “without self-control” and “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 3, 4) The trend of having casual sex is one of many indications that this prophecy has proved true.
The world today is vastly different from the one in which you were raised. In some ways, though, the issues are the same. So do not feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the bad influences that surround your children. Instead, be determined to help them to do as the apostle Paul urged Christians some 2,000 years ago, saying: “Put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil.” (Ephesians 6:11) The fact is, many Christian youths are putting up a commendable fight to do what is right, despite the negative influences that surround them. How can you help your children to do the same?
One way is to open a discussion, using selected chapters in Section 4 of this book and Sections 1 and 7 of Volume 2. The chapters contain thought-provoking scriptures. Some highlight the true-life examples of those who either took a stand for what is right and reaped blessings or ignored God’s laws and paid the consequences. Other scriptures contain principles that can help your children recognize the great privilege that they—and you—have of living by God’s laws. Why not plan to review this material with them soon?
Should I let my child start dating?
The dating issue is certain to be thrust upon your children sooner or later. “I don’t even have to do anything!” says Phillip. “Girls ask me out, and I stand there thinking, ‘Oh, what am I going to do now?’ It’s hard to say no because some of them are very beautiful!”
The best thing that you can do as parents is talk to your teen about dating, perhaps using Chapter 1 in Volume 2 as a basis for discussion. Find out how your son or daughter feels about the challenges he or she faces at school and even in the Christian congregation. Sometimes such discussions can take place on informal occasions, such as “when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road.” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) Whatever the setting, remember to be “swift about hearing, slow about speaking.”—James 1:19.
If your son or daughter expresses interest in someone of the opposite sex, don’t panic. “When my dad found out that I had a boyfriend, he was so upset!” says one teenage girl. “He tried to scare me by asking me all these questions about whether I was ready for marriage—which, when you’re young, can make you feel like you want to prolong the relationship and prove your parents wrong!”
If your teen knows that dating isn’t even up for discussion, something tragic may happen—he or she may drive the relationship underground and date secretly. “When parents overreact,” says one girl, “it only makes kids want to hide the relationship more. They don’t stop. They just get sneakier.”
You will get far better results by having frank discussions. Brittany, 20, says: “My parents have always been very open with me about dating. It’s important for them to know whom I’m interested in, and I think that’s nice! My dad will talk to the person. If there are any concerns, my parents tell me. Usually I decide I’m not interested before it even reaches the dating level.”
After reading Chapter 2 in Volume 2, though, you might wonder, ‘Would my son or daughter date behind my back?’ Note what a number of youths say about why some are tempted to date secretly, and then think about the accompanying questions.
“Some kids aren’t finding comfort at home, so they decide to lean on a boyfriend or girlfriend.”—Wendy.
As a parent, how can you make sure that the emotional needs of your children are adequately cared for? Are there improvements you can make in this regard? If so, what are they?
“When I was 14, an exchange student asked me to be his girlfriend. I agreed. I thought it would be nice to have a guy put his arms around me.”—Diane.
If Diane were your daughter, how would you address this issue?
“Mobile phones make secret dating easy. Parents have no idea what is going on!”—Annette.
What precautions can you take when it comes to your children’s use of cell phones?
“Secret dating is much easier when parents don’t keep a close enough eye on what their children are doing and with whom.”—Thomas.
Are there ways you can be more a part of your teenager’s life and still allow him or her appropriate freedoms?
“Often parents aren’t home when their children are. Or they are too trusting about letting their children go places with other people.”—Nicholas.
Think of your child’s closest associate. Do you really know what they do when they are together?
“Secret dating can happen when parents are overly strict.”—Paul.
Without compromising Bible laws and principles, how can you “let your reasonableness become known”?—Philippians 4:5.
“In my early teens, I had low self-esteem and I craved attention. I began e-mailing a boy in a neighboring congregation and fell in love. He made me feel special.”—Linda.
Can you think of some healthier ways that Linda’s needs could have been fulfilled at home?
Why not use Chapter 2 in Volume 2 as well as this section of the Appendix as a basis for discussion with your son or daughter? The best countermeasure to secrecy is heartfelt and forthright communication.—Proverbs 20:5.
How should I respond if my child talks about suicide?
In some parts of the world, suicide among the young is disturbingly common. For example, in the United States, suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 15 and 25, and during the past two decades, the suicide rate among those between the ages of 10 and 14 has doubled. Those most at risk include youths who suffer from a mental-health disorder, those who have a family history of suicide, and those who have attempted suicide in the past. Warning signs that a youth may be thinking of taking his or her life include the following:
● Withdrawal from family and friends
● A change in eating and sleeping patterns
● A loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable
● A marked change in personality
● Drug or alcohol abuse
● Giving away prized possessions
● Talking about death or being preoccupied with subjects related to it
One of the greatest mistakes a parent can make is to ignore such warning signs. Take all threats seriously. Do not hastily conclude that your child is simply going through a phase.
Also, don’t be ashamed to get help for your son or daughter if he or she suffers from severe depression or another mental disorder. And if you suspect that your teen is thinking about ending it all, ask him or her about it. The notion that a teen will be encouraged to commit suicide simply by talking about it is false. Many youths are relieved when parents bring up the subject. So if your teen admits to having thoughts of suicide, find out if a plan has been devised, and if so, how detailed it is. The more detailed the plan, the more urgently you need to intervene.
Don’t assume that the depression will lift on its own. And if it does seem to lift, don’t think that the problem is solved. On the contrary, this could be the most dangerous point. Why? Because while in the throes of deep depression, an adolescent may be too immobilized to act on his or her suicidal feelings. However, when the dark feelings lift and energy returns, the youth may have the stamina to carry out the act.
It is indeed tragic that as a result of their despair, some youths consider ending it all. By being attentive to the signs and responding to them, parents and other caring adults may “speak consolingly to the depressed souls” and prove to be like a place of refuge for young ones.—1 Thessalonians 5:14.
Should I hide my grief from my children?
Grieving the loss of a mate is a painful experience. Yet it has come at a time when your adolescent child needs your help. How can you help him to cope with his grief, while not ignoring your own?d Try the following:
● Resist the urge to hide your feelings. Your child has learned many of his most valuable lessons in life by watching you. Learning how to cope with grief will be no exception. Thus, do not feel that you must be strong for the child by hiding all your grief from him. This may only teach your son to do the same. In contrast, when you express your emotional pain, he learns that feelings are often better expressed than suppressed and that it is normal for him to feel saddened, frustrated, or even angry.
● Encourage your adolescent to talk. Without making him feel pressured, encourage your adolescent child to discuss what is in his heart. If he seems reluctant, why not discuss Chapter 16 of this volume? Also, talk about the many fond memories you have of your deceased mate. Acknowledge how difficult it will be for you to carry on. Hearing you express your feelings will help your adolescent learn how to do the same.
● Recognize your limitations. Understandably, you want to be an unfailing support for your adolescent child during this difficult time. But remember, you have been severely affected by the loss of your beloved mate. So your emotional, mental, and physical stamina may be somewhat diminished for a time. (Proverbs 24:10) Hence, you may need to call on the assistance of other adult family members and mature friends for support. Asking for help is a sign of maturity. Proverbs 11:2 says: “Wisdom is with the modest ones.”
The best support you can have comes from Jehovah God himself, who promises his worshippers: “I, Jehovah your God, am grasping your right hand, the One saying to you, ‘Do not be afraid. I myself will help you.’”—Isaiah 41:13.
How can I help my daughter gain a balanced view of dieting?
If your daughter has fallen victim to an eating disorder, what can you do?e First, try to understand why she has resorted to this behavior.
It has been noted that many with eating disorders have a low self-image and are perfectionist in nature, setting unreasonably high expectations for themselves. Make sure that you do not contribute to those traits. Build up your daughter.—1 Thessalonians 5:11.
Also take a close look at your own attitude toward food and weight. Have you unwittingly overemphasized these matters, either by word or by example? Remember, youths are extremely conscious of their appearance. Even teasing about “baby fat” or the normal growth spurt of adolescence can sow seeds of trouble in the mind of an impressionable youth.
Once you have prayerfully thought the matter through, have a heartfelt talk with your daughter. To do so, try the following:
● Plan carefully what to say and when to say it.
● Express clearly your concern and your desire to help.
● Do not be surprised if the first response is defensive.
● Be a patient listener.
Most important, become part of your daughter’s efforts to get better. Make recovery a family affair!
How can I continue to teach my children spiritual values as they enter adolescence?
The Bible says that Timothy was given spiritual training “from infancy,” and as a parent, you have likely provided the same for your children. (2 Timothy 3:15) When your children become adolescents, however, your training methods may need to adapt to new circumstances. Your growing children are beginning to grasp complex, abstract issues that they could not fully comprehend when they were younger. Now more than ever, you’ll need to appeal to their “power of reason.”—Romans 12:1.
When writing to Timothy, Paul mentioned the things that Timothy had ‘learned and was persuaded to believe.’ (2 Timothy 3:14) Your adolescents may now need to be “persuaded to believe” the Bible truths that they have known since infancy. To reach their hearts, you need to do more than just tell them what to do or to believe. They need to learn for themselves. How can you help? Start by giving them plenty of opportunity to reason on and talk about such questions as the following:
● What convinces me that God exists?—Romans 1:20.
● How do I know that what I am being taught by my parents from the Bible is the truth?—Acts 17:11.
● What convinces me that Bible standards are for my own good?—Isaiah 48:17, 18.
● How do I know that Bible prophecies will be fulfilled?—Joshua 23:14.
● What convinces me that nothing in this world compares to “the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus”?—Philippians 3:8.
You might hesitate to have your adolescents ponder such questions, fearing that they won’t be able to answer them. But that’s like hesitating to look at the fuel gauge on your car’s dashboard, fearing that it might be pointing to empty. If it is, it’s best that you find out while you can do something about it! In the same way, now—while your adolescents are still at home—is the time to help them explore questions of faith and to become “persuaded to believe.”f
Remember, there’s nothing wrong with having your son or daughter ask, “Why do I believe?” Diane, 22, reflects on doing so as a teenager. “I didn’t want to be insecure about my beliefs,” she says. “Developing clear, firm answers made me realize that I liked being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses! Whenever I was questioned about something that I wouldn’t do, rather than replying, ‘It’s against my religion,’ I would say, ‘I don’t think it’s right.’ In other words, I made the Bible’s view my view.”
Suggestion: To tap into your adolescent’s power of reason with regard to Bible standards, have him or her assume the role of the parent when a problem arises. For example, suppose your daughter has asked permission to attend a party that you (and likely she) knows would not be appropriate. Instead of simply responding with a no, you could say something like: ‘What I’d like you to do is put yourself in my place. Think about the party you want to attend, do some research (perhaps Chapter 37 of this book and Chapter 32 of Volume 2), and then come back and talk to me tomorrow. I’ll play your role and ask to go to this party, and in your role as the parent, you can tell me if it would be a good idea or not.’
Our teenager has lost interest in spiritual things. What can we do?
First, don’t hastily conclude that your teen has rejected your faith. In many cases, there is an underlying issue. For example, perhaps your teen
● Is facing pressure from peers and is timid about standing out as different for adhering to Bible principles
● Sees other youths (even siblings) excelling at Christian living and feels that measuring up to them is impossible
● Is starving for friends but feels lonely or out of place among fellow believers
● Sees other “Christian” youths leading a double life
● Is striving to carve out a personal identity and as a result feels compelled to question the values you hold dear
● Sees classmates freely engaging in wrongdoing and seemingly not suffering any bad consequences
● Is trying to win the approval of a non-believing parent
Significantly, issues such as these have little to do with the tenets of your faith. They have more to do with circumstances that make practicing faith a challenge—at least for now. So, what can you do to encourage your teen?
Make concessions—without compromising. Try to understand the cause of your adolescent’s discouragement, and make adjustments so that your child will have a better environment in which to thrive spiritually. (Proverbs 16:20) For example, the “Peer-Pressure Planner” on pages 132 and 133 of Volume 2 can instill confidence in your child so that he or she is less timid about facing up to schoolmates. Or if your adolescent is lonely, you might need to take an active role in helping him or her find good associates.
Provide a mentor. Sometimes youths are helped when an adult outside the family provides encouragement. Do you know someone whose spiritual outlook could be an inspiration to your adolescent? Why not arrange for him or her to spend time with your son or daughter? Your purpose is not to abdicate your responsibility. But think of Timothy. He benefited greatly from the apostle Paul’s example, and Paul benefited greatly by having Timothy as a companion.—Philippians 2:20, 22.
As long as your adolescent lives under your roof, you have the right to require compliance with a spiritual routine. In the end, however, your goal is to instill love for God in your teen’s heart—not simply to elicit some mechanical action. To help your teen embrace true religion, set an example worthy of imitation. Be reasonable in what you expect. Provide a mentor and upbuilding associates. Perhaps one day your adolescent will be able to say, as did the psalmist, “Jehovah is my crag and my stronghold and the Provider of escape for me.”—Psalm 18:2.
a At the same time, do not use guilt to motivate your adolescent.
b Your adolescent is likely very body-conscious, so be careful not to imply that his or her body is flawed.
d For simplicity, we refer to the child as a male. However, the principles discussed apply to both genders.
e For simplicity, we refer to the child as a female. However, the principles discussed apply to both genders.