Preparing Your Child for Adolescence
“Enjoy ‘em now, because they’ll drive you crazy when they’re teenagers!” That is the warning parents of pre-teens often hear. The implication: the teen years will be excruciatingly, unavoidably difficult. Of course, you and your pre-teen are in for a lot of change. But turmoil isn’t inevitable. You have the opportunity now—before the transition from childhood to adulthood—to prepare yourself and your pre-teen for this season of change in a proactive and positive way.
The best strategy for preparation is for you, the parent, to set the stage beforehand. A mom and her daughter, or a father and his son, or a single parent and either gender need to spend time together dedicated to giving the pre-adolescent the framework for better understanding this upcoming stage of life. Having a series of conversations that explore the blessings and difficulties of this new season is a great way to put your best foot forward. The best results come when you—the parent—are the one to explain how to make the most of this vital time in life. Here’s a quick guide to the “when” and “what” of that time together:
Often parents are concerned that they will overwhelm their pre-teen or encourage premature curiosity if they jump the gun in preparing them for adolescence. A greater concern, however, is the likelihood that someone else will beat you to it. Children are typically ready before their parents are. Doctors report puberty starting as early as age 9 among some girls, and modern media almost guarantees that children will be exposed to adult content on the internet by then, if not before.
Remember that all of your teaching and coaching will come from the foundation of your relationship with your child. So spend time together to build that relationship. Watch carefully that your schedules don’t become too crazed and overfilled. Make the timing of your conversations a matter of prayer. Generally, your prime opportunity will fall between the ages of 9 and 12. But don’t wait for your pre-teen to come to you with questions. Most are either too embarrassed to ask questions or don’t know what to ask. Don’t view preparation for adolescence as a one-time “sex talk,” but rather an ongoing conversation that arises organically out of your common life. Parents who initiate these conversations leave the door open for more questions and honest talk later on.
In your conversations about the years ahead, you should plan to address the many areas of change your son or daughter will encounter during their transition to adulthood—in their body, in their decision-making, in their relationship with you, and in their relationship with God.
It’s important to frame the physical changes ahead as much more than a scientific fact or a plea for sexual abstinence. It is the profound and miraculous dignity of our bodies and of the Sacrament of Marriage that is the foundation of abstinence, not mere puritanical moralism. Your son or daughter needs the vision for how the internal and external changes ahead are preparing them for the joys of marriage and the miracle of creating new life.
Increasingly, your child will have to make and assume the responsibilities for his or her decisions. As you maintain your overall family values in media choices, individual responsibilities (chores, homework, etc.), and alcohol/drug use, you also need to direct your son or daughter in how to make good decisions on their own. Talk openly about how you make difficult decisions for yourself and the consequences of those decisions both good and bad.
Relationship to You
Helping your son or daughter understand and embrace the changes in his or her body while challenging them to bear the responsibility of their decision making will be different from the role you’ve played before. He or she will need to be constantly reassured of your love and support even when making decisions that are different from your own. Your role will be progressively changing to that of a coach who is there to guide them in their transition into independent development. But note also that you must be more than a “friend” or “buddy” to your child. Your role is still one of leadership.
Relationship with God
Your son or daughter’s spiritual life will have many seasons, many ups and downs. Commit their way to God, and never underestimate the power of prayer (James 5:16). Do what you can to help your child not just learn the faith intellectually, but experience it in reality, both through sacramental worship and through private prayer in your home. During their teen years, some kids run away from God, while others become “on fire” with devotion. Remember through it all that God has a plan for your child’s life, and it is a plan for good and not for evil (Jeremiah 29:11). The most convincing “argument” you can make for the Christian faith is to walk daily with Jesus Christ, loving him as well as you know how. There is nothing more compelling than the beauty of holiness.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 828
For the Care of Children
Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 829
For Young Persons
God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance to learn true humility, without which they cannot see you. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 829 with additions
- See Also The Bringing Faith Home Resources
• Intentional Parenting
• Dealing with the Difficult Teen Years
- Feeding the Mouth That Bites You By Dr. Kenneth Wilgus
This outlines a great method for safely and effectively meeting your adolescent’s need for autonomy.
- Beyond the Birds and the Bees By Dr. Gregory Popcak
How to teach sexuality in an age-appropriate way from a Catholic perspective.
- Preparing for Adolescence By Dr. James Dobson
A standard evangelical resource for this season of transition.
- Good Discipline…Great Teens By Dr. Ray Guarendi
A psychologist, radio talk show host and father of ten who provides parents with the tools they need to navigate the teen years.
- Lifeline By James Stenson
Godly mission and proven methods to raise children into level-headed adults.
- How to Really Love Your Teenager By Dr. Ross Campbell
This teaches parents effective communication and relationship building.
- The Five Love Languages of Teenagers By Gary Chapman
This book explains how to communicate with your teen.
- Preparing for Adolescence at TroubledWith.com
Helpful articles and resources. TroubledWith.com
- Raise Happy Children: Raise Them Saints! By Mary Ann Budnik
A step-by-step guide to developing your child’s character through the Sacraments.
This site offers ideas to create a Christian culture in your home. Domestic-Church.com
- Children & Family Ministry
Incarnation has a thriving Children & Family Ministry. There are many opportunities to connect with other parents and families in the same season of life as you. For more information, visit Children & Family Ministry or visit Student Ministry.
- Learn about 6th Grade Confirmation.
- Get Connected.
Join with other parents and families from our church who are meeting together to study and connect and pray. Go to the Growth Groups web page for more information.
- Get Involved.
Use your gifts! Take our Spiritual Gifts Assessment to discern ways to get plugged into the life of Incarnation.
- Serve the Poor Together.
Visit our local outreach page to find out how your gifts can change lives.
- Talk with a priest.
If you would like to talk about anything related to parenting and the spiritual formation of children, feel free to schedule a meeting with one of our clergy. Any of the priests on staff at Incarnation are happy to meet with you for direction, counsel, or simply just to talk. Email a priest to set up a meeting. Or call the parish office at 214-521-5101.