Some interesting things are happening in the Donovan Clan house. And today I want to share with you some of my thoughts about all of it. I also will acknowledge that some of you will disagree with me and some of you I might offend. However, I also know there a many of us moms and dads who are raising children in a mismatched home who are dealing with my situation or will be there soon. So let’s have a go at it shall we?
How do we guide our children through this critical period of growing up? This is an especially sensitive topic when you are living in a spiritually mismatched home. And to compound our confusion and angst, we receive little or conflicting teaching from our Christian leaders.
I hold some great convictions about dating as you might imagine because more than anything, I desire my son and daughter to marry a Christian.
But, what I’m going to share with you might be surprising.
First, I find that most of us parents establish a mandate that dating can commence once a child turns 16 years of age. I disagree.
Let me ask you this. Let’s assume that today your child is 15 and socially immature, painfully shy, or reserved. Tomorrow they are 16 and emotionally unprepared to date. What makes 16 a magic number? I would suggest that as parents, we should be so in tune with our teenager that we know when they are responsibly and maturely ready to date. If you aren’t, there is a degree of communication that is missing.
Sixteen is a good target age but what really matters is that you “know” your child so well that if they are ready to go to the movie with a boy at 15 ½ you are okay with it or that you are not okay with it and your child understands your reasoning. Leading up to this decision time insure that there have been numerous discussions between you and your teen and a meeting of the minds. I found this to be true with my daughter and she was in agreement that she wasn’t ready. Also, if they aren’t ready at 16, don’t let them walk out the door into a situation for which they are emotionally unprepared.
Secondly, I am not against her dating a non-believer right now.
Shock and gasp!
I know, I know…. But this is why. These are my daughter’s teen years. This is when she will step slowly and gently into developing her ideals for her perfect man. It’s in these years where she is not looking to marry that she will discover what kind of guy she likes. Uncover the character traits she values. She will discover that she is able to put down boundary lines in a relationship and at some point will understand the consequences when a boundary is crossed.
She will learn about the vast differences between men and women and start to understand how it takes effort. She will also discover that belief systems affect so many, many choices. Such as movie and television selections as well as friends and the kind of parties she likes and those that make her uncomfortable.
All of this discovery is supposed to happen when they still have us, parents, around to gently guide them. And may I stress the word, GENTLY.
Before my daughter even started dating, I made it clear that any guy she really likes will be expected to come around the house and just hang out. Not so we can make snap-judgments or scare the poor kid but to just be together and get to know him and he us. You can learn so much from just being together. And even more critical, we usually can see if something isn’t quite right about the relationship. This is a starting place. Make your home a safe place so your kid’s are comfortable to bring around their friends.
It's also in this period of teenaged years that we play a cirital roll to help our kids with choices, give gentle advice and even sometimes be sturn for their protection.
We have the privilege to guide our kids in this formative time so that when they leave and are seeking to marry, they have firm convictions of the character, goals, values and beliefs they want in their spouse.
I know my viewpoint is contrary to Covenant Dating which was popular in the 90’s. But, over time and some experiences of friends, I’m not sold on that perspective.
Third, I am convinced the years of praying for my children’s future spouse and the in-laws will be honored by my Lord. So, if you are not praying, by name, for each of your children every morning, begin today.
So last night when my daughter came home I looked at her with a grin and said, “So, how was it?”
“Fine.” (Typical teen response. I wanted to hear all the tiny details, so I pried further.)
“Did you hold hands?” Her mouth tipped up on the ends into a shy smile.
“Did you kiss?”
Nod. She’s trying not to be embarrassed. I’m trying not to giggle.
I smiled at her. She blushed. We hugged. You know what? At least she is sharing with me her experience. She trusts me. All is right with the world.
I am far from the perfect parent and perfect wife. Let me say that again…. Far from perfect. But, I have a heart full of love, God’s Word and prayer power. That is all I need to guide this young woman through dating and to one day a marriage to a believer. (O, Lord, let it be so. In Jesus name. Amen)
Be Blessed, Lynn