Today's Monitor carries the first of a three-part series called ''Families and Teens: The New Dialogue.'' Many parents of teens may look to the series for insights that will help them help their children during those important and sometimes turbulent teen years.
Parents need not first dread their children's teen years and then endure them with teeth clenched and fingers crossed. Instead, they can take practical, effective steps to help their own children - and all young people.
The best support we can give our teen-age children is prayer. The world seems to press heavily on us the belief that they are simply maturing mortals - that they are often insecure and self-centered and irresponsible and on and on. And they may appear to be that way to us and to others.
But not to God. God is perfect and infinite good, the one creator of all that truly exists. The man of His creating, as the Bible indicates in its very first chapter, is wholly good, His complete and perfect likeness. Because God is Spirit, as Christ Jesus taught, the genuine selfhood of everyone is spiritual, not biological. It's eternally mature, not slowly, agonizingly emerging into maturity. To our limited material senses we all seem to be mortals at various stages of development. But this is not the true sense of man, of God's very image, who forever expresses His nature.
To pray is to consider these tender spiritual truths, to trust them and yield to them. It is to let our thought be molded and formed by the healing, regenerating power of Christ, Truth, until God's view becomes our conviction. One certain result of our prayer will be peace.
What we see in our teen-age children - perhaps their brashness or self-consciousness or even blemishes - may be to a degree imposed on them by general mortal belief. We certainly don't want to contribute to that belief. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ''The more stubborn beliefs and theories of parents often choke the good seed in the minds of themselves and their offspring.'' n1 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 237.
It is often these ''stubborn beliefs and theories'' more than our children's behavior that would cause us to be fearful or frustrated or angry. And it is these very beliefs and theories that are dissolved by humble prayer to God. True prayer enables us to admit that we ourselves, in absolute truth, are God's perfect children, and this realization brings a peace that is more important than domestic tranquillity, but is the very root of it.
One of our teen-age children seemed for a while to be so eager to make friends that she unwisely spent much of her money and some of ours. My wife and I spoke to her about it repeatedly, and sometimes heatedly. Naturally, no good resulted; we needed to pray, not talk. And to pray quietly. Alone. As we did, the true view of man dissolved some of our stubborn, false beliefs about man as an immature, disobedient mortal. We felt at peace.
Then communication with our daughter effortlessly opened up. Words filled with patience and compassion came to all of us. She understood and accepted what we felt were important moral and financial lessons. But what touched us most was to find out that she too had been praying for harmony.
For parents and teens to pray doesn't guarantee there will be no challenges in the family. It does mean that the false, mortal beliefs that seem to cause problems will be lessened and that the challenges will therefore be fewer and less intense than they might otherwise be. It also means that genuine, mutual love and respect for what is nearest right will moderate the characters of both parents and children. Most of all, every member of the family will come to love and obey God more, and a holy peace, far beyond and deeper than a merely human, temporary sense of peace, will increase in each heart. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. . . . Pray without ceasing. . . . Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. . . . And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 17,21,23m