I have teenagers. when other parents find this out, there are often knowing glances. Nods. Comments like "You have my sympathy."
Rather than riding out our kids' uncertain adolescent years, just hoping nothing awful happens, I am finding there's a way parents can look to God for guidance for themselves as well as for their children. I know I can't make my kids think or behave in only the ways I would choose. I also know how important it is for young people to learn to think for themselves; how else will they grow?
I pray for myself and my children. I have to acknowledge, then, that each of us is guided by something more than instinct or peer pressure. Real guiding power is God's. The Bible shows God is the infinite Father and Mother. Really feeling that relieves me from a lot of pressure to determine the affairs of my family.
Jesus loved children (that must have included teenagers). He showed that innocence and purity are youthful qualities that adults do well to embody. And he said, "Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 18:4). I see this as a promise that as I strive to express more of those qualities that we all want to see in our kids - freshness, energy, optimism, accomplishment, honesty - I have greater peace in my life, and more authority over my circumstances. And that is my living prayer that helps everyone.
After my son turned 16, he got his first job in a discount store, selling TVs, stereos, and CDs. After six months he was fired. He told us he'd been videotaped goofing off with a friend who'd come into the store. We discussed it briefly. It seemed that he felt the only thing he'd done wrong was get caught.
Not long before, I'd been praying about how to protect my children from all the different negative influences that bombard them. I realized I couldn't personally keep them safe or just assume that other adults would look out for them. I had to trust God to guard and guide them always.
Although disappointed with my son's attitude, I felt my prayers for his safety were significant. Over the next few weeks, I continued to pray each day that God would direct him. I remembered that he possessed wisdom and discretion from God. Most of all, I strove to see my son's inherent innocence as a son of God.
Not long after this, we had a chance to discuss the situation again. He confessed he'd actually been caught stealing a CD from that store. He felt ashamed and sorry, and apologized for lying to me. I was relieved to know the truth, and saw that his contrition was real.
I felt that my prayer for him was valid. He had not gotten away with the deception, and he'd learned a valuable lesson in honesty. He's now working at a new job, and has earned several promotions because of his dependability.
A passage from the Christian Science textbook helps me gauge my prayer for my children. It says, "The objects we pursue and the spirit we manifest reveal our standpoint, and show what we are winning" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, pg. 239). I work through this statement backwards - starting with what I hope to win for my children. I want them to be safe and healthy. To have good friendships and make wise choices. And I think it's important that they have a sound understanding of their relationship to God.
"The spirit I manifest" allows me to nurture these hopes for my kids. For example, I let them know how proud of them I am, and how much I love them, even when they make mistakes that need to be corrected. I let them know I'm praying for them. At the end of the day, when we discuss our activities, I thank God for evidence of His direction in their lives.
Taking a good look at "the objects I pursue" has been the most rewarding (and difficult) part. It has forced me to make better choices about how I spend my time and my money, and how I think. As a result, I have more compassion for my kid's struggles with peer pressure - and I find that they deal more positively with it.
My faith in God and my understanding of God's all-power are helping me help my kids make better choices.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society