Parenting Is a Team Sport

When raising a teen, you need all the help you can get

Last Valentine’s Day, the parents of our teenage daughter’s best friend took the girls and a third friend out to a fancy restaurant. The dad gave the girls pretty rings and a pep talk about their priceless worth and the importance of loving and respecting themselves. He had contacted my husband, Doug, and I beforehand to ask our permission. We happily agreed. After all, he was reinforcing something we felt strongly about and we were glad for our daughter to hear it from more than just us.

Doug and I joke all the time that parenting is a “team sport” — and our team extends beyond ourselves as Mom and Dad. Some experts believe the magic number is five, that every teen needs at least five adult voices in his or her life who will reinforce positive values and a healthy self-image. For our kids, these voices have included:

  1. Their grandparents and other extended family members

  2. Family friends

  3. Youth group leaders and mentors

  4. Teachers and coaches

  5. Parents of some of their friends

Do you have the benefit of other people in your teen’s life who will tell him or her the same things you would?

It’s been rewarding to see the different perspectives and qualities these other “voices” have contributed, especially at times when my husband and I were a little less popular with our teen! These outside voices have offered wisdom in diverse areas like:

  • Work ethic
  • Integrity
  • Perseverance and self-discipline
  • Relationships
  • Financial management
  • Spiritual life (faith, encouragement and prayer)
  • Practical skills (construction, painting, cooking and car repair)
  • The value of family
  • Aspirations for college and a successful career
  • Modeling a lifelong marriage

Do you have the benefit of other people in your teen’s life who will tell him or her the same things you would?

The value of having other adults around isn’t just the wisdom they offer, but the fact that they are listened to. So, if our voices are temporarily devalued and our influence waning, we can recruit others to shore us up. Plus, each adult offers a perspective specific to his or her personal experience.

For example, when one of our kids was going through a rough patch in high school, his track coach stepped in and brought some much needed encouragement and accountability. This coach was also our son’s AP Psychology teacher. Because of that expertise, he was able to offer him insights that spoke directly and objectively to our child’s logical nature, helping him better understand himself and his reactions. It ended up being a win on a number of levels.

Guaranteed: Your children will stumble as they make great strides. Sometimes, they will want you to pick them up, dust them off and set them straight. Other times, they’ll prefer you keep your distance and let them handle it. In these instances, having those important third-party voices will equal great backup support.

If your teen is having a tough time, who in your life could become an asset for the situation? It always pays to know, and to keep them close just in case!

Originally published on the LifeSmart Blog

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