More than just Survival

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Each stage in the Life Course of Fathering has connection points between a father and his children. The stage of Enlightenment is no exception. I’ve heard the complaints: “I don’t even know who that kid is any more” or, “She’s just looking for ways to defy me.” In the face of such conflict, some experts have suggested that the best we can hope for during our kids’ adolescence is survival. “Just batten down the hatches. Weather the storm. Don’t do anything that might hurt the relationship later.”

But I try to be optimistic. It may be a difficult journey, through some rocky terrain, but who says every child’s adolescence has to be dysfunctional or that every teen must hate his father?

Sure, it’s easy to get discouraged during this time. Our kids seem more interested in their friends and whatever is “cool” than in spending time with Dad. The things we used to do with our kids, they now want to do with their friends.

The problem is busy-ness. We work overtime, teach a class at church, volunteer. Teens dash to the mall, sports, homecoming committee, part-time jobs. Their new independence requires them to keep their own schedule, and we don’t fit in. Home becomes little more than a place to “snarf” meals and “crash” at night.

It may seem hopeless but, believe it or not, your child still values your input as he asks the questions that come with adolescence. You’re still the star role model.

Somehow you need to make sure you regularly cross paths. The key word is schedule. Schedule time to go shopping, work on the car together or play a round of golf. Schedule significant events, and let your teen-ager have a say in what is and isn’t significant. Keep your eyes open for their interests, and stretch a little for the sake of your relationship. Ask yourself: Is it this activity that’s important, or is it just being together?

Dad, I know that some parents are just trying to survive these years. But I believe you can make great memories with your teen-ager that will last forever-but only if you make the double sacrifice to do what they want, on their schedule.