These were answers to questions I asked middle school girls.
The questions I asked included:
Who does the world say you should be?
Who does social media say you should be?
Who do your peers say you should be?
Who does your family say you should be?
Every time I do the conference “Who Do You Say I Am” for teen girls, the responses are the same. No matter what part of the country in which they live, messages girls receive tell them they have to be perfect, flawless, popular, and sexy.
These pressures aren’t different from prior generations: they’re magnified and multiplied. Instead of pressure from peers and parents, kids now have additional, constant, instant messages from social media.
They bombard kids.
What’s the message from social media?
“Fake” is the word one middle schooler used. “You have to be fake.”
So, how can Christian parents help teens navigate this increasingly artificial world?
2. Listen beyond the words. While they say, “Go away” with words, actions, and attitudes, young teens need you in their life even more than before. Hear what they’re not saying in the flurry of verbal vomit. When they say, “I hate you,” it usually means “You’re doing something that’s pushing me away from you or hurts me, but I really want a right relationship with you.” Or something similar. When the assault comes, try to get to the heart of the issue behind the words.
3. Be authentic with your child. Adolescents hate hypocrisy. If your teen is conflicted because they see you saying one thing but doing another, be real with them. Apologize when necessary. Change your habits or ways of relating to them and others if needed. Your authenticity is a strong influences for your teen to live honestly in a world that seems fake.
4. Equip their personal relationship with Christ. Middle school is a critical age where a child’s faith and identify forms. They need to make the Christian faith their own, not take on your faith. Instead of focusing on outward behavior (do’s and don’ts), draw discussions with your teen to their relationship with Christ. Whether it’s why you’re saying “no,” or teaching them to respond to a difficult situation, bring conversation and accountability back to their relationship with Jesus.
5. Be where they are on social media and be aware of where they may be online without you. As long as you can, be the keeper of their passwords, the gatekeeper of their apps, and engaged where they are. If they think you’re uncool, that’s okay. Two great principles are to use an app for 7 days before you allow your child to use it (for younger kids) and to limit their access to the app store until they’re old enough to drive.
6. Spend time with your teen. The relationship you have with your child is the most significant in their life. It’s much more authentic, affirming, and life-giving than social media. When your relationship is authentic and personal, it speaks life and security into the chaotic messages by which they’re influenced.
These 6 tips aren’t guaranteed to walk your child harmlessly through their culture. They are guaranteed by the to build an authentic, stronger relationship between you, your teen, and Christ.
That’s a strand of three that can’t easily be broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
photo credit unsplash.com