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R is for Responsible for My Relationships: Teenagers

Those of you with teenage children may nod your head enthusiastically at the topic of relational responsibility. After all, your children are developing their own friends — often inexplicable to you! You’re concerned about the influence of their friends and about potential sexual activity. This area of relationships for those with teenagers is a minefield, fraught with both anticipated and hidden dangers.

You have a right to be concerned.

Proverbs talks about friends in this way:

“A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Prov. 12:26) and “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared” (Prov. 22:24-25).

Friends have influence over us. Teenagers especially tend to be “pack animals” and adopt the attitudes, beliefs, and values of the group with whom they associate. Pointing this out to teenagers can be a dicey proposition, as they tend to cling tightly to the image of defiant independence. Take, for example, teenage styles of dress, hair, or ornamentation. Teens adopt these styles as a way to declare personal independence, without taking into account their desire to fit into a group mentality. This paradox is visible to you, as the adult, but not necessarily to your teen.

The teenage years are a time of personal formation; your teen is making decisions about what sort of a person he or she wants to be. That is why it’s vital he or she has been given the tools needed to navigate these tricky waters. These tools aren’t handed to your children at fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen. Rather, over the course of their childhood, these tools are given, refined, supported, and encouraged.

Relational responsibility should be taught from infancy in order to support positive choices in adolescence and beyond. However, it is never too late to start teaching and modeling these concepts. Teenagers are still teachable and will listen to loving, commonsense advice. If your children are young, begin to teach these principles now. With solid grounding, your child can better weather the inevitable storms of adolescence, especially in the realm of relationships.

SOURCE: Chapter 8, “R is for Responsible for My Relationships,” in Healthy Habits, Healthy Kid: A Practical Plan to Help Your Family by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.

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