Updated: Aug 6, 2020
How focusing on rest can dramatically alter the future of your teenager for the better.
The pre-industrialized world was a harsh one and yet, for all of its difficulties, it made raising a child (in particular the teenager) much easier.
This is because the vast majority of families were forced to work and play together, to rest and speak together, to take a look at the world with one mind in order to conquer it or even simply to survive.
And because they did this, families were stronger, their views were consistent, and the future of the teenager turned adult was not a guessing game or a gamble of the highest sort. Instead, the expectation that a young man would become like his father and a young woman would become like her mother was a given, a staple of life that you could count on as one does the next sunrise.
These were different times.
Of course, we are at a disadvantage here because for obvious and very good reasons, the vast majority of us do not work alongside our kids; that is the reality of our time. And because we do not, we miss out on the numerous and ongoing conversations that not only build relationships but also guide their decisions as they look out and reflect on the world and their place in it.
We parents really have made a gamble of the worst kind, for we leave the future of our kids in the hands of those who are willing to speak to them, the influencers or the predators.
But more troubling perhaps, is that more and more adults - the parents in the family - are less and less resting alongside their kids. They are giving away that final bit of time that they still possess, those opportunities to influence through conversation the character of the young person in their homes. And when this happens, we parents really have made a gamble of the worst kind, for we leave the future of our kids in the hands of those who are willing to speak to them, the influencers or the predators.
Vacations don't count.
You see, working alongside our kids pulled them into our lives while forcing them to take a look at the world from the point of view of the family, to see how decisions and politics and battles out there affected not only our ability to put bread on the table, but the state of mind of the adults these children love.
Rest did very much the same thing only to a lesser degree. By resting from work together, the teenager could experience what mom and dad valued, essentially answering the question, “what is worth doing if and when work is either completed or unnecessary?” Much like the work that parents and children shared, rest was and is an invitation to our lives.
Notice however that vacations don’t do this. They are quite literally a break from life, a momentary lapse where all involved step away from the day to day with the understanding that the humdrum of daily life will return in due time. And this is why vacations rarely work to refocus a drifting teenager or a weak parent-child relationship. Vacations exist outside of life and critical decision making, while rest not only is life but a constant reflection on it.
As parents then we must reflect on two things if we are really serious about guiding our teenagers safely into the next phase in their lives.
We have to ask, “how do I rest?” Or to put it another way, “what is worth doing when work is completed or unnecessary?”
And, “do I regularly invite my kids into rest with me?"
These questions are what matter if you want to dramatically influence the future life of your teenager.
These are the questions being answered when a dad chooses to read the Bible with his kids and asks them to comment.
These are the questions being answered when a mother spends just a few minutes reading the news as her daughter looks on ready for her mother’s thoughts even as the young woman tries to formulate her own.
These are the questions being answered when after a long and tiring day mom or dad call the teenager to their side in an effort to discuss what happened and why, and what it meant to this family.
If we focus on meaningful rest, the kind that we consistently invite our kids into then we can save our teenagers. We can help them to become the kind of people that we know they can be, and that is pretty awesome, because other than God, no one dreams bigger for our children than we do.
God bless you my friends!
Patrick Sullivan is a Catholic speaker, and the father of nine children. He is a published author and the creator and host of Me & My House, the Catholic parenting program that is transforming how we minister to parents in our dioceses, parishes, and communities.