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Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of Adolescence

There are three critical tasks that parents must personally embrace before helping their children.
By Dennis and Barbara Rainey


Although they seldom admit it, deep down, most teens desperately want their mom and dad to come alongside them and say, “You know, there are some things I wish I had told you earlier, but I want to tell you now. I want to be a part of your life as you go through these teenage years. I want to be there for you. I want to help you avoid the traps of adolescence.”

Thankfully, God’s desire matches our own. He wants the best for our (His) children, too. But those traps: peer pressure, alcohol use, driving while drunk, premarital sex … what about them? How much of a threat are they?

We are convinced that far too many parents are lulled to sleep during the tranquil elementary years. Unaware of the approaching perils of adolescence and of how quickly they arrive, parents are caught without a defensive and offensive game plan for the teenage years.

These snares, and others like them, such as drug use, teenage pregnancy, and gangs, are the newsmaker traps. But there’s another whole group of traps that don’t get as much press but are just as perilous to our youth, such as pride and selfishness, deceit, false gods, busyness, media, appearance, mediocrity, anger, and more.

What can we parents do to prepare our children for the challenges they face? We know they’re not perfect, and like everyone dressed in human skin, they must go through good times and bad, the inevitable mountaintops and sinkholes of life. But we ache for them to avoid as many traps as possible and to have lives of happiness, meaning, purpose, and achievement. Ultimately, more than all else, we want our children to know, love, and obey God.

God wants to help you raise your family. He wants to equip you. He wants to guide you. But He demands that you be utterly dependent upon Him. How is this to be accomplished? We believe the critical tasks of being a God-honoring parent fall into three categories:

  1. Know and walk in the truth ourselves. We need to know what we believe—our convictions—and stay out of the traps as adults.
  2. Shape the truth in our children. We build convictions in their lives so that they can identify the traps and stay away from them.
  3. Monitor the testing of the truth in our children. We encourage and guide them as they test their convictions in real-life situations while still living under our roof.

And when our children are ready, we release them to their own journey of living and following the Truth.

Doesn’t sound simple, does it? When we signed up for parenting, most of us didn’t read the fine print. Can you name a more demanding career than being a godly mom or dad? Air traffic controller? That’s a stroll in the park compared to a mom landing and dispatching four teenagers from an after-school holding pattern. Brain surgeon? Would you rather poke around in a sedated skull in a fully staffed operating room or try by yourself to soothe and heal the tangled feelings and thoughts of a teenage girl who wasn’t invited to the prom or who failed to make the drill team?

On top of all the challenges of parenting, there’s something far more sinister taking place: We’re in a spiritual war and are operating like guerrillas behind enemy lines. The paths we walk, and the trails our children must walk, are dangerous—littered with traps set by a spiritual enemy that you can’t see, an enemy who wants to destroy the souls of children before the children become adults.

In the years while your child is at home, you can help him successfully navigate the trap field. Often you’ll need to go first, showing step by step the way around those deadly snares. There is hope. It really is possible to raise a godly family in this family-unfriendly culture. Attempting to be God’s parents is hard work. Long hours. No guarantees.

But there are plenty of rewards. Nothing can compare to the joy of seeing a child grow up to walk in the truth—“I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 4). Nothing is as exhilarating as watching our children bravely walk through traps and snares, advancing the banner of Jesus Christ in their generation.

Adapted from Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Years. Copyright 1998 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family. 



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