FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Preparing Your Teen for the Future

with Dennis and Barbara Rainey | April 6, 2017
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Is your teen prepared for adulthood? Dennis and Barbara Rainey, parents of six grown children, identify four key areas of a child's life that parents must strive to develop before launching them into the big, wide world.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Is your teen prepared for adulthood? Dennis and Barbara Rainey identify four key areas of a child’s life that parents must strive to develop before launching them into the big, wide world.

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Preparing Your Teen for the Future

With Dennis and Barbara Rainey
April 06, 2017
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Bob: If you have a son or a daughter who is a senior in high school, you, as a parent, are about to do something that is very uncomfortable / almost unnatural—you are about to let go. Here is Dennis Rainey.

Dennis: I think a good question for any parent would be: “What are you trying to build into the life of your child right now?—what value, what character qualities, what relationship principles that come from the Bible that will direct them to God when they are on their own so that they will be able to be an adult and be truly dependent upon God when they are completely independent of you?”

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, April 6th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine. If you have a son or a daughter who is a senior in high school, are you ready to let go?



Are they ready to be released? We’ll talk about that today. Stay with us.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I guess it hits different parents at different times. I don't know exactly when it first hit me that there's a time you get to—probably in your son’s or daughter's senior year in high school—where you realize the opportunity for making deposits—

Dennis: Game, set, match.

Bob: It's about to be over.

Dennis: It's about over.

Bob: It's not like you'll never have any input or influence in your child's life again.

Dennis: No; that's not the case, but you realize that the days are coming to an end where you're the main teacher / you're the main influencer—you're the one who is building in their lives. In fact, at a point, you realize: “You know what? You just better be quiet! [Laughter] And just let somebody else have those conversations.”



But until that time comes, I think you need to drive truckloads of truth, and wisdom, and experience—as your child will allow you—over the bridge of a relationship into their lives.

Bob: We've got some of our listeners who have just started to realize that this is right around the corner—there’s not much time left before a high school senior—a son or a daughter—is going to be heading off. It’s just a matter of weeks, at this point, if you have a senior in high school; right?

Dennis: That's right. If you've got a senior in high school, then you literally do have months. I'm going to tell you—when they head off to college, it's not that your days are done, but the majority of your teaching better be sticking; because it's game time.

 Bob: Our team put together an audio resource that is designed for parents, who have a son or a daughter who is about to head out the door, and this is to help moms and dads be thinking about the critical areas you need to be addressing, as a parent—around relationships, character, spiritual development, life skills.



This audio resource has you and your wife Barbara coaching us, as moms and dads, on how we can make sure we've got the bases covered before we release the arrow off toward the target.

Dennis: Well, our team, here at FamilyLife, has done a masterful job of taking more than five hours of content and pulling it back to the very essence of 70 minutes that are chock-full of practical advice to really equip a parent to know what to talk about with their teenager right before they spin them off to service, to college, to work, or to their own homes.

Bob: And we're going to feature a portion of what’s in that audio resource today. In fact, we're going to zero in on the whole issue of life skills—what a mom and dad needs to do in the time before you launch a child to make sure that you've, at least, had some conversations around things like changing the oil or managing a bank account—those kinds of things.


So here is counsel from Dennis and Barbara Rainey about this whole issue of life skills that your son or daughter needs to have been exposed to. This is from a free audio resource that we’re making available, online, for moms and dads.

[“Preparing Your Teen for Life” Audio Resource]

Barbara: I remember the first time we sent a child / our first child off to college—all the fears that plagued me:

Was she going to be able to manage her schedule?

Was she going to stay up so late at night, night after night, talking,

and visiting, and not studying?

Was she going to flunk out of school?

Was she going to eat the right things?

Was she going to get sick and get mono because I wasn't there to

help her go to bed on time?



—just on and on and on. The fears and the concerns that you have for your child, when they go off on their own, are just limitless.

Dennis: Time management is something that has to be taught to children. They're not going to naturally learn this. In fact, in my hands, I have Exhibit A of the great need for time management. It starts at the very beginning of where time starts every day—getting up. A teenager has to learn how to get up.

I walked into my daughter, Rebecca's, room and found all of these notes that I have in my hand. She had these notes taped on her alarm clock, on her lampshade, on her window, on her bedpost. I mean, it looked like some kind of card game, Bob. [Laughter] But here's the first one—it said, "Get up now!" Then the second one reads, "Don't close those eyes!!" The third one reads, "Come on, now, don't go back to sleep." And the last one reads, "Get up or else!"

Bob: Rebecca sounds like a kindred spirit. [Laughter]



Dennis: Yes, really; but, you know, as we train these young people to ultimately take on responsibility—on the college campus, in a job, or in the service—they've got to learn how to get up. They need to learn that first at home. They ought not to sleep through half of their classes before they learn how to wake up in the morning.

Bob: Yes; Barbara, it seems that some people are just kind of naturally better time managers than other people are. Undoubtedly, with your children, you've had some who are able to keep their schedule well in check and others who are, all the time, forgetting and have things double-booked or even triple-booked on a single evening.

Barbara: That's right. We've had all kinds, but nobody who has done it really well; because I think part of learning to manage your time and manage your life is going to come about through making mistakes. You're going to have to over-commit or not do the project on time to learn what it costs you to not do it well. Then you say to yourself, "Oh, well, I better not do that way again next time.”



I think our kids have to learn some of those lessons in order to understand how to manage their time. They're going to have to make some of those mistakes.

So, yes, we've had some kids that have been better at managing their time and keeping things flowing than others; but they've all had to make those goofs and those mistakes to really understand what it means to keep a schedule going.

Dennis: And one of the best things we've done for each of our children is give our children a notebook or a schedule—a time-minder—that enables them to be able to schedule and anticipate things in their day, in their week, in their month—and I think help them ultimately be time managers.

Barbara: One of the phrases that I've often said to my kids is, "Do your work first and play second."

Bob: Oh, they hate that; don't they?

Barbara: Oh, they do; because I have some who would rather play first always. I just have to remind them that the way you should do it is do your work first, and then you reward yourself with your play, whatever it is.



They, of course, don't want to live that way; but that's a part of teaching them priorities and teaching them that they need to do what needs to be done first and then do what's frivolous second. They don't like it, but it's a part of growing up.

Dennis: It's at this point that a parent has to learn the art of allowing their children to make their own choices and, at times, fail—have the pain settle in deep and let them feel it and not rush in to rescue them because, if you do, you are creating an emotional cripple or perhaps a spiritual cripple, at that point, who isn't always going to have a mom or a dad to bail them out when they get into trouble.

Barbara: One of the things that we tried to do, as a couple, when we were raising our kids, is instill the whole idea of the work ethic with our kids. We've talked on the program before about values that you have, as a couple, in raising your kids. One of our top ten values was teaching our kids how to work—



—teaching them how to complete a job, and teaching them that it's important to be faithful when you've been given a task to do and to do it well—and not do a sloppy job, even though they try to do a sloppy job. We try to make them go back and do it well.

It's kind of been in tandem—those two values—teaching them how to have a good work ethic and, then, helping them get their first job and teaching them what it means to have a job.

Dennis: Again, our sons and daughters need parents to be involved and stay involved as they make these choices. We need to be light-handed about it. We need to let them go and then let them make their own choices; but as they open up and want to discuss it, interact with them and talk with them about where they are headed, and what their values are, and why they're making those choices.

Barbara: If I had a child, who was a senior in high school and was struggling with that balance of priorities between—say sports and homework—I might say something here or there; but I wouldn't step in and actually help.



I wouldn't go to their rescue as much with a senior in high school as I would with someone who is a freshman in high school, because I think there is a big difference in their ability to balance all that in those three years. I think there is a huge difference. With a senior, I would back off; and I might remind a time or two—because I'm pretty good at that / maybe too good at that—but anyway, I can't totally let go, as a mom. It's real hard for me to totally back off.

I did back off with Samuel a good bit, and—

Dennis: I can testify—I watched it.

Barbara: —it was hard at points—

Dennis: It was hard for Mother to do this, and I—

Barbara: —because he'd rather be on the computer. See, his thing wasn't sports. His thing was computer. He'd rather read his email, and send email, and do computer games, and all that kind of stuff; and then start his homework at 10:00 at night. That was his pattern, and that's what he'd rather do. He never did buy into my “Work first / play second” philosophy of life. His was always "Play first and work second," if you can do it. It was hard for me to back off, but I knew that I had to because I'd rather he'd learn those lessons in high school than fail and flunk out of college.



Bob: There is coming a time for him when he'll be making those decisions without Mom looking over his shoulder.

Barbara: That's right, and I won't know. That will be easier for me, because I won't know! [Laughter]

Dennis: You know, the bottom line on not releasing our kids is we prolong childhood. When you do that, you prevent your child from becoming an adult. What I've seen, as I have ventured out onto the college campus—I am seeing a lot of young people who have been repeatedly bailed out of problems by their parents. They are still children, even though they have adult-like bodies. What we have got to do, as parents, is allow our kids to fail and then allow them the pain—

Barbara: —to pay the price.

Dennis: That's right; to feel the pain and allow them the privilege of solving their own problems.



You see, as a parent, we have got to be developers of their conscience and of their dependence upon God for some of the fixes they get themselves in; because if they act like a fool, they've got the consequences of a fool to deal with. When we mask the pain / when we keep them from feeling it full force—whether it be financially or emotionally / we bail them out—we may be preventing them from really becoming dependent upon Jesus Christ and growing into the young man or young woman God wants them to become.

Barbara: Well, and then they are even more susceptible to become bait on the college campus; because they haven't developed that sense of responsibility that says, "When I get a driving ticket, I have to pay." If they don't ever have to pay for those, and they

know Mom and Dad's going to always be there, then why worry about making mistakes? What difference does it make?—it doesn't. I think it's very important that parents understand that they've got to let their kids suffer those consequences when they're at home so that they will understand what that means when they are on their own in college.



Dennis:  Parent: DO NOT RESCUE THEM! Let them deal with the consequences—[the teen] get another job / get two jobs—be forced to really pay the price for their wrong choice. Sometimes those results can help our children wake up.

Bob: I've heard you describe many times on the broadcast about what the month of May feels like around the Rainey house. When you have a senior, Barbara, the month of May gets particularly challenging; doesn't it?

Barbara: Well, it really does; because there are a lot of extra activities that occur during the senior year that you don't have with a junior or a sophomore, for instance.

Bob: Here is what I'm wondering: “In the midst of that busyness, do you lose perspective on the fact that your son or daughter is about to leave? Are you so busy that you forget that what's right around the corner, at this point, is the release?”



Barbara: Yes; I think the tendency is to forget, because I do think that in the busyness you lose sight of what's ahead. But for me, it kind of caught up with me at graduation; because at graduation, you can sit down and you can breathe for a few minutes. I just remember the whole graduation thing—and watching the kids together, and watching them parade in, and they call out their names. That was when it sort of began to catch up with me; and I began to feel that emotion of, “What is this going to feel like when he's really gone?”

Bob: Dennis, was there a time that you remember when it clicked in for you that it was here—that time had come?

Dennis: Well, it was all pretty emotional to me; but at a church service, where we honored our seniors one night, there was a defining moment where the kids' youth pastor had written a poem that was entitled "With These Hands." What he did was—he asked all of us, as parents, to stand as our graduating senior was seated in front of us.



We placed our hands on the shoulders of our sons and daughters. Barbara and I were standing above Benjamin. I remember the more he read, the more emotional I got; because this poem that he wrote really helps capture what is taking place in the heart of a parent as they are releasing their children to adulthood.

Bob: Barbara, I've got a copy of it here. Do you want to read what Mark wrote for our listeners?

Dennis: If she can.

Barbara: I'll try. [Laughter]  It's not real easy to listen to because you can picture doing all of these things that he's written about. I will do my best to read this.

With these hands, I gently cradled this child,

Held him close to my heart,

Nursed his wounds and calmed her fears,

Held the books that I would read

And rocked this child fast asleep. [Emotion in voice]

Dennis: She's never going to make it. I'll read it.



With these hands, I gently cradled this child;

Held him close to my heart,

Nursed his wounds and calmed her fears,

Held the books that I would read

And rocked this child fast asleep.

With these hands, I made his lunches

And drove the car that carried her to school;

Snapped endless pictures, wrapped countless gifts,

Then did my best to assemble those gifts.

Combed his hair and wiped her tear,

Let her know that I was near

To nurse his wounds and heal her heart

When it would break.

With these hands, I made mistakes,

And with these hands, I prayed and prayed and prayed.

These hands are feeble, these hands are worn, [Emotion in voice]

These hands can no longer calm the storms;

These hands have done all they can do;

These hands now release this child, my child,

To You.



For Your hands are able,

Your hands are strong,

Your hands alone can calm the storms.

Your hands will continue to do

What they are so gifted to do,

To shape his life and make her new.

Into Your hands receive this child,

For my child I now give back to You.

In the strong name of Jesus,

And with all my heart I pray,


I think the picture of standing over your son or your daughter and having that read and seeing the snapshots along the way of the vivid memories of raising a son or raising a daughter, you're hit with the brevity of life and with the importance of the handoff. [Emotion in voice]



Although those seniors who sat there didn't weep nearly as much as their parents did, someday they will. Someday, they will stand over a son or a daughter and, all of a sudden, they will understand why. The reason is: “Parenting is exhausting. It is a challenge. It takes everything you've got to be able to pull it off to His glory.”

As a parent, you desire that this child be commissioned by these hands and receive the blessing of God and go off on their own to make their own choices and honor Him with their lives; because I think that's what God set the family up to be, Bob. He set the family up to be this nurture center that—after the life was built into and after it was cherished and cared for—that child was not intended to stay there but was intended to go to adulthood and to make an impact on his or her world.




Bob: Well, we've been listening to a portion of an audio resource that our team put together, called "Preparing Your Teen for Life."

Dennis: In fact, it is interesting, Bob, to listen to those words and just reflect a little bit. Our kids aren't perfect. We've never claimed, with our listeners, that they are perfect. They are in process just like each of us are in process. But you know what? They're headed in the right direction, and that's what we want for our children.

You know, Third John 4 says, "I have no greater joy than this, than to know that my children are walking in the truth,"—that really is the hope of every parent. That really is our hope—to equip parents to better launch their teenager into life.

Bob: That’s one of the reasons our team wanted to create this audio resource for parents to give them a tool to listen to together—



—maybe you do it driving out to dinner on a date night or maybe it’s something you listen to separately and talk about together after both of you have had a chance to listen. We wanted there to be a resource, where moms and dads could say, “How are we doing?”—just a quick check-up, especially as the months start to tick away before you’re going to release that young person off to the next chapter of his or her life, whatever that may be.

So let me encourage our listeners to go to our website, which is There you can download the “Preparing Your Teen for Life” audio resource. It’s really—it’s like a podcast about preparing your teen for life. You’ll find the information, online, at If you have the FamilyLife app, it is available—you can start listening to it immediately. If you don’t have the app, you can download it for free from your app store.



When you search for it in the app store, use FamilyLife as one word, and our app will come up in first place. So again, go to for more information; or go to the FamilyLife app, and you can listen to the “Preparing Your Teen for Life” audio resource with coaching from Dennis and Barbara Rainey.

If it’s still a few years before your son or daughter will reach that senior year in high school milestone—maybe they’re in junior high right now and middle school—let me encourage you to carve out time this summer to take that young man or that young woman on a Passport2Identity getaway. I know a lot of you have gone through Passport2Purity® with a preteen. Well, this is an opportunity for a mom or a dad to get with a young teenager and talk about their identity—what they’re good at / what God made them to do and to be—



—to understand that God made them as young men or young women and that’s a good thing—to embrace their gender identity.

These are real issues that young teens are dealing with, and we’ve created a resource to help have some important conversations together with your son or daughter about these subjects. Find out more about Passport2Identity when you go online at You can order from us, online, if you’d like; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, and we can answer any questions you might have about the Passport resource.

You know, there are two words that keep coming up over and over again as we talk about what our goal is, here at FamilyLife. The first word is biblical—we want to make sure that all we’re doing reflects clearly and accurately what the Bible teaches about marriage and family. The second word is practical—we want to provide resources to moms and dads / husbands and wives that will provide practical help and real, meaningful hope for you as you raise your kids and as you build into your marriage relationship.



We want to take a minute and just say, “Thank you,” to those of you who are, not just listeners, but those of you who are a part of the team, helping us reach more and more people with God’s good plan for marriage and family. Every time you make a donation to FamilyLife Today, that’s what you’re doing—you’re making it possible for more people to hear God’s Word more often on these subjects. We’re grateful for those of you who contribute regularly, as Legacy Partners, and from those of you who make a donation, from time to time. Thank you for your support of the ministry.

It’s easy to donate, online, at You can also donate when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY. And of course, you can mail your donation to us. Our address is FamilyLife Today, PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.



Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk to the screenwriter of a movie that’s coming out this weekend—it’s the movie, The Case for Christ. It’s Lee Strobel’s story of his conversion to Christianity—how he went from being an atheist and a skeptic to becoming a believer in Jesus Christ. We’ll talk to the screenwriter of that movie, Brian Bird, tomorrow. I hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


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