There will come a time in your child’s life—probably in the teen years—when he will reject your advice simply because it came from you. As kids move toward independence, pulling away from parents is a natural urge. But we all know that teens still need good advice from someone older and wiser. That’s why you want to make sure you have at least one other key influencer in your child’s life whom both of you trust.
In my kids’ school, I’ve noticed a handful of teachers and coaches who definitely fill this role in the lives of many kids. They’re adults who have a true gift for building authentic relationships with their students and maintain those relationships well beyond graduation. By getting to know their students in a real way, they’re able to speak truth into their lives at critical junctures.
In some cases, a youth pastor or a small group leader may be the one your child feels a connection to and looks to for advice. It could be an aunt or uncle or a mature young adult just a few years their senior. Susan Merrill says she learned how to enlist the help of relatives and friends to create needed diversions for her children, too.
Place your child in the right environments.
You can’t force the development of an authentic, influential relationship, but you can improve the odds by putting your child in the right place around the right people. Be proactive about getting your child plugged into a youth group or program known for strong leaders with a desire to engage teens. Is there a coach at your school who is gifted in this area? Maybe encourage your child to try that sport, for no other reason but the coach. When teens are consistently surrounded by people with strong values who care about kids, the odds of a meaningful connection increase significantly.
Connect, be observant, but don’t hover.
Once you’ve noticed another adult who has your teen’s attention, keep your eyes open, but don’t hover. If you’re not personally acquainted with the influencer, do your homework by asking other parents what they know about the leader or coach. Privately reach out to him or her to let them know that you appreciate their investment into your child, giving you a chance to get a feel for their values and motivation. In a best-case scenario, you’ll develop a good relationship and a tag-team approach that allows you to strategize with the influencer over time to get your child headed in the right direction. But keep it low key—if your teen senses that you’re meddling or pushing too hard, the relationship might lose its appeal.
If the relationship your child has with an adult friend whom they admire makes you a little jealous at times, that’s pretty normal. It can be maddening to give your child a piece of advice repeatedly only to have it ignored, yet have them grab onto the very same wisdom willingly when it comes from Mr. Cool. But that’s the whole point here, right? We want them to hear and accept good advice, no matter who delivers it. Just be thankful that the message is getting through!
Trust your instincts if you suspect trouble.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, there are a few people who would use their position and influence over your child in a negative way. If your parenting radar picks up even a hint of this, don’t ignore it. Even great schools, churches, and organizations have a bad apple on staff occasionally. Don’t let your guard down when it comes to proper travel arrangements, lodging arrangements, and accountability for all. If a relationship becomes problematic or is yielding negative outcomes, shut it down.
Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.