This will be my last post (at least for now) on the topic of extended adolescence. Thanks to all who have read and commented. I hope you found this research helpful. If you have any questions or want some sites to check out, let me know. Here are tips two and three for creating a culture in our homes and youth groups that will encourage our teens to grow into fruitful adults in the kingdom of God.
2. Our teens are isolated from the adult world. They spend the vast majority of their time with people their age- non-adults living in adolescence. They go to school, where adults are outnumbered (and whose influence is often subdued). They hang out with friends, who are all their age. They may go to church, but even there they interact primarily with teens their age, or maybe a youth minister or teacher. Often our goal for teens' interaction is that they hang out with "good kids" as opposed to teens who might be a bad influence on them. This is great, but it is not enough for teens to only hang around other teens, no matter how good an influence those other teens may be. Teens need to spend time with adults.
Teens should spend time with adults because they need to see what adulthood looks like. They need to see what it is like to have responsibility. They need to see what life should look like for them in the future. If they never see adults operating as adults, how can they come to know what is involved in growing out of adolescence?
I have noticed that our church's small groups have missed an opportunity to get our teens around adults. Most of our teens have gravitated to one or two small groups that have a high concentration of teenagers, which is understandable, because teens enjoy being together. However, I think small groups would be a great place for our teens to interact with adults. When I have brought up the possibility of making our teens go with their parents to small groups instead of congregating at a single "teen" small group, I have met resistance. The common argument is "but teens think adults are boring." Although I can't argue with that (I think adults are boring sometimes, too), I don't think it is a valid reason to further quarantine teens, since they are already estranged enough from adult culture. What if our teens not only attended a small group, but also participated? I think it would be highly formative and it would mature them a lot, even if they were bored sometimes.
3. Instead of raising a "child," raise and adult. The experts say that our vocabulary matters. By using certain words in lieu of others, our mindset begins to change. For example, instead of referring to young people as "kids," try calling them "teens" or "young adults." It may start to change your paradigm. Consider this one: often parents see their job as "raising good children." But is that really what parents want? No. Parents want to raise good adults! Ten years from now, what will it matter that your 24 year old was a "good child?" What you want ten years from now is a child who grew into a good adult. So you might change your vocabulary from "raising children" to "raising adults." Or, you might start thinking of your teenager as an "apprentice adult," since that is really what you would like her to be.
Thanks for reading. Next week, I'm planning to start a series on being present with our teens. I'll offer a quote as a preview: "Teens are in more need of your presence than your knowledge."