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The Preteen Leaders Conference begins tomorrow, and I’m excited to get to lead two breakouts for some of the attendees. The first of the breakouts is titled, “Connecting with Parents of Preteens.” We will look at why it’s important to integrate the home into preteen ministry, and how we can call parents to engage in the strategy.

In preparing for the session, I dug out my notes from a study that was released a few years ago by Barna Research and The Rethink Group. Along with tons of other great findings, here is what the research found when it came to the strategy and/or expectations for parental involvement:

    • 46% of parents admittedly do not have a plan to accomplish the desired outcomes in their children.

    • 72% of parents said that the church could be a good help for the development of this plan

    • However, only half (45%) said the expectations (action plan) of the church were clear

If you don’t have a strategy to connect the home with your ministry, the question is, “Why not?”

It is clear that parents are looking at the church as a great source of training and equipping. They recognize their role in the transfer of faith to their children, and they see value in what the church can offer.

If you do have a strategy to connect the home with your ministry, the questions is, “How clearly have we communicated this strategy to parents?” and “How are we measuring the success or failure of our strategy?”

As much as parents look to the church for training, we are not doing well at meeting that demand. Stop blaming parents for not caring or not being active in their child’s spiritual development, and start communicating a strategy that they can understand and execute.

This post is a discussion on pornography that was originally posted last May. You can also see Part 2 of this post for tips on protecting your preteens
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The pornography industry is a $14 billion business. It is estimated that 42.7% of internet users view pornography. It is literally ripping apart marriages and families every second.

Here are some of the facts about preteens and pornography…

• Average age of first Internet exposure to pornography: 11 years old

• 15-17 year olds having multiple hard-core exposures: 80%

• 8-16 year olds having viewed porn online: 90%

• Nine out of 10 children aged between eight and 16 have viewed pornography on the Internet.

• In most cases, the sex sites were accessed unintentionally when a child, often in the process of doing homework, used a seemingly innocent sounding word to search for information or pictures.
(Data from London School of Economics January 2002)

• The fourth most-searched word on the Internet for kids ages 7 and under in 2009 was “porn.”

• For all kids up to age 18, sex was No. 4, porn No. 5.

• A recent survey found that 30% of girls ages 9 to 15 years old had sent or received sexual messages or photos of themselves.

• 1 of every 3 that reported to receive “sext” messages said that they accidentally received the message that was intended for someone else.
(Data from OnlineFamily.Norton.com and research from AK Tweens)

Be sure to check out Protecting Your Preteen from Pornography for strategies on keeping porn out of your home.


Last weekend, I spoke at a 5th and 6th Grade retreat in Missouri. I ate dinner with the students on Friday night, and I just happened to sit down at a table of 5th and 6th grade girls. I quickly realized that two of the girls were not eating. I made a joking comment about how the food didn’t taste that bad, but their response was they didn’t want to eat because they were dieting. An adult leader at the same table said, “What have I told you about skipping meals and being on a diet!” I quickly realized that this was not a onetime thing, this was a war.

Research from Dr. Terry Bravender, assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. and medical director of Duke Eating Disorders Program, has found that 40% of 9- and 10-year-olds claim to be on a diet for weight-loss.

In an interview with HealthDay News, Dr. Bravender said, “It’s an unfortunate trend, but we’re finding that girls are becoming concerned about body image and dieting at ages as young as 7 or 8.”

Whether you have preteen girls or boys, here are a few things to consider:

1) Examine their Circle of Influence
Many preteens that struggle with appearance or weight do so because of outside influences. Stay involved and know who your preteen is hanging out with. You may also want to monitor the media influences received by your preteen. Preteens receive a distorted view of beauty and attractiveness from media. There will always be pressure on preteens, but parents and leaders must fight to limit negative influence as much as possible.

2) Start a Conversation
You will not be able to avoid pressure and influence from negative sources, so get to talking. The best defense is a strong offense. While some conversations may be necessary on healthy habits or good hygiene, avoid using stinging comments to motivate your preteen. Many adults can trace their struggle with eating disorders or weight management back to a phrases or comments made by their parents during preteen years. Instead, start talking to your preteen about beauty and appearance in the way that Scripture describes it. Use Psalm 139:14, 1 Samuel 16:7, Proverbs 31:3, or 1 Peter 3:3-4.

3) Change Your Own Habits
When speaking to preteens, I used to refer to myself as the “chubby, bald guy.” It would usually get a laugh out of them, and I thought it showed that I was comfortable with my own body enough to joke about it. WRONG! What I was really doing was labeling myself as chubby and setting a standard of appearance and beauty that would be passed on to those preteens. If your preteen is struggling with appearance and talking about dieting, take a moment to examine your own habits that they might be observing. Spend a day journaling the times that you look in the mirror, talk about weight or appearance, comments made about the weight or appearance of yourself or others, etc. You may not realize how much thought you give to weight and appearance, but chances are your preteen has noticed.

4) Get Help
According to Dr. Bravender, eating disorders typically emerge during 2 stressful periods in life, puberty and transition from high school to college. As preteens move through puberty, you may notice them struggle with the changes happening in their body. If your preteen has become over-obsessed with weight loss or body image, do not ignore these signs. Find a counselor or nutritionist that can help your family. Do whatever you can to restore the self-image of your preteen and reverse the damaging effects.

A few days ago, I posted Talking to Preteens about Sex—Part 1, which included survey responses from our 6th graders. The results showed that, contrary to what some may say, preteens prefer to discuss the topic of sex with their parents.

Now what? Most parents are wondering how they’re supposed to approach the subject of sex with their preteen. Here are a few tips that can help parents initiate these conversations:

1. It’s a Marathon, not a sprint.
There is way too much information and way too many questions to cover in one conversation. Due to the awkwardness of the topic, many parents will try to pack as much information into the first conversation as possible. Instead, we need to create an ongoing conversation. This means frequent conversations that answer immediate questions asked by your preteen, but save additional information for later conversations. Research from Dr. Steven C. Martino actually suggests that the more [frequency over time] a parent talks with adolescents about sex, the healthier those adolescents will be and the longer they will wait to have sex. As Christian parents, our prayer is that they will understand and embrace the truth of God’s design for sex in marriage.

2. Break the Ice
Don’t wait for your preteen to start talking. They have questions, but it is unlikely that they will take the first step. Look for opportunities to initiate these conversations. It could be something seen on TV, something that happens at school, or something that is said by a sibling. Ask preteens what or how they feel, and try to listen for their questions or concerns. If those opportunities are not available, pick a time in your routine to have ongoing conversations., such as riding to school, getting ready for bed, etc.

3. Do Your Homework
#1 and #2 really address when and how to have conversations about sex with your preteen, but what do you say? It is a great idea to partner with other parents of preteens to find out what is working and not working. There are also great resources available that speak on this subject from a Christian perspective. These resources can be for you, or some can be given to your preteen as a catalyst for conversation. They can read and ask questions at the pace that is comfortable for them. But, you still have to initiate by buying the book! Here is a short list of resources to check out:

Passport 2 Purity Weekend Kit

Questions Kids Ask about Sex: Honest Answers for Every Age (More medical-based than faith-based)

Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality: A Biblical Approach to Preparing Them for Life

Preparing Your Daughter for Every Woman’s Battle: Creative Conversations About Sexual and Emotional Integrity

Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle: Honest Conversations About Sexual Integrity

This homeschool product specifically reflects a Christian worldview. How to Talk Confidently with Your Child About Sex: Fifth Edition (Also comes as a series for boys or girls)