Preparing for Adulthood is a category of post on my blog– as our children grow older, we are regularly examining how we are preparing them for independent thought, actions, and life. If we micromanage too much during this stage, we don’t help them when we they no longer live with us. In fact, we handicap them. Today I’m thinking about some things we started years ago but we can see clearly today that they have been helpful. I’m sure there are other things, but we’ll look at three in this post.
One of the ways I want to prepare my children for adulthood is making sure that they spend time around young children. Because I don’t have more than three children pretty close together in age, and because we don’t live near younger relatives that they see frequently, I’ve had to intentionally create time with tinies. One of the ways I did that is inviting young mamas with babies and toddlers to my house after school or during our lunch break. When my children were younger, they naturally wanted to play with the little children while we visited. As they got older and started developing their own interests, I used my ministry as a way for my children to earn money. I offered to pay them to babysit while the mama and I visited. We talk ahead of time about how we will keep children entertained when they come. Laurel babysits for our small group, and the parents take turns paying her for her time.
Working as a family in children’s ministry at church is another way to learn about children. Practically, David didn’t do a lot of babysitting, but he worked with us in kids ministry at church, and that gave him a lot of valuable experience as well as a way to give his time to others. Because we’ve had a lot of young children to our house, he is comfortable around them and they like him. I tell him that he’ll be a good daddy, if God gives him wife and child! Plenty of new fathers have never held a baby before their own, and they do just fine; still, I’d rather give him the idea that fatherhood is something enjoyable to look forward to, and take away some of the mystery of caring for children.
The girls babysit regularly. I’ve been thankful for the opportunities God has given them to babysit, not merely because they can earn money, but also because they are learning valuable lessons about child development that will be helpful should God give them a family some day. I signed them up for a babysitting/ CPR course. We talk about strategies and ways to entertain children. We troubleshoot ways to guide children who don’t want to cooperate. Even for those who do not love babysitting, I see that having young children around is worthwhile.
Summer Camp Work
The last three summers, David has worked at Ironwood Christian Camp in their Leadership Live program. Last summer, Bethel worked there as well. These high school students are a part of the operations staff (yard crew, store crew, dishwashing crew, etc.) and in exchange, get to be a part of a really cool Christian ministry to children and teens. One of the reasons I’m enthusiastic about this opportunity is that it gives our kids a chance to work hard with other Christian teenagers who do odd things like ask about what they’re reading in the Bible, or pray together without an adult telling them to. They are learning problem resolution, building friendships, working hard, and the joy of serving the Lord with others.
One of the things our kids have mentioned is that, because of homeschooling, and because we move often, the continuity of working at the same place each summer with other Christian kids has been wonderful. When I asked David what helped prepare him for college life the most, he mentioned his summers working away from home.
I think because of our traveling in the military, we’ve been more permissive than many of our friends about connecting with friends online. Every time we move, we leave friends behind. For our children, these long -distance friendships are a lifeline each time we move, and we want to encourage them as much as is appropriate. One guideline we generally follow is that online friendships take a backseat to the new in-person friendships that God has given us. So, if we’ve invited a family over for dinner, then we usually like our kids to be a part of the meal! We encourage them to work on building new friendships in our new location, but we recognize that the old friendships provide stability, and need not be neglected. We try to do the same thing we are asking of our children, so we know it’s not always easy. We don’t always get it right, and we are learning.
A note about friendships of the opposite sex. We’ve not forbidden these, but we feel very strongly that these friendships should develop slowly in teen years, alongside of our families, along with other healthy relationships, and without family teasing. They don’t date in high school– that would be silly. But we do encourage them to build friendships, to consider that these friendships are good ways to learn what we value, to learn how to communicate better, and how to solve problems. We monitor their accounts. In general, we believe that as children demonstrate responsibility, we keep giving them freedom. At this time, we don’t remove all freedom at the slightest hiccup, but we will give more or less oversight as they grow.
I’ve observed that teasing about boyfriends/ girlfriends tends to push relationships either too fast, or to bury them underground and hidden. When these friendships are treated as a normal part of responsible living, my hope is that our children will be relatively open about them. I’d much rather keep them in the realm of conversation– What’s going on in _____’s life? What are the things that you admire about that person? etc. There’s room I think for both privacy and a little teasing, and perhaps different personalities would respond differently, but I still think keeping these relationships out of bounds for relentless teasing is a good idea.
It’s an odd feeling to be allowing more freedom, but it’s also an exciting time that does lead us to regularly bring our needs to the throne of grace on behalf of our children. We are asking God to build our relationships with them, and draw our children close to himself, that they would know the joy of walking in the spirit.
What are some of the things you are doing or wish you had done to prepare your children for adulthood? I’d love to hear your stories.