A Big-Picture Perspective into Your Grandkids’ World

by Mark Gregston

Outside of the US, extended families are fairly common.  With the ever-changing family dynamics and a rise in the number of families with two working parents, extended families—ones that rely on grandparents for support—are becoming more common.  Research shows that grandparents play an important role in the lives of teenagers and high levels of grandparental involvement actually decrease emotional and behavioral issues—which is great for everyone! 

Grandparents have been around a long time, so they can provide today’s youth with something very important, something needed daily—perspective.  It’s not uncommon to hear people wax poetically about the “good old days,” but when I grew up, political leaders faced assassination, counter-cultural revolutions were the norm, and people were not yet aware of the consequences that would befall them during the “Swinging Sixties.” 

For many of today’s teens, the world seems like it’s spinning out of control, and that’s why they need to get a viewpoint that only grandparents can offer. 

Lost Perspectives and Grandparent Roles 

Just as it was when I was growing up, teenagers often don’t understand the impact that today’s decisions have later in life.  They often ignore consequences because the bigger picture hasn’t been communicated to them.  Part of that comes from today’s trend of moms and dads moving away from parenting their kids, toward having more of a peer relationship with them in order to create a relational environment.  Couple that with the advent of unlimited access to the internet, and you have the perfect storm.  Teens have an endless amount of information, but they’re starving for wisdom.  They’re also starving to find purpose and meaning to their lives, and that’s where grandparents can stand in the gap.  Parents have the amazing task of influencing their teens, but grandparents offer them what their parents cannot—a lifetime of experiences and a legacy filled with perspective.  But how do you do that? 

How to Bring Perspective into Their World 

Grandkids open up a part of your heart that you probably didn’t even know existed, and they are a reward for all your hard work!  As a grandparent you don’t have to teach them life lessons—you can leave that task to mom and dad because your job is to provide them with a soft place to land.  At my house, we like to keep the welcome mat out, food in the fridge, a comfy place for our grandkids to hang out where they feel they can be seen—and heard. 

Remember, this culture is all that today’s teen knows, so don’t criticize or condemn it.  You can help them see and think about life’s big picture while helping to keep the day-to-day details small.  It’s all about engaging with them in a way that compassionately speaks to their heart. 

Ask questions that matter to them. Ask about the music they like, or what they think about everyone getting a tattoo or piercing these days.  Teens can find criticism in just about every area of life, so make sure your language is always full of grace and flavored with salt.  Just because you might disagree with them, doesn’t mean you can’t have a meaningful conversation with your grandchild. 

Some Friendly Parental Advice 

Parents, don’t be discouraged because this article is targeted toward your parents.  You still have the heavy lifting to do when it comes to making sure your teens grow into healthy, happy, and mature people.  That’s no easy feat! So, take advantage of the opportunity that your child’s grandparent plays in supporting the family.  I think grandparents sometimes have bigger ears because they’re not so intent on doing your job. 

The teenage years mark the time in your child’s life when you need to make time to be with them regularly.  You can do this by creating an atmosphere at home that is inviting—a place where your kids will want to share with you what’s really going on with them. 

Take a drive, or better yet, have them take you for a drive.  Go for a walk.  Do something that engages your child, and then be prepared for some honest conversations.  You don’t have to compromise your values and convictions, but you do have to make sure that when you speak to your teens, you do so with compassion and truth. 

Conclusion 

Moms and Dads … you’re doing great. You have a tough job.  So, let grandparents help by being involved in the life of your kid.  Don’t cut them out.  Your kids desperately need them.  If there’s something between you guys that is keeping this from happening, go and resolve it.  This will not only benefit you, but your children, as well.  Be adults and resolve the issue.  Talk about the things that you need.  You can give wisdom, but it needs to be in the context of relationships.  Create an atmosphere at home that’s inviting and safe.  And be prepared for some open and honest conversations as you spend time with your teens regularly—leaving them with a legacy of hope! 


The Greatest Challenges for Teens Today

by Mark Gregston

Think back to your adolescent years.  For me, growing up during the 60’s and 70’s was pretty cool.  Long hair.  Great music. Sideburns.  Rock and roll.  It was a season of innocence and freedom.    

But, not so much with today’s generation!   

Today our teens are faced with complicated issues like gender neutrality, legalized marijuana, persistent negativity, blatant disrespect, unbridled narcissism, and a relentless fixation on social media.   

Like most parents, you’re probably thinking, “Mark, I’m so glad I don’t have to grow up in today’s culture.”   

But guess what?  Our kids do.  They can’t escape it.  And when our teens are dealing with heavy issues, parents will discover that using outdated methods will produce terrible results.   

So, how do we help our teens successfully navigate dangerous times?   

Well, it starts with identifying their real-life issues.  In this article, I’ll identify five major challenges our teens are facing today.    

#1 Overexposure to Everything 

Our kids are exposed to everything.  I mean, everything.  Because of the web, they have access to graphic images.  Their friends are choosing alternative lifestyles.  Sexual temptation is pervasive.  

Just walk through the local mall and you’ll find Victoria Secret luring customers into the store.  When I was a teen, this was unthinkable.  To see women’s underwear, I had to sneak peeks at the Sears catalog.  Furthermore, the Internet offers 4.3-million porn sites.  Make no mistake … if your child has access to a mobile device, he’s likely been exposed to porn.    

Here’s the point.  Try to understand your teen’s world and help them walk through it.  Acknowledge their overexposure to things that they cannot interpret through their young eyes.  Shift your parenting styles to reflect the pervasive nature of sex and find ways to discuss the temptations with your teen.   

#2 Anxiety  

Today’s teen is not mildly concerned.  Many are consumed by full-blown anxiety.   

Why?  Their whole world is about performing.  They are working overtime to meet expectations.  They feel relentless pressure to excel.  And our culture’s fixation on appearance makes them chase relationships that are based, not on connecting, but on measuring up.   

It’s no wonder why our teens turn to marijuana or alcohol as a means for anesthetizing their pain and disappointment.  If your teens are making these poor choices, it’s important that you understand that it’s coming from a place of disappointment and failure.  So try to help your teen recognize what they’re feeling and ask them questions to find out why it’s there.  Be available to talk.  If your expectations are adding to the anxiety, dial it down a little!  And if needed, break the cycle of behavior by taking your teen out of their world for a vacation.   

#3 Lack of Connection with Others 

God has blessed every human being with the innate desire to connect with people.  We are wired for relationships.   

This is why kids are spending so much time on their cell phones.  They text, they post, they chat, and it’s all about relating with others.  As parents and grandparents, when we understand this natural inclination, we shouldn’t over-react when they take this desire down the wrong path.  Even drugs and alcohol are often cheap substitutes for connecting with peers.   

One of our students at Heartlight told me recently that she started using drugs, and even overdosed, because of a disconnection with her dad.  He was never available.  Dad was in and out of the home, and in and out of his marriage, and it left her feeling unworthy.  When I asked her what she longs for, Analeisa said, “I want to be accepted and respected by my parents.  I want my parents to demonstrate that they love me, not just say it.  Show me.”   

#4 Overwhelming Negativity of Culture 

It’s fashionable to cut others down to size.  Everyone rips each other apart.  And teens feel under constant scrutiny.  Each day feels like a parade in which they’re rated by their peers.  If it doesn’t happen at school, it surely happens on social media.  Furthermore, the Internet lets everyone have a loud voice.  It’s like a megaphone for crazy people!  And you no longer need to earn the right to be heard.  You can broadcast yourself any time you wish.   

As parents, we need to create an atmosphere that’s positive and safe at home.  If your conversations have been seasoned with cynicism, your kids will pick it up, too.  So, when you’re offering commentary on your day, and on your teen’s life, keep things positive and upbeat.  Let your home become a safe harbor of rest, not another place where the dark cloud of negativity looms overhead.   

#5 Disrespect for Authority 

In today’s culture, parents have turned away from an authoritarian style of leadership, and lean toward a buddy-buddy friendship with their kids.  This gives our teens a twisted view of a parent’s appropriate role.  Teachers in public schools tell us that the biggest shift in the last thirty years is an abject disregard for authority.  In many schools, the teen is a customer, not a student under authority.   

Teaching respect doesn’t come from striking fear into your teen.  Nor does it come from becoming pals with your child.  Parents need to focus on building a strong relationship and winning the right to be heard.  We need to combine strong leadership with reasonable boundaries, age-appropriate rules, and natural consequences.  Finally, it’s helpful to admit to our teens that we’re not perfect.  Humility, not weakness, earns a child’s respect.   

Conclusion 

Mom, dad, did you ever think that the issues and situations facing our teens and preteens would be as potentially damaging as they are?  I’m sure every generation has their challenges, but today’s generation is experiencing a shift in the way people relate, and in the way they seek help from one another.  That’s where you come in.  Your teen needs you.  They need your wisdom, your counsel, your time and your influence.  And they need it now more than ever.   

Even when you think they don’t, they do.  And when they don’t appear to be listening, they are.  So do whatever it takes to create a better arena for relationship … so that you can be that light in the darkness … a ray of hope in their confusion.  And a place where they are loved like none other.   


When Arguments Get You Nowhere

by Mark Gregston

If you spend any amount of time around people in your day to day life, you’ll quickly see that it doesn’t take long for arguments to arise.  And, it’s no better online, either.  From Twitter to Facebook, arguments abound.  And it doesn’t seem isolated to just politics, fashion, or sporting teams.  It appears that no matter the subject, some people love to argue. 

But why is that?  Is it a new phenomenon that’s related to our technologically-advanced culture?  Or is there something else rooted deeper in us that’s causing this need to express our unwavering thoughts and opinions? 

Well, the answer is both.  People were made to connect.  But arguments arise because we live in a world where people can express themselves and their thoughts and opinions, 24/7, and they’re encouraged to do so.  We have more tools at our disposal for sharing our opinions, yet no one is really listening to each other.  And unfortunately, our culture thrives on disagreements.  But there is a solution, and it’s up to us as parents to show our kids that there’s another way to communicate and connect.  Whether it’s with people they know personally, or those they meet online, we need to teach our kids that they can engage and express themselves differently—because being different is a good thing and it’s what makes all us uniquely special. 

#1 Not Every Argument Needs to Be A Battle 

When was the last time you had an argument with someone?  For some, it’s been a long time, but for others, you probably don’t have to think too far back.  Arguing is a form of communication, but focusing our opinions on others without listening in return is self-centered

Arguments are often caused by a clash of values or differing opinions, but they can also be an opportunity for you to engage with your teen in a healthy manner.  Most times it’s better to listen to understand where your teen or child is coming from, instead of listening to respond to them.  God calls us to peace, and the Bible reminds us that we shouldn’t … have anything to do with foolish arguments, because they produce quarrels.  Now, this doesn’t mean you just ignore the situation.  But it does mean that you need to spend some time engaging your teen to find out why they’re conflicted.  Sometimes they’re trying to express themselves the best way they know how, while other times, they’re feeling tired of not being heard.  Maybe they’ve been stifled at school.  Or maybe they’re just trying to learn how the navigate the world around them—and they want to play the devil’s advocate. 

Conflict is the precursor to change.  It’s a natural and healthy step in the progression toward adulthood, so don’t avoid conflict, but find ways to actively engage and participate in the solution.  If nothing else, allowing your child the opportunity to talk provides them the opportunity to express their thoughts and feeling in a safe place where someone they can trust is listening and paying attention. 

#2 Relationships—Not Regulations Change People 

By the time your kids are teens, they know what’s right and wrong.  They know what Scripture says, and they know what you say and what you believe.  So, Mom and Dad, your role at this time in their life is not to be a teacher, but a trainer.  It’s the time to listen, time to ask questions, and time to discuss your teens’ experiences, not your own. 

And, grandparents, you’re in a unique position, too.  Grandparents are a wealth of information—as they’ve been around the block a time or two, so this is your time to share with your teen.  Grandparents aren’t mom and dad, and so a lot of times, teens feel they can talk to grandparents in a way they can’t talk to their parents.  And oftentimes, teens will look to their grandparents for help and advice because of their observations, reflections, and experiences. 

Just remember, relationships take time to build, so if your teen has a special relationship with another family member, be thankful—and grateful. 

#3 How Well Do You Argue? 

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you won the battle, but you lost the war?  Well, believe me, that’s not the place you want to find yourself in with your teen.  When someone wants to fight with words, there will be no winners.  So, before the next battle even starts think about how you want to handle the escalation.  And when you find yourself in that next battle—ask yourself—does what I’m about to say hurt or help?  What are my words going to do to that other person?  Will they heal or harm?  And more importantly, think about why you argue.  You don’t have to compromise your values and convictions, but you should make sure that when you speak, you do so with compassion and truth. 

Conclusion 

Moms and Dads … arguments are inevitable.  They happen because we all think differently and everyone feels things in their own way.  But arguments are not the end of a relationship—either with your spouse or with your kids.  Arguments have an amazing way of showing us what our teens need and it exposes their desire.  It is your opportunity to discover whether they’re just being selfish or whether there’s really a true need in their life.  So, it’s okay to disagree.  The challenge is to disagree and maintain the boundaries and rules that you’ve established for your home.  And keep the relationship you have with your teen!  Don’t let an argument ruin a relationship that God has placed in your life!