When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to get a job and move out. I had my first real job at the age of 15 ½, with a work permit. By the time I was 16, I was saving my money to get my own car, paying for gas when I used my mom’s car, and buying my own clothes and toiletries. Once I reached the age of 18, I tried to move out while still facing the last few months of high school. Those were some tough few months! I was thankful my parents left the door open for me to come back when I needed them. However, my goal was to not stay long.
After graduation, I packed a few bags and moved to another state to live with my dad and stepmom. I was able to get a job right away and started saving for an apartment. A couple of friends moved to the same town as me, and we got a place together, but that was short lived. I ended up back at my dad’s in just a couple of months.
Why was I failing to launch?
I was quick to get out on my own without a solid plan. Impatience was part of my downfall. Now I have two teens of my own, and I want to be sure we assist them to launch successfully. Our 19-year-old is still with us, and our 16-year-old exhibits the same passion and impatience to leave as I once had.
How can a parent not enable them to stay too long yet not let them go too quickly?
This economy isn’t a friendly launch-pad, either. The idea of having your kids stay at home for awhile after they are 18 is definitely a possibility; but eventually, the goal would be to have them be able to stand on their own.
From my own experience as a former teen, I can say (without a doubt) that I was not mentally equipped to leave when I did. I was taken advantage of a few times and had to learn some hard lessons. Mentoring our teens to have healthy boundaries and awareness to the schemes some people play is a high priority for us. We want them to be mentally ready for what could happen and how to maintain an awareness and listen to the Spirit give them discernment about such things. There are many things to consider while preparing young people to launch into the world, and even more to be aware of as Christians.
Our daughters had plenty of opportunities to do volunteer work in our former church, such as assisting in the nursery, gardening on church work days, and serving at fundraising banquets. These were all good experiences for them, but there was a drawback we had not considered back then. What happens if you leave a church or choose one of a different denomination? What happens if you move to a different area and have to start from scratch meeting new people? When we left our church home, we lost the opportunity for our girls to retain many of those connections for future job references. Because of this, we decided to branch out into other volunteerism opportunities for our younger children – beyond the familiar church-related activities they were used to.
Serving Your Community, Working for Good
Teen volunteerism is an excellent experience to help launch them into adulthood. It is a great thing to teach kids that the society they live in is something they have a duty to shape. There are always going to be areas of concern for Christian parents when choosing a secular form of volunteering, but if you guide your children with wisdom, you can trust that the Holy Spirit will give your kids insight to help them be prepared. After all, eventually every Christian child will need to be able to navigate the secular work-force and world around them – and what better way to prepare your young adults than to navigate the waters with them as they test their new sails?
A great way to ease in to volunteerism is to look at local volunteer opportunities that allow you to participate together as a family. We all volunteered at a soup kitchen that needed servers, gift wrapping for local Christmas charities to help low income families, and community clean ups every spring with the city and other local companies. We got to know those in charge, worked closely with them, and asked for letters from them for our teen’s records. They were happy to do so. Being a valued member of the community by offering your service, time, and attention is something that will surely be a bright spot on a future resume; not to mention, working in the community offers life-lessons you can’t get any other way.
Want to get more involved in your community and broaden your teen’s skills and future career possibilities? Call your local Chamber of Commerce and ask if they have any suggestions on volunteer opportunities in which families can participate. You may want to try volunteering for a local pregnancy center organizing their clothing closet, preparing baby welcome baskets for new moms, or even participating in annual Walk for Life fundraising events. Another idea is to contact local non-profit organizations and volunteer to do clean up after their annual banquets. There are a lot of ways to volunteer if you just do a little research.
Establishing relationships with organizations can help teens launch successfully. Those connections can be used as references on future job applications. Other ideas for establishing references from your community are sports teams, scout groups, and junior lifeguard programs. If your teen has an interest in government or politics, you could also include Teen Court programs and political campaigns.
Teaming Up to Train Youth for the Future
If you’re concerned about allowing someone you don’t know be in leadership over your children, then volunteer and be involved. You can coach a sports team and even lead your own scout troop. There is a local Girl Scout troop that is growing from a Christian school in my town led by the women from their school. Once your children complete scouts, there is a teen scout group for those willing to remain involved, and they are introduced to professional opportunities in the secular community when they reach adulthood. Just in case you didn’t know, there are scholarships available for scouts to get into college.
4-H has a great program for raising up responsible kids that make capable and productive adults, too. Check out their website mantra:
JOIN THE REVOLUTION OF RESPONSIBILITY: Turning ideas into action, 4-H youth are becoming everyday heroes who persevere through challenges to leave lasting, positive impacts on their communities. Through the work of caring mentors, 4-H – a positive youth development organization – is cultivating a growing number of America’s youth to lead us in a Revolution of Responsibility. Their commitment challenges us all to join the movement toward meaningful change.
Sounds a whole lot like all the rest of the stuff I’ve already been talking about in this article, right? Great minds!
As parents, we carry the responsibility to prepare our children for adulthood. Through living out our faith and seeking ways to serve and become involved in our community, we can build our teens in to confident and competent leaders – so that they can shine in their generation!
In what ways have you prepared your teens to launch successfully? Share your ideas with us here!