​Teach Your Children Well

It’s never too late to transmit family values.

When facing the reality that a child is reaching the time for a transition from high school to college, many parents worry about their child’s future. They wonder if their child will still need them, listen to them, and stay strong in their faith.

If you’re a parent with a child at this transition stage, take courage! You are entering into some of the most formative and spiritually significant years in your child’s life. Your influence may become even more important as you encourage your child toward interdependence and responsible adulthood. Important decisions lie ahead regarding a chosen profession, a possible marriage partner, choices to live out personal and spiritual values, and choices about moral and ethical issues.

Sometimes parents underestimate the potential influence they can continue to have in their child’s life approaching adulthood. Candid family conversations are like building bridges to each other, serving to instruct as well as provide meaningful memories for all family members. Consider the following suggestions:

Have a Conversation

As together you plan for your child’s college experience, share candidly how you value the disciplines of your own spiritual life, i.e., prayer, Bible study, personal devotions, witnessing, service, meditation, corporate worship, and church attendance. Share your hopes for their faithfulness in these practices.

Higher education is about . . . sinking the roots of faith into the soil of a personal relationship with Jesus.

As you consider your love for Jesus and your gratitude for His saving grace, reveal candidly how you have been personally blessed. Talk to your child about your marriage and how God has shown Himself to you because of your mutual commitment. Share about the difference between feelings and principles. Inform your child about entering a larger pluralistic adult world so often filled with confusing value statements. Talk about the importance of having positive adult mentors to act as cheerleaders in your child’s life.

Dialogue about the opportunities your child may experience in college. Check out the Web pages of colleges and universities and learn about the spiritual/moral programming and service opportunities available on campus. Talk about the value-added education that comes from learning about other cultures and the diversity of experience that is available as one’s world expands.

Share scriptures to stimulate a good discussion. Reading “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8) and discussing the meaning of this scripture is a good place to start.

Discuss the timeless nature of scriptural principles. Inform your child that research indicates that their generation too often disregards a “thus saith the Lord.” Ask them how it will be different with them. Talk about the subtle nature of adult peer pressure and the progressive nature of consequences. Play the “What Could Possibly Happen If” game (e.g., “If I drink a beer, what could possibly happen?”).

Candidly discuss the need for moral and ethical behavior in a world often confused about what is right or wrong. Challenge your child to always tell the truth, to treat others with respect and kindness, to seek to be known as a loving Christian.

Talk about knowing when to walk away from potential trouble. Ask if they can see themselves caring enough about a friend to confront irresponsible behavior. Share what they can expect from you if they make a major mistake. Emphasize the meaning of unconditional love in your family. Discuss your commitment to be balanced about social media, and your desire for real communication to be a family value.

Long-term Relationships

Encourage your child to share about what will guide how they will show respect for their dating partners and others, and the ethical framework they are considering for marriage and parenting.

A well-known quotation from Ellen White can be a springboard for a conversation about how living a balanced life may be preparation for greater responsibility. “True education means more than the pursual of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to [humanity]. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.”1

Outline some of the developmental tasks your child will face, and discuss why mastering these tasks is important. These include: spiritual (values development, relationships, and behavioral integrity); political (learning about systems and leadership); intellectual (learning and thinking skills); life planning (career and lifestyle plans); social (friendship and intimacy); physical (nutrition, exercise, and health care); sexual (appearance, gender, and sexuality); cultural (tolerance and aesthetics); and emotional (feelings and emotional autonomy).2

Higher education is about finding joy in commitment to growth, academic discovery, and lifelong learning. It is also about learning how to communicate effectively; how to negotiate and resolve conflicts; how to embrace a vocation that will always be more than a job; and about sinking the roots of faith into the soil of a personal relationship with Jesus.

In addition, there are opportunities for developmental learning found in living in a vibrant community (like a residence hall), in campus leadership activities, and in spirited conversations with peers, mentors, and professors. Higher education is about what is learned from the academic process, but it is also about the positive lessons learned outside the classroom. Both are important!

Commit yourself to support for your child as they tackle adult responsibilities, and assure them your prayers will always be with them.

  1. Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903), p. 13.
  2. G. Dickson and J. Thayer, Developmental Advising Inventory (Paradise, Calif.: Developmental Advising Inventories, Inc., 1993).

Donald W. Murray is an Adventist educator whose ministry as a residence hall dean spanned 42 years. He and his wife are counted among the pioneers in Adventist family ministries. He is founder and CEO of DWM2 Educational Ministries, providing Adventist academies with on-site professional training and personal mentoring.

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