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Date Your Teen Challenge

Ever notice something off with your teen? I have noticed something different with our 13yo, Ben… almost like this sadness or anxiety? Or something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Moms-trust that intuition of yours. Bring it to Jesus and see what happens.

I brought my concerns to Jesus at Mass last Sunday and got the feeling that I needed to take Ben out to lunch and talk some things out, to check in. Matt agreed and came too. As soon as we got in the car, we started to explain why we wanted to take him out to lunch. We knew the next few months, big things were happening. He will graduate middle school and move on to a bigger high school. 

We asked him how he was and he responded with a puzzled “fine”. Great start (eyeroll). And it could have ended there but we kept digging. We said we’ve noticed how his behavior had been a little different. He seemed to be a little more anxious than usual. He was asking a lot of questions about high school, worrying about how he looks, basically all the typical high school things, but he didn't know they were normal, until we told him. He was able to open up and let us know the worries he had been carrying around. It was like we could see a load come off his shoulders and he immediately relaxed.

We settled into some deeper conversation, getting to the root of his anxiety. Sometimes worry happens when we don’t feel secure or grounded in the future. When you don't have a direction in life, you are much more likely to float, to be pushed this way and that at the mercy of your environment, which feels chaotic and breeds anxiety. So we asked him, “Where do you want to go in life? Like what is the most important thing in your life? He didn't really know. We asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He wants to be a Catholic therapist (Praise God-we need more of those!). We told him that could help him determine his path in life. 

We told Ben that in our family, we want each member to know we are all headed in the same direction: Heaven. Heaven needs to be our life’s goal. And when we are lost and confused as to where to go or what we do, we ask ourselves, “will this help me on my journey to heaven?” if it helps, go there. If it doesn't, avoid it.

We continued to talk and listen. Ask questions, tell advice. Matt and I both shared fears, hopes, trials and triumphs of our high school experience. We listened to Ben’s fears and affirmed his worth and what we love about him. It was such a great conversation!

So I wanted to share this with you and challenge you to do this with your teen. It’s like a check in. Read through this and make it your own. Go to the bottom of this post for the link to the free printable PDF guide. Trust your intuition as a parent and ask the Holy Spirit to direct your date. Come Holy Spirit!

Date Idea to help transition your middle schooler to high school:

*Note: This idea can be used to help your pre-teen/teen with any transition that may be on the horizon.

To start, ask them if they want to go to lunch with you. They get to pick where! Take them to the restaurant of their choice. Both parents attending is best, but one parent is fine too.

*Before we ate our food, we blessed it like normal, but then I added a prayer thanking Jesus for Ben and the gift he is. I asked the Holy Spirit to send his peace and guide our hearts to act according to God’s will. Use this blessing as an opportunity to pray over your child.

Conversation Starters: 

First-ask how they are doing with their 8th grade year-what are some good things that have happened? What have been some hard things and why?

Ask them if they are excited for high school. Why or why not?

Anything they are afraid of? This is a chance for you to share what you were afraid of before high school, look at their face to see if they can identify with your fears, maybe even ask them if they are afraid of that too? It’s great to share your experience, but only as a way to get them to talk.

Ask them which activities/sports/clubs they want to be involved in. Encourage them to find something to help them feel grounded during high school, to help them feel they belong. Because our kids attend a Catholic School, we are encouraging them to seek out the Sacraments offered during school, as well as other faith related opportunities like retreats. Our kids really love the Steubenville retreats all around the USA that happen during the summer. That could be a great way for kids to meet other high school kids before 9th grade begins. Encourage them to join your parish's HS youth group.

Ask what they want to be when they grow up? Ask what their life goal is? What are they working toward? Encourage them to be a heaven seeker. Seeking the kingdom of God is the pinnacle and correct life goal for everyone! It’s the goal we were created for AND working toward that goal fulfills us and brings us true peace and joy. Make getting to heaven a family goal if it’s not already!

Then let’s talk about challenges, because there will be challenges. 

Ask your teen which challenges they foresee? Here are some of the challenges they may face:

  1. Taking responsibility for others' happiness: This is a common temptation for good and friendly people. We want to make others happy. While there is nothing wrong with wanting others to be happy and to feel loved, we just want to emphasize that it is not your job to make sure others are happy all the time. Don't carry the burden of other peoples’ unhappiness. It’s not your burden to carry. We can only control our actions, not other peoples. 

  2. Know yourself. If you don't know who you are (read Whose you are), you are way more likely to attach yourself to the first people who give you positive attention. When our teens know who they are within your family and who they are as children of God, they are much less likely to fall for one-sided friendships with people who want to use you or change you. 

  3. Stay true to yourself, but don't be afraid to GROW/EVOLVE. There is a difference between changing yourself and growth and maturity. We are all called to grow and mature. Who I was a freshman was different than who I was as a senior. Who i was became EVEN MORE ME by the end. I learned to let go of the things that no longer served me on my path to growing to be the person God wanted me to be.

  4. Distractions are all around you. It’s important to keep your Purpose at the forefront. Will this help me get to heaven? Will this draw me closer to what is good, true and beautiful? If so, go for it, if not, it’s best to be avoided. 

  5. Strive for balance: There can also be too much of a good thing. I often fall victim to FOMO and want to do it all. When we are spread too thin trying to do all the good things, those good things can be distractions. With growth and maturity and a good idea of what God’s voice sounds like, you will eventually be able to decide which good things to say yes to, and which ones should be avoided for now.

  6. BAD FEELINGS: There will be worry, anxiety and you may even feel lonely or unwanted from time to time. These unhappy feelings are normal and occur with everyone. Unhappy feelings are ways of communicating some sort of lack, or some appetite not being met. We should never become slaves to these unhappy feelings, but we can let them inform us of the next steps. If you feel guilty about something you did or didn't do to a friend, the next step is to apologize and seek reconciliation. Sometimes the unhappy feelings don’t prompt us to act. Sometimes we just feel sad or depressed and we don't know why. Oftentimes when this happens, it’s because your relationship with God is not the first priority and there is not much prayer. Another reason this happens is when we forget about the other people in our life. When I get stuck inside my own head and feelings, things become very dark and depressing. Often the light and joy we seek in those moments are found in serving others. Stepping outside yourself and looking to serve other people often pulls me out of the dark side and into the light.

There will be countless more challenges. There will be relationship drama. The important thing to remember is we only become stronger through struggle. Struggle should NEVER be avoided but only be endured if it’s on the path God has carved out for you. Don't go looking for suffering, but when it pops up, don't shy away. Ask God for the strength to endure it. He will ALWAYS show up.

Let them order dessert if they want, tell them how much you love them and how you will always be there for them. Awkwardly hug them over the table or give them a fist bump, but let them know the next few years are going to be awesome, especially if we invite God to be a part of every moment. 

I would love to hear your experience in doing this with your teen! Feel free to shoot me and email or comment below!

For a cool printout on all of this, check out our Free PDF guide in the shop.

God bless you all!


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