Benjamin Franklin is credited with the saying that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. I’d add a third thing: when your child leaves your home, his or her values WILL be tested. How will he or she hold up, especially when homesick, friendsick, or experiencing a raging case of the lonelies? How will they react when put in a high risk situation at a party, or offered to the opportunity to cheat on a major test or assignment? During times like these, it helps mightily to have a strong character foundation. It also pays to have a well-developed list of non-negotiable values that they will, under no circumstances, compromise.
Many times having a vocabulary to identify and express their values is a necessary step, especially for tweens and teens. Go over this list of values together; ask them which ones are most important to them and why. Discuss which ones they would never compromise, and which values they’d like to strengthen in their own lives. It’s a great armor-building exercise.
Here are some helpful questions to consider when you are seeking to evaluate which areas need emphasis. Use them to help guide you as you navigate parenting an older teen, even if he/she has already moved away from home. (Alternately, allow your child the opportunity to answer these questions about themselves.)
- Are they guided by integrity in everything?
- Do they demonstrate love, kindness, and respect toward others?
- Do they live with honor and self-discipline?
- Do they stand up for their beliefs and values with conviction?
- Are they people of humility who encourage others?
- Do they demonstrate a commitment to excellence and giving it their best effort?
- Do they take full responsibility for their mistakes and shortfalls?
Know that in the teen and young adult years when they’re facing major life transitions and social adjustments, they will slip up sometimes. That’s one reason it’s so important to share in humility your own mistakes. Let them know you weren’t perfect either! It’s a great way of fostering a safe and open environment for communication and building trust.