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General Advice for Parents
by David Berkowitz
Recently the question was posed to me by a mother who is raising a teenage daughter as to what advice I would give to parents that would be helpful in keeping their kids on the right path and would help them to stay out of trouble. The woman who asked this wanted me to base my advice on my own experiences while growing up, as well as what I have observed from my more than thirty years as a prisoner. And while I honestly feel unqualified to offer any advice, especially since I've never had to raise a child, here is what I want to say:
Do not underestimate the ability of peers to lure your kids toward bad behavior. Unfortunately many adults assume, incorrectly, that if they're raising their kids right they won't get into trouble. Also that those kids who do have run-ins with the law usually come from troubled backgrounds and dysfunctional families. Yet these things aren't always the case. This is because other people can have a lot of influence over your children, and kids don't always pick their companions wisely. Even the media frequently makes certain negative behaviors seem okay and adventurous and fun while never showing the real consequences of such actions. Thus a seemingly happy and well adjusted adolescent is not immune from making bad choices. I've met young men in prison who've come from an array of different backgrounds. And in hindsight, if they had made better choices, they would not have damaged their lives as they did.
Watch and listen for what I would call that "silent cry." Most adolescents will not open up and confide in their parents, nor with their teachers, guidance counselors at school or with a spiritual advisor. Instead they will keep their deepest fears and concerns to themselves, so parents have to be good at reading between the lines and observing body language, odd behaviors, etc.
Always remember that, like those adults whom they model their lives after, young children, and especially teenagers, have learned to hide their real feelings behind a smile. Therefore a big smile could be nothing more than a mask to hide serious problems and deep emotional struggles. So a parent must be very discerning. Yet if a serious problem comes to light, don't panic. Just deal with the issue wisely and with tact. And take the appropriate actions when necessary. Also, always remember that every problem has a solution. So patience is needed. And never give up trying to work things out. In addition, seek outside help if necessary. Likewise don't be ashamed or embarrassed to seek God's help because He loves your children even more than you do.
Lastly, remind your children often how much you love them. And I pray that this simple advice, which comes from my heart, will be helpful.
For parents needing more advice see Heartlight Ministries. Please note that AriseandShine.org is not affiliated with Heartlight Ministries. The link is included simply to offer more help to those who may need it.