Are you looking for ways to raise your teenagers? Would it help to read about what other Christian families are doing successfully to raise their teenagers? I hope this interview with the Sanchez family from Texas will help inspire hope, motivation and some ideas!
How many children do you have, and how old are the ones that are currently adolescents? (10-19)
We have 4 childern. Our daughters are 20 and 17 and our boys are 14 and 11.
What have been some changes you noticed in your children as they became adolescents? How did you feel: shocked, worried, surprised, etc?
There are many changes that we have seen. The most drastic changes are that you can sense that the children are searching for their independence. They sometimes react differently to requests or to discipline that has always been set in place. But we weren´t surprised; we always understood that there would be many changes as our children matured.
Did you notice a difference between your boys and girls?
Yes, the girls are more dramatic and moody. The girls seem to take everything personally. The girls cry a lot and they don’t even know why. The boys become more independent and want to be with other boys their age. The boys start looking at how their bodies are built. The boys don’t want a lot of affection from their mom.
What has surprised you the most about parenting teenagers? (or parenting in general?)
I think the biggest surprise is that they know the difference between right and wrong 100% of the time.
What’s your main concern and goal for your children (I’m referring mostly to your teens)?
There is only one goal: the salvation of their souls and helping them get to Heaven. The biggest concern is that they do not get influenced by the world and become secular. They need to always maintain their criteria between God and what is evil and that they treat all people with love and respect.
What are some things you do as a family that help your family live out the Christian faith?
We make it a point to go to Mass together. God is our #1 priority, so if Mass time conflicts with sports, band or any other activity, our children will miss that activity or otherwise go to it after Mass.
We also practice charity in the house. We watch movies based on the lives of the saints together and take our kids to confession.
What has helped you as a parent transmit your faith and Christian values?
Probably all of our trials and tribulations over this past year! Our oldest son was hospitalized for a month with a serious staph infection and Mr. Sanchez was hospitalized at the same time (at a different hospital) with a unique illness. This experience has allowed us to transmit our faith. Through the prayers and help of the LC/RC community (Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi: a Catholic Movement of Apostolate), we all just knew that everything was going to turn out fine. No matter what the outcome was going to be, we had faith that we would get through it.
Do you find it helpful to send your teens and children to a Catholic/private school, and also to youth groups and clubs, retreats and camps? How have these been helpful to you as a parent? What do you expect of these?
Our kids go to public school. We believe that the parents are the principal and most important influence for the children. Youth group has been somewhat useful, but our local Conquest and Challenge youth clubs are what have helped our kids immensely. These clubs and their respective retreats and camps, along with the presence of the consecrated women and Legionary priests and brothers, have given our children a high level of formation and a support structure to deal with the negative influences of the world today.
How do you balance your teens’ desire for independence and freedom with your concerns for their safety and well-being, as well as your desires for them?
We have taught our children how to make decisions/choices and that each decision/choice has consequences. We pray that the Holy Spirit will give them wisdom to make good decisions/choices and we pray that God will guide them. As their decisions become bigger and more important, they ask for our opinion. We offer them our opinion, but then let them make their own decision and respect their decision. We always show them love and acceptance for who they are.
How do you balance being a mentor and disciplinarian with being a friend and companion to your teens? When are you empathetic, and when do you challenge them?
We are not their friends. We are their mother and their father. I hope that some day, when they are all grown up, that we can turn into friends. For now I see my role as mentor, disciplinarian and protector. We always let them know when they act wrong, and we help them improve so as to correct their vices with virtue. We remind them that they need to seek virtue on a regular basis. We know our children well, and know when they are open to discussion and when they are not open. They know that they can always count on us, but at the same time they know they must show us respect, responsibility and love.
In your experience, does the husband-wife relationship have a substantial impact on successful parenting? How so?
Yes, the husband/wife relationship has a huge impact. The husband and wife better be on the same page, or there will be major difficulties! The children know very well when the parents agree or disagree on something and they will take advantage of that lack of agreement. In our case, we are usually in agreement; if we are not, we discuss the issue in private and only after an agreement do we then bring it up with our children.
What has been one or a few learning moments for you as a parent?
We have learned not to nag and not to nag them with “we told you so.” We have learned to not yell/scream. We have learned to let them make mistakes. We have learned to try and be patient with them and to show them unconditional love and to pray a lot for their well-being and protection. We have learned that adolescence is a phase that will pass and to accompany them with love through those years.
What tips would you offer other parents whose children are entering adolescence?
Already have rules and expectations set prior to adolescence. I just can’t imagine what it would be like to all of a sudden turn 14 and find out that the game has suddenly changed. Remember that adolescence is a phase, so it´s a part of growing up. Our job as parents is to guide them and to help them navigate through this time of their life.
The most important thing is that the children must know that their parents love them unconditionally.
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