What guidance does the Bible provide?
While some families find themselves dealing with lazy teenagers (if that's you, tap HERE), others find themselves faced with quite the opposite dilemma: how much or how little to encourage or allow their son/daughter to be involved in during high school. Whether it is the parents or the teenagers who are the driving force behind such a busy schedule, the result is scary: recent studies show that teen stress levels are now rivaling and even surpassing that of adults. After all, there are colleges to get into, scholarships to earn, and careers to get jump-started. With so much at stake, how can you help your kids find a healthy balance?
While the Bible doesn't give us a clear-cut answer as to how many clubs or extracurricular activities is the perfect amount for your son or daughter, it does have a lot to say about our priorities and our tendency to worry about our present and our future.
Consider Luke 10, where Jesus has come to visit the home of Mary and Martha. Martha had busied herself that day, "distracted by all the preparations that had to be made" (Luke 10:40). There were some crucial items on her to-do list, and she felt like she had to do them. All of them. Imagine her frustration when she looks over and sees her sister, Mary, sitting down and having a conversation with Jesus, while she's running around doing all the things that were supposed to be getting done! Yet, when Martha complains to Jesus about this, Jesus lovingly corrects her: "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:41-42). Jesus is telling Martha – the queen of busyness – that all the activities and completed tasks in the world don't matter if you miss out on the most important thing: a relationship with Jesus.
Many of the stresses your student is experiencing are related to their future. Where am I going to college? Where will I work? Who am I going to marry? These kinds of worries can often lead students (or you as their parents) to push for being involved in as many things as possible, with the end goal of building that perfect college application resumé. This only intensifies as students get closer to their senior year. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus addresses this whole idea of worrying, reminding us of how much our heavenly Father cares for even the flowers and grass, therefore, how much more must he care for us? As he concludes his teachings on worry, Jesus leaves his audience with this: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Things to think about:
What does my student naturally prioritize?
Where is your student spending their time? Their money? Where are they devoting their attention? Their allegiance? Their affection? The answers to these questions will help you determine what's most important to your kid. It's also impacting your kid's margin time and stress levels. Three priorities are consistently found in spiritually healthy, growing teenagers: (1) a personal relationship with Jesus, (2) community with other believers, and (3) family. What are you doing to help your student prioritize these things?
What am I asking my student to prioritize?
As a parent, what are you asking your student to prioritize? Their grades? A well-rounded social life? A starting role on the team? Their relationship with Jesus? Are you creating breathing room in your student's schedule to allow them to rest, recharge, and enjoy being a teenager? Whatever you are pushing as important, chances are it is impacting your kid's priorities, time, and stress levels, for better or worse. Are you encouraging your child to build a schedule that starts by seeking first the kingdom of God?
What am I modeling for my kids?
Here's a gut check: how are you spending your time? Your children pick up cues from how they see you living. Chances are, if your schedule is filled to the brim, theirs will be too. If you don't leave breathing room in your schedule, they won't either. But if you model for your kid a life that's not maxed out in every arena… a life that starts by prioritizing a relationship with God and builds from there, there's a good chance your kid will eventually start doing the same.
What do I do now?
Have a conversation with your kid about their schedule. First, sit down with your child and read the above passages together. Study together what God is saying about the use of our time. Encourage them to map out a typical week on a calendar, so you can see where the hours in their day are being spent. Pay attention to the things they mention first, it may give you an indication of their priorities, whether they realize it or not. Things to look for: (1) are they carving out time to spend with God throughout the week? (2) are they setting aside time with family? (3) are they leaving margin time for rest?
Want to go deeper?
BREATHING ROOMNorth Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA, recently did an entire message series on creating margin, or breathing room, in your time, finances, and relationships. The whole series is viewable for free online and comes with discussion questions for you to talk about as a family. To watch: http://northpoint.org/messages/breathing-room/
JOSH.ORGFor families looking to help their kids prioritize their relationship with God on a daily basis, Josh McDowell offers an online daily devotional for teenagers. Check it out at: http://www.josh.org/resources/daily-devotional/todays-youth-devotional/
Source for Study / Footnote:http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/02/teen-stress.aspx