Raising teens with a 'lifeproof' case

The day I got my first smart phone was like adding to my growing family! I had just gotten married and had my first baby. The smart phone came with a full book of instructions and I soaked it all up. It was glorious! Though I felt certain that my life was ready and capable to manage a smart phone, it became clear that my smart phone didn’t handle my life very well. In the last 7 years I have had to replace my “smart” devices on many occasions, because frankly LIFE HAPPENED! Here’s the run down of my previous devices and their demise.

>Giving my 1-year-old daughter a bath, I drop it in the bathtub. Rescue in time to still be able to use, but its a little slower than before.

>Taking my own bath, and while checking Facebook drop it in the bathtub. No survival this time.

>Outside making chalk drawings with my three kids under age of 5. My 1-year-old son puts my phone into my water-glass. I go to take a drink and wonder what is black in my cup?! Phone did not survive.

>Have a friend over with her kids for a play date. Hear her daughter in the garage banging something, my friend starts to go check to make sure she isn’t damaging anything. I say, “oh don’t worry, there is nothing in there that is of value!” Turns out the banging is my tablet with the screen destroyed. Tablet worked, but screen was hard to read. Husband and I tried to DIY the screen killed the Tablet

>Due with baby number 4 in a week, can’t find my phone. I figure I left it somewhere because the baby in gestation is eating my brain cells and I have been losing everything recently. I find the phone under the kitchen table with the screen smashed. Culprit is still unknown, (Cough…my 3 year old son…cough). Phone still works, but has now turned into an MP3 player for my oldest.

When our phone contract came up and we could upgrade I was all on board. My husband however, stated that he was extremely nervous to get me another phone remembering my track record. He and I made a deal, I could get another smart phone as long as I get an indestructible case! My first thought, “uh why did you not suggest that 2 devices ago?!” So I got my phone and I got my case!

This experience made me think life would be so much easier if we could strap on an indestructible case onto our lives. Even when there are storms, accidents, and water damage, all would be air tight safe in our box. But this is not reality! So we have a couple of choices, live in denial, avoid any choice outside of preset conditions, or prepare and have a plan!!

The great gift that age brings with it is experiential wisdom! We have lived it. Teens often feel that parents don’t get it. That we don’t know what it feels like to be in their shoes. How wrong they are! We know exactly the struggles of being in adolescence. Life does look different now, but the awkwardness, the distress, lack of identity and direction, WE HAVE BEEN THERE! However, what we as parents have in experience we lack in communication. We are so desperate to keep our kids from harm that we try to put them in an Indestructible Case.

Parents, lets stop responding when a crisis happens and instead lets be proactive and preparative! Here are some things that have the risk of damaging your teen and need a plan to avoid a crisis.

Dating: what are your rules about dating-age, allowed activities, group or single dates, do the parents spend time with the couple, etc.

Friendships: define healthy friendships, what to do when they are not healthy, what does communication look like (ie can’t just text), how to resolve conflict, how to make good friendships

Bullies: defining who and what is a bully, what to do when struggling with a bully, what if it is on-line

Sex: what is sex, (believe me when I say that your kids think they know a lot, but when they don’t consider oral sex “sex”, there needs to be some education!); what is too far, why is it important to wait,

Pornography: what is porn, does the stuff on tv count as inappropriate, what about emotional porn (desiring the character in a book or movie and turning it into a fantasy that manipulates your standards for partners in an unhealthy and unrealistic way)

Technology Use: Cell Phones, Video Games, Computer, Internet, tablets, etc. what is appropriate use, what rules should you have, how to keep them safe

Drugs and Alcohol Use: what is alcohol and what are drugs, how to say no, what it does to your brain and body, what is addiction

Identity: how to help them discover who they are, how to be ok with weaknesses, and how to strengthen the areas of giftings, what to do when they feel lost or hopeless, ways to encourage self when feeling down about self,

Faith: help them discover what they believe and why, how to make their faith their own, how to talk to unbelievers, who do they turn to for spiritual answers,

This list is not all-encompassing, instead it is a place to start. It’s easy to guess what could damage a smart phone or device, therefore purchasing a case to prevent it is common sense. You may not know the exact culture your teens are walking through that may cause harm, but you can remember the basic struggles you had as a teen. Use those experiences as wisdom to equip your teen to be smart, be healthy, and to value themselves! And if that fails then wrap them in bubble-wrap and lock them in their room until Jesus comes back! Parents, we can not stop all harm from happening. But we can help prepare and assist while walking through it.

Paige Clingenpeel

Teen Therapist working with teens and parents on TV, Radio, Web-Based Media, Blogs, and Print. Presently a monthly contributor to the women's parenting & marriage site iMom.com, and host of TBN's Tween show iShine K'Nect. Paige also provides individual therapy at LifeSprings Counseling Center, and works at Parkview Health as a student assistant counselor assigned to Carroll High School. Paige is married to Ryan and has two daughters and two sons!