Parents, when was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with your teenager? Young people, when have you really talked with your parents?
For all of the attempts to label this era "the information age," we actually do very little discussing one with another. In many cases the "discussion" may actually be one-sided with parents demanding and children rebelling. Or it may be that teens have turned off their receptors and tuned into something else. Whatever the reason, now is the time to talk and, even more important, listen to each other.
The voices teenagers are hearing these days are becoming more crass, more vulgar and more sexually explicit. The messages on television, in the movies and on the Internet are loud, titillating and extreme. What was once shocking in both language and content now almost appears routine. If we believe those messages, the human family has been reduced from individuals with spiritual sides to mere objects to be used up and passed along.
Families need to regain their sense of selves and their sense of purpose. Love, which should be at the root of relationships, needs to be expressed. The Savior's message, found in the scriptures and restated today by Church leaders, is that each individual is important and each has much to give if given proper nourishment. One place to begin is between parents and teenagers. Real dialogue means speaking and listening:
Focus on the positive. Share your own goals and what you are doing to accomplish them both as a family and individually. Don't be afraid to ask for help as you work on them.
Keep your standards high. If you forbid your children to attend R-rated movies and you go yourself, what message are you sending? Teens can sense any double-standard quickly.
Know your teens' friends and their parents. Encourage them to go to activities and social events as a group. School and Church activities are worthwhile, but make sure you continue to do things together as families.
Hold regular and meaningful family home evening. Go out of your way to do it.
Enforce the rules. Make sure all family members know about curfews, dating policies and what consequences await if they ignore them. But remember also the Savior's admonishment that after reproving there should be a "showing forth afterwards [of] an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death." (Doctrine & Covenants 121:43-44.)
Stay true to the teachings of the Savior. President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, "This work stands as an anchor of stability, an anchor of values, in a world whose values are shifting. We stand for something. Our values find their roots in the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are unchanging. They are today as they were when Jesus walked the roads of Palestine. They are as applicable now as they were then. They have been tested in the cauldron of human history, and they have not been found wanting. We expect great things of our people. This religion is demanding. It requires self-discipline. It requires study and courage and faith." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 676.)
Choose good role models, especially those who are enthusiastic about the gospel and live its teachings. Study the scriptures to see how the prophets and saints of old dealt with problems and challenges.
Don't let discouragement overwhelm you. Despite our best efforts, we all stumble on occasion. Move on as quickly as circumstances allow. Refocus your efforts on each other, continue to pray always and seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
Remember, we need not feel ashamed or self-conscious when we choose the right. President Hinckley has said: "Every man and every woman who joins this Church and clings to its teachings will live a better life, will be a happier man or woman, will carry in his or her heart a great love for the Lord and His ways." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 676.)
These are great challenges. If we meet them individually and together we can attain eternal life in the Kingdom of God.