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When Parents and Friends Clash

"'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise." — Ephesians 6:2

by Larry W. Greider

Did you hear the one about the motorcyclist who was barreling down the highway with his jacket collar flapping in his face? To remedy the constant battering, he pulled over, removed his jacket and put it on backwards. Then he roared back onto the road at full throttle. It wasn't long before he collided violently with another vehicle.

Ambulances rushed to the scene. Paramedics began working on the victims. Shortly, a doctor arrived and stepped over to several attendants who were tending to the mangled motorcyclist. "How's he doing?" asked the physician.

One of the paramedics looked up with a grimace. "Not so good," he said, shaking his head. "He was breathing when we got here, but by the time we got his head turned around straight, he was dead."

Where are you headed?

Signposts Jokes aside, do you know where you are headed? Sometimes parents are concerned about the friends their children choose and sometimes they can react a little too quickly. They may think your friends are headed in the wrong direction, and that they will drag you down with them.

Perhaps the most difficult area for many parents to understand is the pressures and pulls that many teenagers face. When your parents were in school, students didn't kill other students or faculty. Armed guards and surveillance cameras and metal detectors were not issues. While the world has changed in recent years, parents still want you to be safe and successful. So it is easy for them to overreact! The stakes are much higher these days and mistakes in judgment can be critical.

If you have friends that your parents don't like, let me give you some advice based on lots of experience. As a father of four (my youngest is an older teen), I have seen lots of schoolmates over the years. One young man actually lived on our deck for a few nights before we discovered him huddled in a corner! He felt he was safe on our property, but lacked the courage to ring the doorbell.

Another time, my daughter told a close friend to call me anytime she was in trouble. She did, while we were at the Feast of Tabernacles, hundreds of miles away. How she tracked me down is still a mystery.

I've intervened with school authorities and parents on more than one occasion. Perhaps that is because my son told the school counselor that I was always ready to help students in trouble. On another occasion, I remember having to settle an argument when one of my sons ran into the house with a young man I'd never met. My son said, "Dad, tell him I keep the Sabbath and that's why I can't go to the football game." I have no idea what that was all about, but my answer seemed to calm him down. The point is, the advice I want to share with you comes from real-life experience.

Talk to your parents

My oldest daughter used to tell me that all her boyfriends were terrified of me. When I first heard that, I was shocked. How could a nice guy like me intimidate a starry-eyed young man who wanted to take my baby out on a date? I guess it must have something to do with body language! So what can you do if your parents seem intimidating to you?

Daughter talking with father The most important thing you as a teen can do is talk to your parents. Talk often and about many different things. Parents want to know what's going on in your head. If you develop the habit of expressing yourself to your mom or dad, it will pay off in many subtle ways. Meals eaten together as a family provide great opportunities to discuss things going on in your life. Sadly, with the frenetic pace of life, families hardly have time to eat a meal together and there is always something going on that makes parent/teen dialogue difficult. But get into the habit of talking to your parents. Search them out. Try the garage if Dad is working on the lawnmower or the kitchen while Mom is preparing dinner. If nothing else works, plop on your parents' bed at night and don't leave until you unload your burdens. Share your frustrations, joys, plans, stories and especially your friendships with them.

I remember one time interviewing a family whose teens had all grown up to be very successful adults with well-adjusted personalities and excellent relationships of their own. The secret, according to the mother, was that they had the habit of talking regularly about almost everything.

Tell your friends about your parents' strengths. All parents have some positive points. This will show that you respect and love them. Respect is a marvelous virtue and it works both ways. If you show respect for your parents, they are more eager to respect you and your decisions, including the friends that you choose.

Parental concern

One reason some parents clash with friends is their concern that you are being influenced to reject the values that they are trying to teach you. When others perceive a negative influence in your life, you should be thankful that they are trying to save you from problems and heartache. But often first impressions are wrong. Again, talk it out!

Try to have friends over so that your parents can observe them in action. Perhaps the green hair, tattoo and pierced eyebrow were just too much to absorb in the first encounter. Fads today can mimic the worst in the culture by following those who disrespect God, parents, the law, etc. While fads in fashion have been around a long, long time, the attitudes that often go with them have also been around since the Garden of Eden.

Trust your parents' sense and appreciate their motives. One day you'll be a parent and realize that it is very difficult to steer through the troubled world of a rapidly declining culture whose value-neutral tendencies are creating conflicted people. Your parents have learned lessons, sometimes the hard way, and want to shelter you from making similar mistakes.

The Bible reveals that "Evil company corrupts good habits" (1 Corinthians 15:33). If you have friends that send shivers through your parents, step back and analyze their concern. They may see some character traits that might influence you. Every encounter with an individual leaves some impression on us. When your parents come down heavy, realize they love you and want to protect and guide you in a way that will bring you lasting happiness and joy.

Wide variety of friends

In looking at the bigger picture of friendships, an important strategy is to have a wide variety of friends. To have friends, you must show yourself friendly (Proverbs 18:24). If you grow too dependent on one person, you might come to need his or her acceptance so much that you will compromise your convictions.

Strive to have church friends, school friends, relatives who are your friends and those in other age ranges who are also your friends. This will help broaden your perspective on life and give you a variety of approaches to observe and learn from.

The promise is real

Obeying the Fifth Commandment to honor your father and mother does indeed bring a benefit. As the scripture says, "'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: 'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth'" (Ephesians 6:2-3). God is your heavenly Father and He also wants you to be happy and attain your incredible human potential.

God made us to need other people and wants us to have many friends. Just be sure that they are good for you and that you are good for them. Believe it or not, parents often do know best! YU

About the author:
Larry Greider is the overall coordinator of United Youth Camps. He also pastors congregations in Salem and Collinsville, Illinois.

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