Calling All Parents

     I was in downtown Selinsgrove the other day just as school was leaving out, so I was stopped by a crossing guard.  As I was sitting there, I began to think, "A crossing guard at a high school?" I'd seen it on other occassions but it had never really registered.
    In an instant, it was like everything I knew about our upside down society was encapsulated in that one act.  My daughters are high school age - fifteen and sixteen.  Not only would I trust them to cross a street by themselves, I would trust them to escort my grandchildren. For goodness sake, my son Andrew was getting himself out of bed to milk cows at 4:00 am before he was even old enough to drive a car!
    It's a strange paradox.  On one hand, we have kids coming home to an empty house after school, at say age 10, or maybe even younger, and left to their own devices.  Many kids are neglected in the true sense of the word.  Their parents are living lives almost as if they aren't parents.  They are available for little or no conversation, guidance, and role modeling for their kids.  They are trusting the school to raise them, and if their kids don't turn out right, that's who they blame. Many  think their only job is to make sure the kids are fed, clothed, and then sent off to the "babysitters" for the day.  Some of these kids  are even so "lucky" as to have their day extended by after school programs. Better that than being a latch key kid, right?
    My heart goes out to these kids who are shuffled around like excess baggage while their parents are too busy to even engage them.  Oh, they have things.  At least most do. They have things like cell phones, ipads, and video game systems.  They carry money in their pockets, and maybe even have access to their parents' credit cards.  But who really notices these "lost" souls?   Do we really think a day spent with peers with whom they have to jockey to be accepted and acknowledged, less they become the brunt of some cruel joke or the recipient of  brutal isolation, is a day well spent?
    Can we not see that although some kids flourish in school because they are exceptionally bright, athletic, or popular, many languish day after day as the kid that nobody knows, or cares to know.  Then they go home to distracted parents who dish out more of the same.  Is it any wonder that some of these lonely, empty kids turn to drugs, violence, sex, or gangs to fill the vacancies in their souls?
    It's time parents started seeing their kids as a whole person.  Vitamin pills, smoke detectors, and seat belts aren't enough.  We've gotten to the place where, in some respects, we're preoccupied with the exteriors.  We'll start saving for their college educations the day they are born, but neglect to even sit down and eat a meal together on a regular basis.  We'll make sure they wear the latest fashions with the best labels, but we've not attempted to connect with them through conversation.  May I suggest that your kids would rather have your attention than all the things you hand them?  Oh, of course they're going to ask for them.  Maybe even demand them, if you let them get away with it, but deep down, what they need and want most of all, is to be loved, trusted, accepted, and valued.
    They want you to put a little faith in them, unlike the schools who think they still need crossing guards.  They want to be treated with respect.  They want you to recognize their capabilities.  They want to earn things, not just be handed them, contrary to the way they behave.  They want to grow up!  Don't stand in their way.  Don't buy the lie that teenagers aren't capable of much.  Give them tasks and see them rise to the challenge. (Start out small if this is something new.)
     Our church uses the teens to work in the nursery, help with children's church, and set up tables for fellowship meals.  This is a healthy thing.  If all we do is try to entertain them with fun activities, we do them a disservice.
    Teens can be a real blessing.  These don't have to be the most destructive, irresponsible days of their lives.  In fact, given the right environment, it can be a time of wonderful growth, development, and friendship.


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