February 4, 2011
Do You Have the Time?
T. Suzanne Eller 

"How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog--it's here a little while, then it's gone. James 4:14 (NLT)         

Devotion:
"Would you rather spend a weekend with your parent, or receive a $200 gift certificate to the mall?"

I hit send and the question went out to hundreds of teens. As a mom of three teens at that time, my research for a book was as much a project for me as it was for the publisher.

For months I had asked teens from all over the nation about the pressures they faced, about faith, about communicating with their mom or dad, and other pressing issues. When I sent out this question, I thought I knew what the answers would look like.

I was wrong. I received hundreds of fun, introspective, and sometimes sad answers. One girl tried to negotiate. "What if I spent the weekend at the mall with my parents spending the gift certificate?" she asked. Others were painfully honest. "I choose the gift certificate. It would be too hard to have an entire weekend with my mom."

One teen sent me a long list of grievances about her relationship with her parents, choosing the gift certificate. She later sent a second e-mail. "The last time I spent any time with my mom was like...never! So I change my vote. I really love her, even if we don't always see eye to eye."

I had expected the results to be about 50/50. It weighed in at about 95/5 in favor of time with a parent. It appears that time equals love to a teen.

This can be confusing to a parent because the messages they get from their teen might seem to be: I want stuff. I need cold, hard cash, please. I want to do this, and that. And in order to fulfill our teen's wants, we spin our wheels trying to make it happen. It can also be confusing when we feel isolated from a teen as he or she updates their Facebook status, texts, or sits in front of the computer with their IPod earbuds firmly entrenched in their ears.

It's understandable that mixed messages can make us feel that teens don't want time with us, but the answers to the other questions in the survey revealed that the world they live in is often tricky to navigate, and quantity time with mom or dad can make it better.

Teens said they felt most loved in the unplanned moments sitting around a table and telling stories, or laughing at something silly until milk comes out of their nose, or when mom or dad sits beside their bed at night and asks them about their day--and really listens. Time equals love to a teen, even if they don't tell us in those words.

Why is it important? I believe one teen said it best: "Time with my parents or with just one of them would help things a lot. I would probably feel better about talking to them about what's going on in my life."

What distracts us from time with our children? In every family this looks different, but it's important to take an honest look at our own schedules and to adjust so that we can come alongside our children as they walk through this tricky thing called life.

Dear Lord, time passes so fast and I feel pressured by so many things. Please take inventory of my life and show me the places where I need to adjust. Look at every area and help me to know how to find balance, and to connect with my beautiful child. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Suzie's blog where Suzie shares 9 questions to help you and your family explore this issue further and for a free giveaway of Real Issues, Real Teens: What Every Parent Needs to Know

The Mom I want to be: Rising above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future by T. Suzanne Eller

When Your Child is Hurting: Helping Your Child Survive the Ups and Downs of Life by Glynnis Whitwer 

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Application Steps: 
What is your wish list of priorities?

Take an honest look at the amount of time spent on each. Write it down.

What are your real (actual) priorities (where you spend the most time)?

Reflections: 
I've learned that you can never be too old to hold your father's hand. ~Anonymous 4th grader

Power Verses:
Proverbs 16:1, "We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer." (NLT)

© 2011 by T. Suzanne Eller. All rights reserved.

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