Connecting the Hearts of Parents and Teenagers in 30 Days

by Richard Ross, Ph.D. on Thursday, November 10, 2005

A fair percentage of typical church families are not well at home. About half of church teenagers live with some sense of emotional loneliness or emptiness related to their parents. How can you give teenagers and their families the gift of emotional healing?

30 Days: Turning the Hearts of Parents and Teenagers Toward Each Other

A heart connection

A heart connection between parent and child mirrors the connection between Father God and His children. Biblical counselors believe this connection is primarily composed of unfailing love, biblical significance, and true security. When a teenager lives in such an atmosphere, he has a strong connection with his parents. That heart connection serves as a pipeline that carries the faith, values, and even morality from parent to child. Teens with strong heart connections with parents usually sail through the teen years unscathed and become vibrant, godly young adults. Their numbers are just too few.

How heart connections get broken

Here is a common chain of events.

  • Parents can break a heart connection by making "love" conditional on good behavior, failing to say and do those things that communicate significance, and allowing their marriage to stagnate.
  • Parents can become preoccupied with discipline and behavior only.
  • Parents can become preoccupied with career, possessions, peace of mind, social life, or other issues.
  • Parents can leave home during a divorce.
  • Parents can abuse children by withholding warmth from them.

What follows broken heart connections

There are usually consequences of broken heart connections. Here is what commonly happens in the life of the teenager.

  • The break of a heart connection causes pain for the teenager.
  • The hurting teenager seeks to protect himself from further pain.
  • The teenager seeks to protect himself by pushing away his parents.
  • The teenager pushes away the parent's faith, values, and morality.
  • The teenager usually embraces peers and culture to fill the void.
  • The teenager usually embraces faithlessness and immorality.
  • The teenager is no longer impacted by the faith and spiritual instruction of parents.

The 30-Days experience

More than 10,000 families have experienced 15 minutes together for 30 evenings. They have used the resource 30 Days: Turning the Hearts of Parents and Teenagers Toward Each Other to know exactly what to say to each other. The resource is made up of sealed cards. The parent and teenager break a seal on cards for that evening. For the first time, they get to see the five cards inside. Some are for the parents and some are for the teenager. The cards guide them in knowing exactly what to say and do.

Some evenings are marked by laughter and some by tears. Every night prompts prayer in creative and meaningful ways. Strong families report this process has taken their relationships to the next level. Weaker families report relationships have been restored and life won't be the same.

Mobilizing most families to experience 30 Days

You can give the gift of restored family relationships by providing this experience for families of teenagers in your church. Here is how you can plan the experience.

Order the number of notebooks you estimate you may need. Allow three weeks for delivery.

Enlist two or three families to begin the experience. Choose families who can impact other students and parents.

Plan your church's largest-ever gathering of parents and students about one month later. Plan to meet during Sunday School in the auditorium, chapel, fellowship hall, or youth area. (The weakest parents will not come on church property any other time than Sunday morning.)
If it will increase attendance, serve a light breakfast or platform a respected counselor. Primarily, allow the families who just completed 30 Days to describe what has happened in their relationships.

Invite all families to begin a 30 Day experience together that evening. (Motivation may wane if there is a delay.) Direct families to tables to purchase their notebooks.

Announce a celebration for the families about 30 days from that date.

Store any remaining notebooks for the families of rising 7th graders and for families who join during the year.

Healthy families and vibrant youth groups

Youth groups change as families connect hearts. Teenagers assemble ready to worship with intimacy and power. They sit at the feet of their leaders, now anxious to hear a word from God. They listen for God's call to ministry as a lifetime vocation or to front-line ministry while young. With the hole in their hearts healed, this generation of students may rise up with a passion and boldness unseen in our lifetime.

We can also expect to see mushrooming collegiate ministries, both in our churches and on campuses. Collegians who never needed to push away the faith and values of parents will have no problem setting alarm clocks for Sunday morning.

With all the resolve within me, I call on parents to turn their hearts to their children and, once that is done, to teach and model truth in the power of God.

Dr. Richard Ross is a former youth minister and consultant, the co-founder of True Love Waits, and is presently Profesor of Student Ministry and J.M. Price Chair of Religious Education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Payment Options: LifeWay Account, MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express

LifeWay Accounts are for churches, ministries, and businesses only. Organizations having a not for profit status may also enjoy savings by not having to pay sales tax on qualifying products.

Your trusted source of Christian resources since 1891

LifeWay Christian Resources, Religious Goods, Nashville, TN