(as originally posted on the DadPad)
Merriam Webster defines a “counselor” as a person who gives advice. In the role of a lawyer, it’s someone who is an advocate for another. Both are descriptive of being a dad in those “tweener” years. Somewhere north of 7 or 8 years old and prior to high school, our children begin to put things together. The role of coach still applies (see previous two blog posts) but our kids are not as easily persuaded to simply take our “game plan” and they begin to want to know the “why” of life. They also need to know they have an “advocate”, someone who is on their side no matter what happens. Dad, you are “da man” for the “da job”.
As Counselor, you don’t need a degree in psychoanalysis to succeed in this role. You just need to begin taking time and invest in your children so that they can begin to ask questions about the life they are growing into. Somewhere between the ages of 8-10, I set up a time to “date” my children regularly. Coming up with a plan is half the battle. I took the birthdates of each of my kids and set that up as their monthly date night. It allowed me to sit across from my daughters or son in a fun place (dinner, sporting event, activity, grabbing a coke, etc) and provided the atmosphere where we could share life. Sometimes, we wouldn’t talk about anything substantial. Other times, out of an innocent date, discussions about the opposite sex, issues of faith or things going on at school with friends or teachers would evolve. It was at those times that I could “advise” and encourage. My “coaching” wasn’t as important as my listening and inserting wisdom where needed.
Then, between 11-13 my wife and I took our children on a Passport 2 Purity weekend, an event developed by FamilyLife. I took my son and my wife took our daughters. Issues such as how to deal with peer pressure, dating and developing moral standards of purity before they are tested were the subjects of the weekend. They were wrapped by a fun event of our choosing making for a memorable time. At the end of our weekend, I took my son out to dinner and gave him an engraved pocket knife to help him commemorate and remember the things we discussed. My wife had a similar experience with our daughters. They still remember it 5-7 years later!
Dad, being a counselor may sound overwhelming. My kids—your kids need advice. Here’s a truth and phrase I’ve use many times (even lately as my kids near adulthood)…”is the best place for you to get advice about life from your friend who is struggling or wondering about the same things you are?” Dad, don’t leave those valuable pre-teen and early teen years up to chance, someone else or to the “sage” advice of another 13 year old speaking into your children’s lives. We encourage you to embrace the role of counselor with great excitement and intentionality. Establish regular date nights with your kids. Plan a special Passport 2 Purity weekend. Take a trip or sit next to them on the couch with the TV off and just ask them, “How are you doing?” The investment will be invaluable and rewarding!
SOUND OFF: What practice or plan do you have with your child where you get the chance to offer valuable parental advice to your child during the ages of 8-14 (somewhere in this age bracket)?