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Question

My oldest just turned 15 and I’m starting to worry that I’ve not done enough as a father to prepare him, to give him the training he needs, to give him the right experiences, and so on. I didn’t have a great childhood and grew up in a messed-up home, so I have no idea what a kid needs to know before they leave home. I also have other kids behind him, so I want to make sure that all of them are getting what they need before they leave our home. Any suggestions on how I can make sure I’m on track?

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Answer

Your son is fortunate to have you guiding him into adulthood. The fact that you’re even asking a question like this is a solid indicator that you’re on the right track as you prepare him to live outside of your home. I recognize that you’re looking for specific answers, which I’ll share, but I also want you to recognize that your ongoing awareness of his need for you to be his mentor and guide is no small thing. Your presence and concern for his future is the most important thing he needs from you as a father.

You recognize that your family didn’t prepare you very well, yet, here you are longing to give your children something completely different. You are what Carlfred Broderick described as a “transitional family character.” Consider his beautiful description of this important family role:  

“God actively intervenes in some destructive lineages, assigning a valiant spirit to break the chain of destructiveness in such families. Although these children may suffer innocently as victims of violence, neglect, and exploitation, through the grace of God some find the strength to ‘metabolize’ the poison within themselves, refusing to pass it on to future generations. Before them were generations of destructive pain; after them the line flows clear and pure. Their children and children’s children will call them blessed. In suffering innocently that others might not suffer, such persons, in some degree, become as ‘saviors on Mount Zion’ by helping to bring salvation to a lineage.”[i]

I’m pretty certain you’ve already reversed many of the patterns you experienced in your family of origin; thus, sparing your children the chaos and isolation that caused you so much pain.

Even though you didn’t have personal role models for how family life could prepare children for adulthood, you now know what doesn’t work. It’s a safe bet that even doing the opposite of what you experienced will be healthier than what you experienced. However, swinging the pendulum the opposite direction doesn’t always leave you feeling intentional about what your kids really need. Here are some considerations as you stage your first child to launch into the world.

  1. Your role changes from managing to influence when your children leave home. In other words, you still have a significant role to play in their lives after your children leave home. When children are in your home, so much of what we do as parents is managing, structuring, and directing their lives (especially when they’re little). As they grow into adolescence and young adulthood, we manage less and influence more. And, when they’re fully on their own, they’ll have a trusted guide who can help influence them as they enter new phases of life.
  2. You can’t teach your children every life lesson at home. Some experiences can only be learned by, well, personal experience. Even though we work to help our children steer clear of painful mistakes, a critical aspect of their development is to pass through their own trial and error process. In the years following their departure from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve both praised God for the mistakes they had made, recognizing that their personal growth and subsequent joy was tied to these experiences.[ii] Even Alma the Younger remembered his father’s teachings about Jesus Christ when he was in the depths of despair.[iii] Keep teaching your values and lessons, trusting that your children will “know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”[iv]
  3. Pattern your family after the nine principles for successful families taught in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. These principles are: faithprayerrepentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”[v] You are more likely to create a healthy family environment as you intentionally create conditions in your home that follow these inspired principles.
  4. Teach them that making mistakes isn’t the end of the world. One of the best things you can do to prepare them for life as an adult is to show them what happens when mistakes happen. Show them that they can repair, apologize, and keep moving forward. Teach them about your own process of dealing with mistakes, accountability, and growth. Let them know that when they make mistakes, they’re learning. As you reveal your own personal process of learning from your mistakes, you’ll not only give them permission to be human, but also show them how to grow from their experiences.

Your care and concern for your children is doing more for them than either of you can possibly understand at this stage of life. As you stay with them through all of the stages of life, your influence and guidance will be a tremendous blessing to them and future generations.[vi]

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]

If you or a loved one are struggling with the devastating impact of pornography issues, sexual betrayal, and relationship trauma, I have created a 6-part audio program to help married couples strengthen their recovery. You can purchase the 6-hour audio program here for a limited time at the reduced price of $29 – https://geoff-steurer.mykajabi.com/marriage-recovery

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). Geoff also hosts the Illuminate Podcast (https://soundcloud.com/geoff-steurer/sets/illuminate-podcast) and has produced programs and resources to help couples rebuild broken trust. He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCc05gV4t9A0B8-TDT1EfWhQ?view_as=subscriber

Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT
Instagram: @geoffsteurer


[i] http://scripturalmormonism.blogspot.com/2019/03/carlfred-broderick-on-question-of.html

[ii] Moses 5:10-11

[iii] Alma 36:17

[iv] 2 Nephi 25:26

[v] https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation

[vi] https://foreverfamilies.byu.edu/Pages/becoming-transitional-character