We have three girls in our house, two of whom are teenagers. Boys are a regular discussion at this point in their lives—the cute ones, the annoying ones and everything in between. We adore our teenagers and love how they share what's going on in their lives and the lives of their friends. For the past year, our oldest daughter has had a boyfriend.
We still have trouble saying that.
We were those parents who said we'd never let the girls date, and maybe we'd consider it when they were 25. But like many parenting declarations, we had to step back, pray and readjust last year. God loves to readjust our thinking. It's usually safest to not hold our own opinions too tightly because we are human, and therefore, often wrong. Or at least skewed.
The boy entered our lives last May. Our daughter had been friends with him and despite the fact that she wouldn't admit it right away, she smiled and giggled when she talked about him. We knew then we were in trouble. But we had a no-dating rule firmly in place (one that is still in place for her younger sisters by the way) so she asked if he could come over to the house to "hang out." This went on for several months. Hanging out at our house, watching Netflix, having dinner.
By July, we felt like saying they were '"friends'" was dishonest somehow. They clearly liked each other. And because he had been in our home regularly, we got to know him, too. His character was good and we didn't have any real concerns about the relationship. So we prayed, readjusted and let them be "official"—with one clear rule in place. They had to always have a chaperone, someone else who was in the room or nearby. If they went to a public restaurant, they could go alone, but we drove them there. We created boundaries based on our comfort levels and—we believe—wisdom from God.
Now, a year later, we find ourselves looking back and being surprised by a blessing that we never expected.
By creating these boundaries, the boy has become a part of our family. Even the younger sisters will text him when they have a math question (He's very good at math). After all, the younger sisters are often the chaperones. He's been respectful of the boundaries and feels free to text both of us.
By creating an environment that encouraged our daughter and this boy to build a relationship that wasn't about the physical, we've all gotten the chance to get to know him.
And the example that the oldest is setting for the younger girls is pretty amazing. By seeing a healthy teen relationship, they are very quick to see the problems and red flags in the others around them at school. Hopefully our marriage is doing that too, but we are pleased with the teen example they are providing.
It's not some magic formula, but we think if the boy had not been comfortable being a part of our family, the relationship would have ended long ago. The fact that it didn't, and they've continued to be respectful of the boundaries, says something wonderful about both of them. Boundaries are not only healthy, but they bring life.
It's always a fun surprise when God gives you wisdom and it not only turns out to be great (which we should expect), but so much more.
We are constantly amazed that people tackle this parenting thing without the wisdom and guidance of God through the Holy Spirit. We'd be lost without it!
Do you have any parenting tips you'd like to share with us? We love to hear from you!
Jeff and Sarah Sumpolec have been married for 19 years, and Jeff has been a therapist in private practice for more than 10 years. They have three daughters together and Sarah writes for and speaks to teens. Visit them at www.sarahannesumpolec.com.
This article originally appeared at just18summers.com.
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