How to Teen-Proof Your Marriage


New co-worker listening to explanations of businessman

Yeah, I know! The only way to truly teen-proof your marriage is to never have kids in the first place.

But now that they are here, what do you do?

Obviously, locking our cute little fourth and fifth graders in their room until they are responsible adults is not an option.

The tween and teen years are a time of helping them try to figure out what works and what doesn’t, who they are, who they want to be, and learning skills that will launch them, hopefully, into mature responsible adults. I love how one youth director put it, “It is the time when we get to help them figure out why God made them into the unique being that He created.  This is when they need to discover why He put them on planet earth.”

Great goal! (But that’s another post.)

So, how do you deal with all the running, the stress, the conflict, and just surviving having teens in your household?

Try thinking ahead.

Together. As a married couple.

So where do you start?

  1. Answer the question.  How will we handle the situation if ___________ happens? Then fill in the blank with your worst fears. Parties? Dating? Car accident? Premarital sex? Birth control? Alcohol? Drugs? Unplanned Pregnancy? Financing College? And I’m sure you can think of a lot more.
  2. Prioritize your responses.  Start with the issues you think could potentially come first in your child’s life.
  3. Talk through them as a couple.  These are great date night topics.  This is where you find out how your spouse feels about whatever the topic of the night is.
  4. Listen to each other.  Remember these topics are “what if’s or when’s”; they may never happen–some obviously will.  How will you handle them?

You might want to consider these discussions at least a year or two before the potential of the event.  For example, if you know that your kid can get her license at the age of 16, start talking about what your rules will be by the time they are 15.  Once the two of you have decided what the rules might be for getting a license and what boundaries you will put around her actually driving, start talking to your child about it in advance.

Dialogue might go something like this: “Kari, it’s hard to believe you’ll be able to get your license in six months.  One of the things your dad and I have been talking about is that you will need to be thinking about paying half of the car insurance.  We’ll let you drive my car, but know that we’ll have some specific rules about when, where, and with whom.”

Continue those dialogues frequently so that your child knows what to expect.

Remember, your kids are already setting their expectations and most likely they aren’t in line with what you’re thinking.  Your job is to take those expectations and turn them into reality before the time comes.  That way the excitement of the moment doesn’t turn into an emotional battle of wills.

And for those things that typically blow a parent’s mind like alcohol, drugs or unwanted pregnancy, dealing with the possibility that those things could happen will help you know what to do if they become a reality.

As you well know, the things we fear can send us into an emotional spiral if they indeed happen.  Anticipating them helps us stay one step ahead of our teens and can calm the waters within ourselves.

Our advice to the parents we mentor is always the same.

  • Mom and dad need to be on the same team.
  • Anticipate.
  • Assume that the storms will be coming.
  • Premeditate your parenting. 

Let’s face it, the way your parents parented and the way your spouse’s did are two totally different ways. This is a time to “merge” those ideas. Take the best of both worlds!

If you see other families that seem to be doing it right, ask what they are doing. If you like it, talk about it, put your own spin on it, and try it out.

But most important, “Be on the same page before you react!”

Remember, that if you fight the battles together as you parent, your marriage will be stronger.

Malachi 2:15

Has not [the LORD] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.

Still reminding myself to be proactive in my parenting.

“Let go…and let God”,


In 5 days, you too can start having a more fulfilling relationship with your teens and tweens.  Click here to find out more.

You can also sign up for free Parenting Tips!

Seizing the Moment

Sweet chip cookies with dry cranberry,selective focus

Sitting in my kitchen drinking my morning tea, I had my to-do list in hand. All those things I didn’t get done last week!!

If you are like me, sometimes I obsess over what hasn’t gotten accomplished. Life is good when things are being removed from my to-do list. It’s finished…time to celebrate by marking it off the list!! When nothing leaves the list…it obviously was a bad week…or is it?

As I started thinking about all the things that had gotten in the way of a successful week, I felt God’s gentle nudge.

“Debbie, success in your eyes is getting THINGS done. Think back to what happened last week. Was it really a bad week? Would you want to trade the time you would have spent doing something on this list over what you did?”


In my mind, the replay of my week began.

My son had text me the night before he was to come home from college for fall break. “Mom, would you mind coming to get me? I don’t think I need to be driving home. I’m sore from getting hurt in a basketball game and don’t think it would be wise for me to be on the road.”

Luckily, I had looked at the situation as a sign of maturity rather than in light of my to-do list. My 19 year old had put enough forethought into the fact that he shouldn’t be driving because of his pain!! Of course I went to go get him!

It cost me six hours of driving time over a four day period, but it was time that we spent together…talking and catching up on each other’s world. It eased us back into the “back to normal” relationship we had before he left for school. I wouldn’t have traded it for a moment!

So what else did I do? I took my son to a couple of doctors since he didn’t have his car home to drive himself. We talked, we spent time together laughing, joking, and talking about how walking into one of the doctor’s offices was like going to visit family! It wasn’t a burden…it was good!!

We even had lunch at his favorite restaurant.

The joy I saw on his face while he was eating his favorite meals I had taken time to fix, made my time well spent. We laughed about how tired he was with the cafeteria food on campus and the only pizza place in the small college town wasn’t a national chain. It was good to watch how he was learning to appreciate the small things in life…even my cooking!

Then there was worship together on Sunday morning and the discussion of the sermon on the ride home of how he could implement it in his own life. We talked about churches he had visited near the college campus. Wow, he’s starting to think so much more deeply having been on his own for less than three months. One of life’s joys!

Yes, he asked if I would do his laundry…and I did (not grudgingly because I knew the pain he was in). As I pulled out what I thought would be a mountain of stinky stained college kid shirts that had probably shrunk from being in too hot of a dryer and sheets that had probably been on the bed since he left, I was amazed to see that it wasn’t at all what I expected! He had obviously learned the secret of washing clothes that would even make his grandmother proud. An opportunity to affirm his movement into self-sufficiency and give him kudos for a job well done!

Then I remembered the “cookie request”.

“Mom, it sure would be great if you could make another batch of cookies for the guys in the dorm.”

How could I turn that down?

His roommate had even jumped on Skype with us one night about a month ago thanking me for the best cookies ever. So with a heart of joy and contentment, I made a batch of cookies for him to take back to his new friends…my gift of love.

While the thought of the week made me smile, laughing that I had thought that my unaccomplished tasks on my to-do list were more important, a wave of sadness also surrounded me.

Why had I not taken those opportunities with all my kids?

What was so important that it couldn’t have waited?

I rejoiced that I had finally learned to live in the moment rather than thinking about all those things not done…but how many opportunities had I squandered? How many times have I forfeited relationship with my kids for THINGS on my to-do list?

I had no idea what that text to go get my son from college would teach me. But I’m learning…

Psalm 46:10

“Be still and know that I am God”

As our children get older there will be less time to connect. Seize every opportunity and be in the moment when they desire our time and service. Be still…listen to their desires and dreams…fill their cups to overflowing with your love…that way, they’ll want to come back for more.

Respect the fact that they are becoming adults but sometimes still want to just enjoy having mom or dad be there for them.

DARE YOU to respond to a reasonable request of your time from your tween, teen, or twenty-something without listing all the things you won’t get done because you are being there for them.

DOUBLE DARE YOU to initiate some time to take your kid out for some one-on-one time at their favorite restaurant or ice cream place talking about their world.

Hoping to re-establish patterns to live in the moment!

“Let Go… and Let God”,



In 6 days, you too can start having a more fulfilling relationship with your teens and tweens.  Click here to find out more.  

You can also sign up for free Parenting Tips!

Why Should We be Surprised at Transgender Bathrooms?

Swimming pool - swimmer training competition in class with coach

Target shocked the world with their announcement of transgender bathrooms as the masses cried out in outrage. Protesters boycott the store while the ACLU director quits her job because she says it threatens women’s safety after her girls were visibly upset at having used a restroom with towering transgender women.

The real question is how we got here.  It obviously didn’t happen overnight.

Since my kids are in their twenties, I’ve seen a slow eroding of modesty that didn’t exist a decade before they were born.  Long gone are the days when schools enforced dress codes that were written in black and white and parents didn’t question the authority of school officials when their kids were sent home or given something else to wear for the day.

While most of us can look back at that A-Ha moment when the world was not what we thought it should be, mine was when my 9 year old was on the swim team.  I remember well the excitement when the outdoor pool was covered with a dome for winter training for the first time.  While typically changing out of wet swimsuits would take place in respective dressing rooms, kids would now be forced to run wet through the cold outdoors to get to the inside changing areas.  

Oh my, we can’t have that.

Enter make-shift dressing rooms on the pool deck.

Curtains on iron rods were situated on opposite corners of the pool deck–one for girls, the other for boys.  It seemed like a good option–until the season was in full-swing.

By mid season, the older kids seemed to shun the improvised dressing rooms.  Deciding it was easier to just dress on deck, teen girls would be seen dawning t-shirts over wet swimsuits, pulling the wet suit down half way and putting a bra on underneath while 9 and 10-year-old kids were entering the pool area for their designated swim time.  

Next thing these impressionable kids would see would be a girl shimmying the rest of her suit off  and gently pulling on her lace underwear.  Yes, she was covered by her longer t-shirt or sometimes a towel, but of course those t-shirts or towels weren’t always fully hiding everything.  And towels would accidentally drop.  And the giggling would start.

Soon the high school boys were doing the same.  Not the bras, mind you, but you get the idea.

And parents and coaches stood by and said nothing. “Oh well, we can’t have them get sick from the cold. At least they’re covered.”

Meanwhile my impressionable 9 year old was taking notice of how the world operated.

Fast forward almost a decade and things were continuing to evolve.  By now, school officials might have a dress code for students, but it was rarely if ever enforced.

Volunteering as a chaperone for a homecoming dance opened my eyes yet again to the real world my child lived in.  The dress code had been made clear but I stood mouth gaping open as I witnessed a high school principal look at a girl’s dress that left little to the imagination and said, “You know that outfit doesn’t meet dress code, but I’ll let you in this time without calling your parents.” 

The girl put on her smile and boldly walked into the school gym while parent chaperones stood appalled.

By the time my third was in high school band, I realized how far the getting dressed in the same room had gotten. Now it was a given.  Even for school functions.  Boys and girls changed clothes on the bus for every competition without thinking a thing about it. 

Why can’t they use separate buses as dressing rooms?  For heaven’s sake, if you are driving four buses to an event why not designate two for boys and two for girls as dressing areas?  How difficult is that?

But no one thinks of that any more.

Our kids accept it as normal because the adults in their lives have learned to accept it as normal.

1 Peter 5:2a

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them

1 Peter 5:8

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Outraged parents are vigilant in their out-lash against Target, but are we being as persistent when it hits a little closer to home?  Are we willing to take a stand in our own communities–in our kid’s schools or activities?

Is the ‘creep’ of unacceptable to acceptable happening under our eyes as parents and we’re oblivious to it?

Dare you to look at your values and take a stand in your ‘neck of the woods’.  And while you’re at it, take time to talk to your kids about what you see in their world.  Engage them in the culture battle.

“Let go…and let God”,


In 8 days, you too can start having a more fulfilling relationship with your teens and tweens.  Click here to find out more.




Who’s Controlling Your Family?

Young woman in red dress and man with a glass of wine talking in the cafe or restaurant

Coming home from a 6:00 am men’s group at our church, my husband put his book on the kitchen counter. “Wow! This morning really made me think about how I grew up and the impact moms have on their kid’s lives. They played a video of a Mom’s letter to her son and I felt like they were reading a letter your mother might have written you.”

He certainly had my attention.

Drying my hands on the dishtowel, I knew I wanted to hear more. For my husband to come home that excited about something was an anomaly. He was obviously having an A-ha moment of better understanding our family tree. After 34 years of marriage, four children, and over two decades of parenting blunders, he was beginning to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

“The letter was unbelievable!” he continued. “The mom was obviously pulling out her arsenal of threats to get what she wanted.


“In the process, she was destroying the relationship with her son and his family. I felt like I was watching a video of our own lives being played out after we got married,” he continued.

Oh my.

As my husband kept sharing the story from class, we began taking stock of our children and our relationships with each of them. We transitioned to talking about what a healthy separation process looked like.

Oh, no!

Daggers to a mother’s heart.

Is there really such a thing as healthy separation?

Many of us grew up with mothers from whom we have never successfully separated. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying that having a relationship with your mom or dad is a bad thing. It can be awesome.

But can it be unhealthy?

If you have to choose between Mom and Dad’s advice or your spouse’s desires, do your parents win? Does your family of origin trump your own family’s needs?

Hmm–something to ponder.

As parents we have to figure out how to relinquish control of our kids in a healthy way that will allow them to be men and women of strength and character.

Pausing long enough to take inventory, I was reminded of all the unhealthy things I had done in years previously to convince my family that we needed to honor my parents’ requests.  Or maybe better phrased—demands.

How many times had I felt caught in the middle between my mother and my husband in decisions we made for our kids?  Or my mother and my kids?

And, I’ll admit, sometimes my mom won and my husband lost or grandma won and my kids lost.

Heaven forbid that I disappoint my mother.

Sad, but true.


Several years prior to this conversation with my husband, I had taken a marriage class called Daughters of Sarah. In light of our dialogue, I was now looking at a couple of scriptures from the course in a different light.

Ephesians 5:33b

…And the wife must respect her husband.


Matthew 19:5-6

‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

I wonder if God was potentially thinking about how my mom, dad, or in-laws might get in the way of my husband and me being united in our parenting decisions?

One of my sons had recently married at the time of this conversation with my husband.  I remember well my quiet time that day.

“Lord, please help me not get in the way of my son’s marriage.” I cried out. “Help me to be an encourager–a cheerleader for them to make decisions together without my interference. Help me to allow them to spread their wings—to have their own family that doesn’t feel like I’m a mom butting in to their business.”

“And, please Lord, with the children that are still at home in my care, help me to make decisions on what I think best rather than taking the advice of others.  Help me to put my husband’s suggestions in a higher place of consideration over my mother’s.”

I have started taking that prayer seriously. When my mother starts to chime in about something my kids are doing–my response?

“Mom, I love you dearly, but this is a decision for our immediate family. Be the grandmother and watch from a distance; that’s your role now.”

And if you have married children?

Why not write the couple a letter or note?

  • Tell them how proud you are of both of them.
  • Assure them you will never take sides in their arguments.
  • Explain all you are learning in the parenting process.
  • Let them know that you view both of them as your children.
  • Assure them that you accept their creation of a new family unit–independent from you.
  • Promise that your goal is to make sure that your actions do nothing to come between them.

As parents, we can influence both generations if we are willing to take healthy steps to ensure that each of us is playing our God-ordained role.

DARE YOU to take stock of your relationships with your parents to determine if they are having a healthy impact on your tweens and teens.

DOUBLE DARE YOU to have conversation with your spouse and decide how to let your twenty-somethings go in a healthy way.

Still Learning to do the tough stuff!

“Let go…and let God”,


In 12 days, you too can start having a more fulfilling relationship with your teens and tweens.  Click here to find out more.

Is It Time to Let Go?

happy young business woman talking on cellphone outdoor

A couple of years ago I dropped off my son, the last of four, at college. Since he is less than an hour and a half away, I wasn’t overly emotional in leaving knowing this was the moment I had been working toward since the day he was born. Having survived each of my other children leaving the nest, I was confident that this child had finally arrived at a point when it was time to test his wings.

Bittersweet, yet knowing he is in God’s hands, my brain took me back to years past when I had four little ones under foot, foolishly thinking that ‘this day would never arrive’.

“Ha, it is here!”

Wanting to convey our love for our son and leave him with assurance that he could be successful, my husband uttered words of affirmation as he worked hard to hold back the tears. Confidently, my son’s parting words to us were unlike any we had heard from our other children.

“Dad, Mom, I can feel it; this is where I’m supposed to be. I made the right choice!”

The drive home was more than a little quiet as his dad and I each wrestled with our memories, emotions, and dawning of our new stage of life called empty-nest. With the thought of some of those overwhelming years of tweens and teens, I caught myself thinking… “Yippee!! Freedom!” But five minutes late, the “Yippee!!” feeling was slowly ebbing away and I caught myself praying and asking God to help me find my new reality.

Hovering in the back of my mind were the memories from my other kids’ ventures into the promised land of college, along with the phone calls of wanting to come home having frustrations of trying to figure out to survive in their new world. “That’s right,” I smiled as I told myself, “he’ll be calling two to three times a day for a while until he gets settled…”

With that thought, my expectations were set. I excitedly anticipated the call as I poured through my “As soon as my son heads off to college To-Do list.” As I cleaned areas in the house that hadn’t been touched since we had moved in almost a decade ago, I couldn’t help but rehearse my list of questions to ask when he called. “Did he find his classes? How’s the roommate working out? Has he made friends? How are the professors? Any cute girls? Are you bored with the cafeteria food yet?”

I waited…and waited. Two days went by…then three.

Ah, I’ll shoot him a quick text.


Maybe an e-mail?


Finally…four days later…a call. “Hallelujah!!”

As I grabbed the phone and sat in my favorite chair for a long chat, he muttered something he needed me to do. “Yeah! He still needs me,” I rejoiced. After his quick request and my assurance to take care of it, I could tell he was ready to end the conversation, but being a seasoned Mom, I quickly started my litany of questions. Before even getting to question number two, I got the “gotta go, Mom” response that ended the call.

Disappointment sat in like a dark cloud.

As I contemplate my new reality, it is becoming painfully obvious, that it is time once again to let go in order to stay engaged. I’ve learned over the years that letting go means that I must once again recognize that God created this child to be a separate human being apart from myself. God has a plan for this child at this season of his life as well as a plan for me. There will be times for our lives to intersect and times when they won’t, EVEN WHEN I DESPERATELY WANT THEM TO!

God’s word keeps speaking to me over and over as the silent walls of our home echo around me.

Jeremiah 29:10-13

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Duh, I know this! However, once again I need to be reminded. Emotional times, times of disappointment, and new seasons of life are intended to bring us back to the Creator. He’s there to help us through the difficulties of parenting when we are constantly in the throes of transition. Each day we are moving toward that time when we will have to let them spread their wings.

The questions I keep contemplating are–

  • Am I allowing my son to gracefully soar out of the nest ready to catch him if he needs assistance, or am I holding on too tight so that MY emotional needs are met?
  • Am I ready to let go of the expectations I have for my child so that God can reveal the plans he has for him and ME?

No matter what the stage of life, tweens, teens, or twenty-something, as parents we need to continually remind ourselves that God created our children as separate from us. He has different plans for my sons and daughter than he has for me. Will I trust Him to be God of their lives rather than continually thrusting myself into that role?

Dare you to join me in contemplating the relationship you have with each of your kids, especially if they are tweens or older. What expectations do you have of them that you need to let go of?

Double dare you to ask several friends to join me on the journey.

I’m excited about being on this parenting journey together!

“Let go… and let God”,


In 13 days, you too can start having a more fulfilling relationship with your teens and tweens.  Click here to find out more.

5 Things to Instill in Our Kids as They Play Pokemon Go

Attractive woman wearing sunglasses relaxing in a deckchair in the sun sending an sms on her mobile phone

Pokemon took the world by storm in the late 90’s with kids everywhere getting sucked into the vortex.  I remember well the debate in Christian circles of whether or not we should allow our kids to participate.   It was a time when mainstream churches tended to be black and white.  It was either good or evil.  Those furry creatures could quickly corrupt our kids and pull them into those evil video games (or so we thought).

But the world isn’t so black and white any more.  And I will admit that I was one of those dreaded moms in Christian circles, especially Christian homeschool groups, who allowed my children to play Pokemon.  It took me a while to actually give in to my boys, but after having my seven year old sit down and explain the logic in the card game, we caved.  Besides, those furry creatures were kinda cute.

My boys have fond memories of sitting upstairs in the attic over our garage that we made into their “club house”.  Friends would squirrel away with our kids for Pokemon battles that took place on our makeshift card table with the kerosene heater blazing in winter and the coolness of the fan in summer–that is until our youngest chased the cat and accidentally stepped on the ceiling sending the drywall onto the top of the raised garage door (but that’s a whole different story). 🙂

Who knew that almost two decades later society would once again have an outbreak of the Pokemon craze?  Now on our smartphones no less, with 24/7 opportunities because we “Gotta Catch ‘Em All”.  While we have laws in place against texting a driving, now we’re having car crashes over Pokemon Go and people are litterally falling off cliffs.  Cemetery, museum, and property owners are crying out urging people to stop the madness and show some respect.

I’ll admit, one of my twenty-somethings, who excited about the new game, just came back from a cemetery a few hours ago.  What he witnessed was unbelievably sad.  “Mom, there were well over 100 cars in the place driving around the circles.  Parents were pulling off into the grass and in the chaos driving over graves.  It took security to usher traffic out of the way when a funeral procession pulled in.  Even the groundskeepers were hacked off at the litter they were finding on what is typically pristine grounds.  I saw kids screaming in delight over the lure they acquired while loved ones were their to mourn their deceased loved ones.”


How do we as a society, especially as parents, teach our kids responsibility and respect when surrounded by adults that seem to have neither?

And how do we instill those values in the midst of a world that is glued to their phone like a zombie apocalypse?

It’s easy for our teens and tweens to get wrapped up in the popularity of the game where it becomes all they want to do.  How do we use it to teach values that we want to instill without becoming “one of those parents” always yelling to get their attention?

  1. Get excited with your kids.  Interact and have your kids teach you the strategy.  Take walks together; go explore new neighborhoods.  Become part of their world. You have a unique opportunity here to become engaged.  It’s part of your kids’ culture.
  2. Talk about the problem.  Fun needs to have limits and talking about what is happening in the news with Pokemon helps our kids see the potential dangers of a good thing.  Talk about the car accident, the cliff incident, and respect.
  3. Talk about Pokemon in light of your faith.  Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Or maybe Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Perhaps you can use these to help your kids put perspective on the amount of time they should be spending focused on the game.
  4. Let the kids help you set boundaries for their game.  Let them know that even though it’s a great game, it can’t be all they do.  Use the game of Pokemon to teach life balance.
  5. Teach your kids to handle disappointment.  When the servers to down help your kids recognize their disappointment.  Talk about it.  Help them understand what they are feeling and move on emotionally.

As Christian parents we need to help our kids navigate the culture in a way that helps guide them away from the pitfalls–not necessarily exclude them from the game. It’s easy for any of us to get lured into the excitement of the electronic gaming world.

But we do need to live in the world.

It’s the how we navigate it that will make an eternal difference.

“Let go…and let God”,


In 15 days, you too can start having a more fulfilling relationship with your teens and tweens.  Click here to find out more.