Ep 18: Christian Parenting Skills

Hannah Seymour, author of The College Girls Survival Guide, reveals what she has learned from years of running a Christian advice blog for teenage girls. She explains how to share stories with teens about your own mistakes and how to encourage them to make the right kinds of friends.

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Full show notes

Does the idea of your teen leaving home for college scare you? Do you wonder how they might handle challenges to your family’s values after leaving the house? Are they hanging out with the right crowd? What decisions are they making? It’s easy to get caught up in these questions and not be satisfied with the answers. It wouldn’t be better to ignore them.

Every family has its own bubble of ideas, values, and beliefs. It would be great if the good values we try to create within our families would stick after our children leave the nest. Although, we know that’s not always the case as our household values can be challenged every time our teens take out their smartphones at the dinner table. And if you’re raising Christian teens or teens of any faith, those religious values might be fleeting.

It would be unrealistic to assume every teen holds onto their family traditions after graduating high school, but surprising research shows that among families raising Christian teens, as much as 50% walk away from their faith! This can be so discouraging for parents, especially those raising Christian teens. That’s why I sat down with a woman who has been mentoring teenage girls in the Christian sphere for over a decade to discuss what she’s learned about preparing teens for college. You don’t have to be Christian to relate to the skills she has to teach.

Hannah Seymour authored the book The College Girl’s Survival Guide to help address the top 52 questions she found teens asking once they left the house for college. Don’t let the title fool you, her responses to these questions apply to teens of all genders! And you don’t have be raising Christian teens to resonate with her message. Hannah believes that raising all teens requires empathy and foresight, and her book is an amazing resource for helping prepare your teen for the college experience.

Questioning Your Experience

It’s evident that teens have a lot to wrestle with in college. She sees Christian teens grappling with not just their faith, but their family values and culture as well. This might sound familiar to parents raising Christian teens because it is natural for teens to question the set of beliefs they grew up around. As a result, many teens struggle to articulate what they believe in at all.

Failing to articulate what you believe was one of Hannah’s initial concerns when it came to mentoring teens in college. They might say, “I thought I knew what I believed, but now I’m not so sure.” When asked, “Well, what do you believe?” they couldn’t quite articulate it.

After being exposed to so many new beliefs in college, teens are going to have questions. As a parent, it’s important to encourage challenging and difficult questions from your teens, whether you are raising Christian teens or not. When teens carry questions that challenge their childhood values, they can already feel confused, isolated, and alone.

Hannah first wants teens to know that they are not alone with their questions. This applies to more than just questions about faith, too! When mentoring teens in college, she gets the same questions all the time like,

“So my roommate and I were getting along swimmingly, but now we’re a month in, and we haven’t spoken in three days. What do I do?”

“I’ve dreamt of being a nursing major my whole life, and I’m really struggling in my biology class. I don’t even know if I want to major in this anymore.”

While these types of questions are typical of the college experience, they feel earth-shattering to the teens! Hannah points out that parents often forget what it's like to be in a teenager’s shoes. When parents aren’t aware of this tendency to forget, they struggle to relate to their teen. But that can be solved with storytelling…

The Value of College Stories

From her experience, she suggests that raising Christian teens to be ready for college means vulnerably sharing stories from your own teen years about how you were not ready!

Sharing your own adolescent struggles and failures with your teen may seem counterintuitive. Hannah points out, though, that you often cannot give your teen the “college experience” before they get there. They won’t know the internal and external conflicts that a new environment introduces until they get there. But if parents can recall their struggles and share them with their teens ahead of time, their teens will have a frame of reference for future challenges.

It’s no good trying to hide your embarrassing growing up stories. Hannah points out that at some point, your kid is going to realize that you're a “sinner,” too. You need grace, just as much as they do! Embracing each other’s flaws is a sign of a more adult relationship with your teen. So don’t be afraid to tell an embarrassing (or sinful) story about growing up if you’re raising Christian teens.

If you don’t believe that your personal horror stories have value to your teen, listen to what Hannah has to say. She remembers her own mother waiting until she was in grad school before sharing stories of her own college experience. Hannah was shocked! Not just about the content of the stories, but about how impactful they could have been if she had heard them when she was 16. From then on, Hannah knew that raising Christian teens means being honest about your past mistakes and using them to teach valuable lessons.

The sooner teens realize that they are not alone in their mistakes, questions, or struggles, the sooner they’ll believe you when you say:

“You’re normal. This is normal what you’re going through.”

This is a big theme for Hannah when mentoring or raising Christian teens. Assuring teens that they won’t be the “odd one out” alleviates so much peer pressure.

But That’s Not All...

Hannah has spent years responding to questions teens and parents raising Christian teens. As a mentor, she knows so much about raising Christian teens with empathy and grace. Plus, we were able to talk about so much more than just Christianity and the college experience! Other topics that we covered include:
  • Healthy involvement in your teen’s friend groups (without being a helicopter)
  • Treating all teens the same in your house, whether they’re yours or not
  • Showing genuine love and care for teens who are not your own
  • Trusting your teen’s decision making, and not forcing your opinion on them
  • “You are who your friends are,” and long term peer influence
The parent-teen dynamic differs so much from household to household, but the goal is the same. You are trying to prepare your teen for a bigger pool, and this is something that Hannah knows all about. I really enjoyed our conversation, and I hope you will, too!

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Hanna Seymour 💁🏻‍♀️
Hanna Seymour 💁🏻‍♀️
Author of The College Girl's Survival Guide | On sale April 3 https://t.co/s8Co4Ur9xN
Ep 18: Christian Parenting Skills
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