Thought Factory Podcast #308 || These Habits Can Change Your Home

What habits at home attribute to lowering the high-risk behaviors in teenagers? Research has shown that this one habit can lower the things that many parents fear will happen to their adolescent.  In this episode, the habits of the home are discussed, with our own research as well as outside research to support the conversation of why these habits can change your home and your children.

This is the third episode in the parents series, asking the question, “How can a youth worker help or encourage the parent?”  Check out episode #306 and #307.

We start out the conversation by asking the question of students:

Do you attend main church services regularly with your parent(s)?*
(First number is the students’ response, the second number is what the adults thought how students would respond)

A. Yes, almost every week // 57% // 31%
B. Yes, at least a couple times a month // 14% // 46%
C. Not usually, but maybe a few times a year // 8% // 21%
D. Never // 3% // 2%
E. I attend church without my parents // 12% // 0%
*6% of students did not respond

In another post, we mentioned students’ loyalty to their church and how important it was for Christians to regularly attend worship services:

Forty-eight percent of students say loyalty to entire local church is “very high” compared to 12% of adults thinking students’ loyalty is “very high.”

Students loyalty is four times higher than what adults think it is.

Fifty-nine percent of students say it is important for Christians to regularly attend worship services compared to 36% of adults.

Here’s what we learned: Students are committed to their church and to attending when their parents are involved.

If we want to get students committed to the local churches that were a part of, getting their parents involved is key.

If parents are committed to taking their students to church, their commitment to their local church is much higher.

Youth workers, we need to encourage and remind adults to keep their own engagement in the local church high.  Tthe middle schooler or the high schooler is starting to disengage and so there’s a tendency for the parent to disengage as well.  But, the student is actually following the parents’ habits and behaviors.

Between Monday and Friday, how often does your family normally sit down to eat a meal together? (First number is the students’ response, the second number is what the adults thought how students would respond)

A. 4-5 times a week // 47% // 9%
B. 2-3 times a week // 28% // 45%
C. 1 time a week // 10% // 33%
D. We don’t usually eat together // 15% // 14%

A quarter of students that responded eat only one time or never with their family.  That’s something to consider when we think about the families that we work with.

Where are students most likely to talk with their parents?

In a survey done by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, American teens were asked when they were most likely to talk with their parents: dinner was their top answer. Kids who eat dinner with their parents experience less stress and have a better relationship with them.

In a Washington Post article, children who eat regular family dinners also consume more fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and micronutrients, as well as fewer fried foods and soft drinks. 

Other benefits from family dinners are:
1. Regular mealtime is an even more powerful predictor of high achievement scores than time spent in school, doing homework, playing sports or doing art.

2. Other researchers reported a consistent association between family dinner frequency and teen academic performance. Adolescents who ate family meals five to seven times a week were twice as likely to get A’s in school as those who ate dinner with their families fewer than two times a week.

3. Meals are strongly associated with positive moods in adolescents.  Other researchers have shown that teens who dine regularly with their families also have a more positive view of the future, compared to their peers who don’t eat with parents.

4. In addition, a stack of studies links regular family dinners with lowering a host of high-risk teenage behaviors parents fears: smoking, binge drinking, marijuana use, violence, school problems, eating disorders and sexual activity. In one study of more than 5,000 Minnesota teens, researchers concluded that regular family dinners were associated with lower rates of depression and suicidal thoughts. In a very recent study, kids who had been victims of cyberbullying bounced back more readily if they had regular family dinners. Family dinners have been found to be a more powerful deterrent against high-risk teen behaviors than church attendance or good grades.

The dinner atmosphere is also important. Parents need to be warm and engaged, rather than controlling and restrictive, to encourage healthy eating in their children. (Jan 12, 2015)

But all bets are off if the TV is on during dinner.  The study found that American kindergartners who watch TV during dinner were more likely to be overweight by the time that they were in the third grade.

This shows how important family dinners are!  For those of us working with students and families, if we want to help parents win, one really simple thing is to help them understand that sitting down to eat meals together will make a behavioral and statistical difference in their family.  Even 2-3 times a week has a higher rate of success.

After looking at our own research numbers where 47% of students eat meals regularly with their parents, but only 9% of adults think that of students, we are asking the question, “Are adults’ perception that families are worse off and not having meals together play into their view of needing to be more primary in the role of discipleship?”

How often are you having spiritual conversations about God with one or both of your parents? (First number is the students’ response, the second number is what the adults thought how students would respond)

A. Around 1 time a week // 34% // 11%
B. Around 1 time a month // 24% // 27%
C. A few times a year // 22% // 39%
D. Never // 20% // 23%

Thirty-four percent of students are having conversations around 1x a week w/ parents compared to only 11% of adults thought that students were engaged in conversations about spiritual things once a week.  Students are saying they are having 3x more regularity in spiritual conversations than what adults think they are.

Roughly 60% of students are having regular conversations, 40% have little or if ever.

Do you have any patterns of intentional family discussions about God and/or the Bible?
(First number is the students’ response, the second number is what the adults thought how students would respond)

A. Yes, a few times a week // 12% // 2%
B. Yes, but not consistently // 22% // 17%
C. We have had these discussions, but not as part of an intentional pattern // 42% // 55%
D. We do not have these discussions // 24% // 26%

Eighty-eight percent of parents aren’t being intentionally consistent in their patterns of having regular spiritual conversations w/ their families compared to 98% of adults who think this of their students.  Meaning, parents are gathering their children around them and intentionally going into the Word or discussing topics of a faith in God.  

Twenty-four never have this conversation.

Two episodes ago (blog post here) we talked about this idea that parents are the primary disciples of their kids and it’s our job to come alongside parents and help them just as much as we’re helping students.  Here’s where our work is cut out for us: this statistic reveals to us that 88% of parents aren’t having any regular spiritual conversations.

We told you not to judge in that episode, were we wrong?

But why are parents not having these conversations?  Maybe it has to do with the lack of confidence and the good resources available to them.  We as youth leaders can resource them to build up their confidence.

One resource is Soul Exercises.

Soul Exercises is an operating system that ministries can use.  The number one, primary focus of this whole thing is getting students to read and engage the Bible throughout the week and parents can adopt it into their homes.  No matter how many children and the age range between them, this system can be incorporated into any family.  Each person can engage the Bible at their own level.  Soul Exercises is not a devotional or curriculum, it is a system to get people engaged in the Word of God.  Curriculum doesn’t change lives but the Bible does.

This number (88%) may be so high because parents don’t know where to start with engaging the Bible and having these conversations.  It’s all about habits and conversations. Be intentional as a youth worker to help parents be intentional. Don’t just tell them, resource them.

© 2017, Never The Same