The effects of segregating children from parents
Formation of “the divide”
How does the historical understanding of childhood relate to peer influence? When adults fail to train their child (or teen) to live as part of our (adult) world, we force them to learn to do so through other means. The child becomes somewhat alienated from the adult population and naturally seeks out others who feel much like themselves. When we see these factors we can understand why teens regard experimentation as the primary way to learn about things like sexuality, alcohol and drugs. Parents don’t talk to their children frankly about real issues, regarding them as something for “adults”. With no-one taking the time to have a relationship deep enough to discuss these issues, teens wanting to be adults naturally start to explore these things together.
When teens learn through experimentation rather than through the frank, objective teaching of scripture combined with the life experience of parents and adults, they adopt a playful and adventurous attitude to them, rather than the more mature approach required for adulthood. In addition, they often won’t share their experiences and understanding with adults, cutting themselves off further from the adult population.
The end result is a chasm like divide between the adult world and the world of teens. And today, we see the divide continuing well into the twenties and often into the thirties as these same teenagers reject responsibility and live cavalier lives devoid of moral foundation and maturity. By the time they consider that there might be some value in settling down and living a normal adult life, their self-oriented life is a train wreck filled with impurity and self-centered ambition.
Schooling can play a big part of this creating this situation, as during the teen years the teen and the adult are separated for most of the day most days, leaving the teen to interact with the other kids around them rather than parents. If the parents have not been as engaged with their kids as they should have been, the teen will begin to identify with their peers more than with their parents and will begin the pattern of experimentation and adopt the attitudes of the children around them, eventually leading to the elimination (albeit perhaps temporarily) of a meaningful parent and child relationship.
Avoiding the divide
Of course not every family has this happen. It is possible to rear responsible teenagers who are thoughtful and mature about things like alcohol, sex and drugs, but there is special consideration that must be made by parents who choose to put their kids into any kind of schooling that provides more time with peers than with parents. The key to successfully parenting through this time is to maintain honesty and openness in the relationship between parents and the child. Pour into your children every ounce of knowledge and understanding you have about the world they are growing up in so that their understanding of the world has as much of your maturity in it and not the maturity of someone who is discovering things for the first time with their friends. Don’t wait for the teen years to do this, teach it to them while they are young.
Your children can learn from you from the day they are born. They can learn what a healthy marriage is by watching you and your spouse relate to each other, talk, discuss issues and show love and affection for one another. They will ask questions, which you must answer clearly and openly with them. This tells them that you want them to know about the world and helps them to understand that they too will one day participate in the world in the same way you do. If you don’t, they will find another way to learn, regardless of what schooling option you select.
How should this then relate to the selection we make for our child’s education? Two considerations are critical here. Firstly, whatever choice you make, be proactive about teaching your children all you can about the world they cohabit with you. Teach them mature thinking and how to be responsible for their own heart, motives and actions.
Secondly, recognize the increased difficulty that comes with the division that formal schooling will create in your time with them and plan to work around this by setting aside time to spend with them and continue to talk with and share your life with them.
Ultimately home-schooled children have more opportunities to interact with their parents and as a consequence tend to be more mature than their formally schooled counterparts[i]. When it comes to biblical goals, the more input your children get from you as their parent, the more mature they will be.