Marking The Moment
by Karin Sasser

As we raise our children, we have the opportunity to help our kids mark distinct moments in their lives in such ways that will create some great memories. We can actually look to the Bible for precedence of this. In Old Testament times, there are numerous occurrences in which someone builds a monument, a pillar, or an altar of remembrance commemorating a time God spoke a promise, revealed himself, or acted in a miraculous way. We see this in Genesis 28:10-12 when God spoke to Jacob in a dream reiterating the covenant He first made with his grandfather, Abraham, promising descendants as plentiful as the dust of the earth, a land for them to inhabit, and to bless all the peoples of the earth through his offspring. When Jacob woke up from the dream, he recognized that the Lord was in that place. He set up the stone he had laid his head on to sleep as a pillar to mark God’s presence there and a reminder of what God had spoken to him.

We see another example in Joshua 4:1-9. As the Israelites are finally entering the promised land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Lord performs a miracle reminiscent of the Red Sea and holds back the waters of the Jordan River. The priests with the ark of the covenant stepped into the river, and the water from upstream stopped flowing. They stood firm in the middle of the Jordan on dry ground as the whole nation of Israel crossed the dry riverbed.

Once they had crossed, God directed Joshua to choose 12 men among the people, one from each tribe, to take up one stone each from the place the priests were standing and to bring them to the spot they would camp for the night. Joshua set up the 12 stones as a memorial there. God told him the stones would serve as a sign so that “In the future when your children ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:6-7)

In both instances, Jacob and Joshua marked visible reminders of God’s work in their lives. As parents, we can help our children mark special moments in their lives too. Some may be spiritual moments, and others transitional, as they move from one phase of childhood to another. You probably already do this in some ways. Many parents often have special celebrations for their children when they turn 13 and 16 and when they get their driver’s licenses. There are often promotion or graduation ceremonies in 5th, 8th, and of course, 12th grade. Some of us celebrate when our kids go through confirmation and choose to become a member of our church. Some of us are able to celebrate our kid’s baptism (whether as a baby or when they get older) and make a decision of their own. But are there also things we can do not only to celebrate our kids but to actually help them transition to the next phase?

One thing we can do is have a conversation with our kids as one phase of their life is coming to an end, and they are entering a new one. Often the best way to have this conversation is NOT by giving all the advice we can think of, but instead by asking them some pointed questions. How do you feel about … (starting middle school or high school, trying out for a new team, or starting something new?) What are you most excited about? Do you have any concerns or fears? What do want your high school years to look like? What do you want your walk with God to look like over the next year? What can I be praying for you specifically? As we ask questions and hear their answers, we will also have opportunities to add our own words of wisdom and encouragement.

Another thing we can do to help our pre-teens and teens transition to their next phase of life is to allow them to truly be more independent – even if it means they make a few poor choices or bad decisions. It is better for them to experience a failure or two (or three or four) while you are still around to help them navigate the consequences. Before you know it, your teen is going to be out of your house and on their own, making almost all of their own decisions. At that point in life, you probably won’t see them every day, and you may not even talk to them very often. You don’t want them going from having only a little independence to complete freedom overnight without having had opportunities to learn the lessons of being responsible for oneself and one’s decisions. The teenage years are when we start to let go of more and more control and work on building a relationship where we can still have great influence.

One of my favorite things we did for my son (and I’m looking forward to doing it with my daughter) was a special 18th birthday/high school graduation event we held. My husband reached out to 7 or so men, some younger, some older, who had had an influence in our son’s life. He asked them to write down some thoughts, words of advice, and words of affirmation to share with our son as he graduated and was about to head off to college. We invited them all over for dinner, and after we ate, we sat around the firepit and invited these men to share what they had written to our son, and then we prayed for him. It was powerful. My husband took the letters each man had written and put them in a binder for our son to take with him to college. In this instance, we were able to both mark a moment by having a celebratory event that hopefully my son will always remember and give him some tools and advice to help him as he moves on to a new stage of his life.

As you think about how you can help your kids and teens move from one stage to another, think about ways you can do things that will both give them the tools they need and the memories they will cherish as they continue to grow.