Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality #71.
During puberty, the physical changes that command so much of our attention are pre-programmed. The growth and reproductive hormones set the course for the body to move through its development. But what about the changes that are taking place within the child? Are these also pre-programmed? The answer is no. The development of one’s character is not automatic, nor is it guaranteed. It requires planning, self-discipline and effort.
Emerging adults are awakened to many new realities that can bring both excitement as well as concern. For the first time in their life, they ask questions about who they are and what they should do in this world. This is the time for parents to step up their interaction and guidance so that the child receives the best answers to these life forming questions.
In the previous segment, you learned how listening opens the window to your child’s invisible world. While listening is vital, it is only one part of the strategy to help your child mature into a responsible adult. A close partner of listening is observation. This involves your ability to watch what your child does and how your child acts.
There are four general observations that help a parent know how a child is maturing on the
inside. The first is to watch their children’s actions regarding their own dignity. How do they respect themselves? Do they think they are worthwhile and needed? The second is to watch how they act towards others. How do they treat others? Are they courteous and polite? The third is to observe how they handle emotions. Are they in control of their feelings or do they live in constant drama? And finally, parents can observe what type of relationship their children have with God. Do they consider God’s commands valid and necessary or do they move through life under their own perceptions of what is good, true and right?
Each of these observations correlates with one of four specific dimensions of maturity: personal, social, emotional and spiritual. Personal maturity involves one’s ability to recognize his or her worth and dignity. Social maturity is the capacity to see God’s goodness in all persons. Emotional maturity is the capability to know when and how to display feelings in ways that are good and healthy rather than in ways that are harmful or selfish. And, spiritual maturity is the ability to form a lasting relationship with Jesus Christ and the desire to participate in the Family of God.
Maturity is so much more than a physical reality. While the physical changes come first, they are a herald for the underlying transformation that happens within the child. Both the external and the internal dimensions of children’s lives require parental attention and guidance. But, the internal dimensions are most important because they bring forth a child’s capacity to know, love and serve God in this world.
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