Teenagers are constantly saying, “Trust me.” While they’re moving towards adulthood and independence, they aren’t quite there yet. With reasonable checks and balances, the time has come to start trusting them more. Sure, it can be scary, but trust is exactly what they want (and need). Disagreements happen; choose battles wisely. Eventually, “Trust me” evolves to “What’s next?”
The last couple years of high school can be some of the most exciting times of our lives. There’s no denying it—change is in the air. There’s a decent chance our children aren’t ready yet, and that’s ok. Whether or not they admit it, our teenager is probably just as concerned as we are. The pressure is on. Nurturing fathers say things like, “I know you got this. There may be struggles ahead, but there isn’t anything we won’t get through together. It’s all good. I got your back. Let’s focus on this moment, today. I’m here for you 100%.”
Idealistic and self-focused, older teenagers care deeply about taking control, having responsibility, and enjoying personal freedoms. Nine hours of sleep and one hour of exercise daily make a ton of sense. Most girls are fully developed but many boys continue to grow taller, stronger, and hairier. Reveling in their final years as children, they often prefer to live in the moment and tend to struggle with long-term planning.
As with Puff’s the Magic Dragon’s little Jackie Paper, “painted wings and giant’s rings” truly have given way to other toys. At this stage of their lives, we best support them by endorsing and mobilizing their potential. Appreciate them in the here and now. Look for opportunities to communicate, “I trust you, I believe in you, and even though you probably don’t need any help, I’ll always be here for you.”
If college is on the horizon, grades are important. By now, teenagers have likely worked part-time (or even full-time) jobs. Remind them about the ten virtues that require zero talent:being on time, work ethic, effort, body language, energy, attitude, passion, being coachable, doing extra, and being prepared.
By this age, we hope to have instilled a love of reading. Children who read habitually position themselves for success, academically, personally, and professionally. Unfortunately, most children are not avid readers. Ask any college professor about the quality of essays written by students today. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but the cold reality is that when it comes to the gifts of writing and sentence structure, there are fewer shining stars and more penniless reporters. Realistically, it doesn’t have to be this way. When dad makes reading a fun and integral part of life, we raise kids who change the game for their future.
Stock the kitchen with healthy options. Remind teenagers to eat breakfast. Eat meals together as a family whenever possible. If they play sports, remind them to cherish the times they spend competing with their teammates. If they don’t play sports, remind them of the importance of getting regular exercise.
Fathers Truly Matter
Sometimes, teenagers mentally check out of high school before putting together a plan for their future. As high school graduation approaches, fathers may develop a sense of parenting urgency, adamant about ensuring children are equipped for adulthood. Remember, teenagers are obsessed with living in the moment. Figuring out how to be an adult doesn’t happen overnight, and that’s perfectly normal. Let them enjoy the moment and say things like, “I know you’re enjoying every moment, and I don’t blame you! You have the rest of your life to be an adult. If you need to talk, I’m here for you.”
Do we allow dates to summon our child with a call or text on arrival? Do they come to the door with the excellent character of a gentleman or a lady to introduce themselves? By establishing certain standards and expectations, we can influence opportunities for our teenager’s boyfriends and girlfriends to connect on a deeper and more respectful level. If in a committed relationship as senior year comes to an end, fathers can show concern by asking, “How are things going with… what are your plans?” and “Are you okay?”
More than half of high school graduates have experienced sexual intercourse. When fathers maintain bonds of mutual respect with their children, we prove ourselves as dependable confidants in their circle of trust. It may feel awkward at first, but conversations about sex are important. As always, finish conversations with the room to pick things back up again later.
As the clock ticks down on childhood, technology is one more way we can stay in touch. Leverage technology to help keep them stay connected with us, friends, and family. Tell them, “I know I can call you, but I also know you’re busy too—what’s the best way for me to get in touch with you?”
When we are connected to what is going on in their lives, we can hear all about their present circumstances. By now, they should know that there’s nothing they can ever do to make either us or God stop loving them. Encourage them to ask difficult questions; ask them what they think and let them know what we think. The answers to some questions may exceed our earthly knowledge and require insights from the Bible.
These years are the swan song of their childhood. The foundation of their character has been established in the preceding chapters. Now, we have to trust that we’ve raised good kids who have the integrity to hold true to their values, the flexibility to adapt their style to life’s curveballs, and the wisdom to ask for help when they need it. Congratulations!
Excellent Reading for Juniors in High School
History and fiction merge seamlessly in this luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening. Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of sixteen-year-old Griet, whose life is transformed by her brief encounter with genius . . . even as she herself is immortalized in canvas and oil.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
“You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.” ― Frederick Douglass
The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel by American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. Set in the Jazz Age on Long Island, the novel depicts narrator Nick Carraway’s interactions with mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and Gatsby’s obsession to reunite with his former lover, Daisy Buchanan.
Based on historical people and real events, Arthur Miller’s play uses the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence unleashed by the rumors of witchcraft as a powerful parable about McCarthyism.
In the summer of 1953, two eleven-year-old boys—best friends—are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy’s mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn’t believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God’s instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is extraordinary.
After the sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a wounded zebra, an orangutan—and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi Patel, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with the tiger, Richard Parker, for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them “the truth.” After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional—but is it more true?
“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.” So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her — her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling. Out of unspeakable tragedy and loss, The Lovely Bones succeeds, miraculously, in building a tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, even joy.
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. The Fault in Our Stars is insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw. It brilliantly explores the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winks at us, the one who seems made of flesh rather than marble. In a sweeping narrative that follows Franklin’s life from Boston to Philadelphia to London and Paris and back, Walter Isaacson chronicles the adventures of the runaway apprentice who became, over the course of his eighty-four-year life, America’s best writer, inventor, media baron, scientist, diplomat, and business strategist, as well as one of its most practical and ingenious political leaders.
Ellison describes growing up in a Black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood,” before retreating amid violence and confusion.
This classic and much lauded retelling of Beowulf follows the monster Grendel as he learns about humans and fights the war at the center of the Anglo Saxon classic epic.
The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, caught in the tragic sweep of history, The Kite Runner transports readers to Afghanistan at a tense and crucial moment of change and destruction. A powerful story of friendship, it is also about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.
This a classic masterpiece of religious satire that entertains readers with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to “Our Father Below.” At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written.
A Farewell to Arms is the unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his passion for a beautiful English nurse. Set against the looming horrors of the battlefield—weary, demoralized men marching in the rain during the German attack on Caporetto; the profound struggle between loyalty and desertion—this gripping, semiautobiographical work captures the harsh realities of war and the pain of lovers caught in its inexorable sweep.
The New York Times bestselling novel from Garth Stein—a heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope—a captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life… as only a dog could tell it.
The Color Purple broke the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women through their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience and bravery. Deeply compassionate and beautifully imagined, Alice Walker’s epic carries readers on a spirit-affirming journey towards redemption and love.
At twenty-four, Knight decides that rather than work for a big corporation, he will create something all his own, new, dynamic, different. He details the many risks he encountered, the crushing setbacks, the ruthless competitors and hostile bankers—as well as his many thrilling triumphs. Above all, he recalls the relationships that formed the heart and soul of Nike, with his former track coach, the irascible and charismatic Bill Bowerman, and with his first employees, a ragtag group of misfits and savants who quickly became a band of swoosh-crazed brothers. Together, harnessing the electrifying power of a bold vision and a shared belief in the transformative power of sports, they created a brand—and a culture—that changed everything.
A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America. At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck’s powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics.
Excellent Reading for Seniors in High School
A classic narrative about Africa’s cataclysmic encounter with Europe as it establishes a colonial presence on the continent. Told through the fictional experiences of Okonkwo, a wealthy and fearless warrior in the late 1800s, Things Fall Apart explores one man’s futile resistance to the devaluing of his traditions by British forces and his despair as his community capitulates to the powerful new order.
In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? Outliers is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.
The life of a ten-year-old black girl is shattered by two drunken and remorseless white men. The mostly white town of Clanton in Ford County, Mississippi, reacts with shock and horror at the inhuman crime—until the girl’s father acquires an assault rifle and takes justice into his own hands. For ten days, as burning crosses and the crack of sniper fire spread through the streets of Clanton, the nation sits spellbound as defense attorney Jake Brigance struggles to save his client’s life—and then his own.
Gritty with pain, betrayal, and brutality, this incredible true story also shines with an unexpected, life-changing love.
C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce is a classic Christian allegorical tale about a bus ride from hell to heaven. An extraordinary meditation upon good and evil, grace and judgment, Lewis’s revolutionary idea in the The Great Divorce is that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside. Using his extraordinary descriptive powers, The Great Divorce will impact the way we think about good and evil.
On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives.
The astonishing, uplifting story of a real-life Indiana Jones and his humanitarian campaign to use education to combat terrorism in the Taliban’s backyard.
In this book, we have a front-row seat to Miller’s journey–from sleeping all day to riding his bike across America, from living in romantic daydreams to facing love head-on, from wasting his money to founding a life-changing nonprofit.
Experience the book that started the Quiet Movement and revolutionized how the world sees introverts—and how introverts see themselves—by offering validation, inclusion, and inspiration.
Can a simple concept shift your entire world? When it comes to loving your neighbors, rather than focusing on having the “right answers” or checking the “right boxes,” what if you decide to simply DO love? To shamelessly show grace and love? What would that look like? In Love Does, Bob shows you how to live a fully engaged life; how to stop putting things off until “next time” and instead find your place of imagination and wonder, today.
The story of the quest of Siddhartha, a wealthy Indian Brahmin who casts off a life of privilege and comfort to seek spiritual fulfillment and wisdom. On his journey, Siddhartha encounters wandering ascetics, Buddhist monks, and successful merchants, as well as a courtesan named Kamala and a simple ferryman who has attained enlightenment. Traveling among these people and experiencing life’s vital passages–love, work, friendship, and fatherhood–Siddhartha discovers that true knowledge is guided from within.
So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Malachy—exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling—does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story.
Pecola Breedlove—an 11-year-old Black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others—prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment.
The Catcher in the Rye details two days in the life of 16-year-old Holden Caulfield after he has been expelled from prep school. Confused and disillusioned, Holden searches for truth and rails against the “phoniness” of the adult world. He ends up exhausted and emotionally unstable.
Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy
Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.
Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s mental breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s neurosis becomes completely understandable and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such thorough exploration of the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche – and the profound collective loneliness that modern society has yet to find a solution for – is an extraordinary accomplishment, and has made The Bell Jar American classic.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist. Some of the information on this post was inspired by Kristen Ivy and Reggie Joiner’s Parenting Your Eleventh Grader and Parenting Your Twelfth Grader available on www.parentcuestore.org.