Launching Your Kids Well
About the Guest
What does it take to launch your kids well? Dennis Rainey, Alex Chediak, and Michelle Hill cover the value of independence, friendship, time management, faith, good friends, and ramen noodles.
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What does it take to launch your kids well? Dennis Rainey recounts the story of the first time he dropped a daughter off at college. Alex Chediak explains why parents must be the ones to prepare their kids. Michelle Hill covers the value of independence,
Dennis: The first time we took our daughter to college, I was then going to bow and pray over her. I was sobbing so hard, my own daughter had to pray for herself; it was pitiful! [Laughter]
Barbara: It was awful!
Dennis: It was awful!
Barbara: —awful! And bless her heart! She said, “Well, I’ll pray.” And we said, “Okay” [sniffling]. And she did; she prayed.
Dennis: Yes, we got in the pick-up—and I’ll never forget this—we were driving out of that parking lot. Our daughter is down on the corner/she was down there, waving goodbye.
Well, it’s not the end of the world. It is a season that must end and a new season that must begin; and it’s okay to cry; it’s okay to sob.
Michelle: Today, we’re going to talk about preparing your teen for life or, rather, for college. As Dennis Rainey just shared about dropping Ashley off at school, it can be a very emotional time. We’ll have some tips for you and also some help and hope on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. When you send your child off to college, they are excited! You/well, you are remembering the little five-year-old riding their bike for the first time. You’re wondering: “Did I prepare them for the world? I mean, the world is scary! The world can hurt! The world can swallow you whole!”
I remember my senior year of high school and the handful of college visits that my dad made with me. There were the applications and the acceptance letters and, then, it was shopping for my dorm room and new clothes. I was a ball of excitement! I remember the drive to the campus, with all of my stuff loaded in the car, and my mom and dad silent. I can’t help but wonder if they were thinking, “Have we prepared her for life?!” Think about it: there are so many different things that teens need to know before they start college!
[Previous Interview Led by Brian Goins]
Brian: What advice do you wish that you would have gotten, when you were a senior in high school, pertaining to being on your own?
Male #1: Well, again, how to do taxes, and car payments, and all that sort of thing; you know?
Female #1: Study habits: like I have to take great notes in order to pass tests.
Male #1: You don’t really learn that in high school; I had to go out and do that myself.
Female #1: Like, in high school, you really didn’t have to take notes like that to pass a test.
Male #2: How to use Microsoft Excel and stuff.
Male #3: Learning to write a resume.
Female #2: How to resolve conflict in a living situation.
Male #3: I didn’t really get to learn that stuff in high school. I wish I had learned how to do that.
Female #3: I’ve learned how to cook in the recent years, because I haven’t had anyone to do it for me.
Male #2: I haven’t tried Ramen. That’s a stereotype I have not succumbed to yet. I hope not to.
Male #4: No one ever died by eating Ramen Noodles.
Barbara: She was heating Ramen noodles and stuff in her little microwave.
Dennis: Ramen noodles/hot water every Sunday night!
Male #5: They’ve got beef and chicken!
Male #3: If all else fails, just get a pack of noodles!
Female #4: Instant Noodles! [Laughter]
Michelle: [Laughter] Well, there’s a whole lot more to college than just learning how to make the best Ramen noodles or learning how to fold your laundry in just the right way—or not to turn your white socks pink—I’ve had that problem before.
Well, today, we’re going to spend some time with a college professor and a few college interns that served, here, at FamilyLife® this past summer and also a current FamilyLife staff member, who is a recent graduate. We’re just going to talk about college life.
Alex Chediak wants to help young adults thrive in college and beyond. He’s a college professor—Professor of Engineering and Physics—at California Baptist University. He knows the issues that are impacting students these days, and he’s here to help guide them through and to remind them that college is not high school; and it’s important to go on purpose. Here’s Alex.
[Previous FamilyLife Today® Broadcast]
Alex: The heartbeat of college is academics. If it weren’t for academics, why are you there? You know, why are you spending $20/30,000 a semester/a year to be part of this experience? It’s really a full-time job; because you’re in class only, maybe, 17 hours a week, but they’re expecting you to do lots of work outside of classes.
The rule of thumb is generally two hours out of class for every one hour in class. Well, that wasn’t the rule in high school. In high school, you didn’t have that much homework. If you show up on Monday for 50 minutes, you leave and come back on Wednesday—and you haven’t done anything—you’re two hours behind.
Alex: And yet, many freshmen don’t adjust to that.
Michelle: Okay, so let’s say you’re 18; you just started college. You’re looking at the landscape, and you’re thinking: “Mom and Dad are hours away! I have all this time in the world, and I have all the freedom to choose what I want to do with it.”
Female: I could just get in my car and decide that I wanted to go to Chick-fil-A® for lunch. I don’t have to call my mom and say: “Hey, Mom! I’m going to go to Chick-fil-A for lunch.”
Michelle: What was that first time? What did that feel like?
Female: Weird! It was weird. I went: “Wait! I don’t need to tell anyone where I’m going! This is completely my own mental decision. This is weird!”
[Previous FamilyLife Today®Broadcast]
Bob: I remember a friend of mine calling me on a Tuesday night and saying: “Hey! We’re going to the movies. Do you want to go?”
Bob: Well, in high school, you did not go to the movies on a Tuesday night!
Bob: That was a school night!
Alex: But your mom and dad aren’t there; right; right; right. [Laughter]
Bob: But now! I could go to the movies on a Tuesday night!
Dennis: —at midnight!
Bob: I remember going out and going: “It’s a Tuesday! I’m at the movies. This is great!”
Alex: Right; right. [Laughter]
Bob: There’s some discipline that—and I’m trying to think, as a parent: “How do we help our kids cultivate these kinds of disciplines—
Bob: —“so that, when they’re on their own, some of that may kick back in?”
Alex: Yes, you know, in high school, I think part of it is helping them to own their decisions and say: “Okay, look. You have a schedule. You have 24 hours/day,
7 days/week. How are you going to balance your workload, your job, your sports?”
Helping them with them some of the skills that I talk about in Chapter 2 there—of making a schedule—and a schedule is not just, “This is when I’m in class,”—it’s:
- “This is when I’m having dinner with my friends…” which is an important thing to do;
- “This is when I’m sleeping. I’m going to make sure that I get seven-eight hours of sleep a night…”—you’d be surprised how many students burn out from a lack of sleep;
- “This is when I’m going to be in the library…”
- “This is when I’m going to be studying for my classes…”
Carving all of that out, and then saying to people:
- “Look, this is my time that I have for recreation and for fun…”
- “This is the time I have for work…”
- “This is the time I have for sleep and taking care of my body…”
- “This is the time I have to read my Bible, taking care of my soul, going to church…”
“These are my priorities…”; in other words, scheduling your priorities; otherwise, the urgent will tyrannize you.
I had a friend—I’ll just call him “Bob”—in college. He would sleep four hours a night. He would stay up playing games, or doing homework, or talking to friends. He would go to sleep at 1:00 in the morning; wake up at 5:00 and catch up on all of his homework that he was behind on. He’d do that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Then, come the weekend, he’d sleep, literally, 12/13 hours a night—he would just absolutely crash out.
You would think, Monday morning, he was ready to go, full of energy; right? No; his body had been trained to wake up at 1:00 in the afternoon; so now, on Monday morning, he wakes up—he goes to class—he’s totally irritable and exhausted.
Alex: His body never got to learn a consistency.
One of the things I encourage them is: “Pick a bedtime/a reasonable bedtime—a time that allows you some time to enjoy your roommates and your dorm mates—and have some enjoyment—but also get your homework done. Pick it, and keep it; then, wake up at a certain time. Train your body: ‘Okay, this is work time…” “This is fun time…”
Female: But even when you’re good at it, it’s hard; because you have to make choices. You could go do something fun; or you could stay home and do Spanish homework, like you know you’re supposed to.
Female: On top of that, the motivation to do the things that you don’t necessarily want to do.
Male: One of the main things they would tell me, when I first started, was to use my time wisely. Like college is different from high school. In high school, you have to be in class from start to finish. In college, you’re not in class all day, so you have a lot of free time.
I would say one lesson that they taught me is: “You know, outside of class, be productive with your schoolwork—staying on top of things—don’t procrastinate.”
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Bob: Yes, I will never forget the first time I took a test in college. There were questions on the test that we had not talked about in class.
Alex: Right; because they were in the assigned reading, probably.
Bob: And I went to the professor and said, “We never talked about this in class!”
Alex: Right; right; right.
Bob: The professor said, “It was in the reading.”
Alex: Exactly; yes.
Bob: I said, “We didn’t do that in high school!” There was nothing on the test in high school that the teacher hadn’t talked about.
Alex: Right; right. [Laughter]
Bob: It was cheating that they could put questions on the test that were from the reading!
Dennis: You seem like you’re wounded over this.
Bob: I’m still a little wounded, because—
Alex: You’re still a little bitter about that.
Bob: —I did not do so well in that particular class.
Dennis: You know, here’s what I hear Alex exhorting parents to do to and to equip their children; and that is: “They need to have a game plan. They need to go to college on purpose, with the end in mind.”
Dennis: Now, they’re 18/19 years old. They’re not going to have a 100 percent vision at that point; but to simply enter into the discussion around these issues, in advance. Alex,—
Dennis: —isn’t this a part of what parents must do with their kids? Because if they don’t, then the system of college—with all the free time/with all the worldviews that they’re going to hear—
Dennis: —they’re going to be, like I was, a lamb to the slaughter.
Alex: That’s exactly right.
Male: College is your choice. If you go out and have fun, knowing you have something due, you’re going to have to live with the result. In high school, it was kind of like [a parent saying], “No, you’re going to do what you’re supposed to do!”
Female: I had to find my first job in college.
Female: I did not have any experience in retail or fast food, so I didn’t have much on my resume; and I had to find a way to support myself in all of the extra things that I wanted to do.
Female: If I wanted to go out to eat with my friends.
Michelle: —like Chick-fil-A!
Female: Yes, like Chick Fila! If I was going to go eat at Chick-fil-A, and not tell my mom because I don’t need to, I’m responsible for feeding myself extra food that I’m not just getting from the cafeteria; so I had to go through the struggle of finding a good job.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Dennis: You don’t just let them go to college; you actually release them toward college, or toward service, or toward their own homes, their own jobs, their own responsibility. This is where you take the psalm—Psalm 127:4—and you take the metaphor of what the psalmist says: “Children are like arrows in the hand of a warrior.” Well, arrows were not designed to stay in the quiver. They were designed for battle; they were designed to be drawn back by a warrior/an archer and aimed at a target.
You’re not just letting them go. You’re launching them toward something—on mission/on assignment—that you’ve been equipping them for, all the way through adolescence.
Michelle: Passing on responsibility and time management—that’s hard! But you also know that, as a parent, you have to learn to let your kids go and that, sometimes, they need to learn on their own. They need to learn responsibility the hard way, like Rob.
Rob: I turned right on red in the middle of a snowstorm in college. It was 12 at night, the snow was coming down; nobody was at the stop sign. The light wouldn’t change. I’m telling you—I think it was broken—so I turned right. The only lights behind me were flashing; he pulled me over; gave me a ticket.
Fast-forward: our team is traveling—the basketball team—we are on a two-week tour of Montana and Colorado. I get back on a Friday night late; the bus drops me off at my apartment. At 6:00 a.m. in the morning, there’s a knock at the door. It’s a big, honking policeman: he puts me in cuffs! He cuffs me in my underwear; and then he says: “Um, why don’t you get dressed? We’re going to take you in.” They fingerprint me, take all my change, and I’m behind bars.
We had a Saturday night home game. I’m looking out the bars of the jailhouse, and our school is across the street. I’m seeing my coach come in and the players come in [the school] until my sister can come and bail me out when she gets off of work. My sister finally comes; and I tell her: “Before you come, go to my apartment. I need my uniform and my tennis shoes and everything.”
She does—and brings them to me—bails me out of jail. I change into my stuff and run across the street. The game has already started. I run down the court and sit next to the coach. He goes, “Where have you been?!”—I’m a starter. I go: “Coach! Details later.” and he is like, “Get your fanny in the game.”
Ron: Did he say “fanny”?
Rob: Yes; something like “fanny.” [Laughter]
The moral of that story is: “Pay your tickets on time.”
Michelle: Sometimes, learning responsibility means paying your tickets on time.
Hey, it’s break time. I need to stretch my legs and maybe grab some coffee, because remembering those college days has me just a little bit tired. When we come back, we’re going to continue talking about how to prepare your teen for life. Stay tuned! I’ll be back in two minutes.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. So you have spent the last how many years preparing your children for life? But have you prepared them for college and beyond? Yes, I know you’ve given them the phone; and you’ve put your number on speed dial; but have you prepared them, you know, in what they believe and why? Can they defend their faith?
Once again, let’s get some advice from Alex Chediak. He’s having an honest dialog about how your students can live out their faith in today’s world. Here’s Alex.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Alex: One of the things we hear, as Christians in our culture, is that we’re supposed to be tolerant. What tolerant supposedly means, according to our world, is that: “What’s true for you is true for you, and what’s true for me is true for me,”—even if they’re totally contradictory. There is no such thing as absolute truth or objective truth that would somehow have bearing on your life and mine.
Think about what the word, “tolerance,” has historically meant—what it has meant is: “Being tolerant, or gracious, or accepting of somebody who is different from you.” Let’s suppose I have a friend, who is a Muslim. Being tolerant would be saying: “Okay; I think your faith is incorrect. I think Jesus Christ is the way to God; but I’m still going to love you, respect you, be kind toward you, be able to work on my math homework with you; but I still think that you’re wrong, and you, of course, think that I’m wrong.” This is true tolerance—is holding a belief and, yet, not killing other people over it.
Alex: What our world says is tolerant is: “No; you’re not even allowed to think I’m wrong! If you think I’m wrong, that’s just true for you; and what’s true for me is true for me.” That’s not tolerance at all.
Dennis: You went to the University of California at Berkley.
Alex: I did.
Dennis: You were a Christian.
Dennis: How did you survive that?
Alex: Well, you know, I think it’s just about going there and having the standpoint of: “I am here to grow in my profession but, also, to grow in my faith. I’m going to identify myself with God’s people.” I think finding a good church, identifying yourself as a Christian from day one—saying: “I’m here; I’m a Christian. I’m going to find a church to plug into; and I’m going to find other Christians on campus that I can connect with, and commiserate with, and go through life together with, and just share our common experience with.”
I mean, one of the things I think teens hunger for from their parents is honest dialog about the faith and to have their parents share with them, “Look, these are the struggles of young adult life,”—and to be very real and frank with them. They’re more eager to talk with mom and dad than sometimes the mom and dad are. They’re more hungry for their parents’ involvement in those areas of their life than, sometimes, the parents are—[feeling] uncomfortable or bashful about bringing up sensitive topics.
So I think just honest dialog about, “Hey, these are the things that happen at college.” Perhaps a parent struggled in that area, and they sinned in those ways in college—just be honest—say: “Hey, I blew it in this way…and this way…in college,” and “This is how God has led me out of that. This is what I paid for that—these are the consequences that I reaped…—this will not go well for you if you go that way.”
For me, one of the things I did that I thought was really helpful, when I went to Alfred, was I had some Christian friends that I already knew that were there.
Alex: It was a small school—only about 2,500—so the number of Christians wasn’t going to be in the thousands, like what you were talking about, Dennis, earlier—but it was 40/50. I knew 5 or 10 of them before I went. At least, I had the idea, “Okay; these are the people I can get together with, and hang out with, and develop friendships through them, and not feel like I have to be a part of the party scene.”
I think what you were talking about earlier, Bob, is sometimes a freshman feels like: “Hey, if I’m going to ever get to know anybody, I’d better go to the pub.
Alex: “That’s the only place that is going to/that’s the only social outlet I possibly have.” Well, that’s not the only opportunity. You just have to become aware of what the other outlets are.
Michelle: So, Laura, what was some of the best advice that your parents gave you, as you were heading off to college, or even during college?
Laura: They trained me to prioritize making good friendships in college, so I did. I really pursued getting to know my friends, one on one, as well as in group situations. I’m really thankful for that; because, I mean, I’m only two years out of school; but still, my best friends are from college. I know that that won’t change. We can go a year without seeing each other—or two for some—and I can still pick up the phone and have a conversation with them and feel like we just saw each other yesterday. I’m really thankful for that advice.
Female: Something that I wish would have been conveyed more strongly is the choice of friends in that it matters what kind of friends you choose to make and choose to invest yourself in, because it really impacts your character and impacts the way that you live your life.
Michelle: As you envision that kind of conversation now, how would you envision your mom or dad having it with your 17-year-old self?
Female: I would imagine them making sure that I knew that I needed to get plugged into a church and, probably, plugged into a small group at Belmont, as well; because, while church is a fantastic community, it’s not always the people that go to your university. You want to make sure that you have Christian friends at your university, who can support you, morally.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Bob: Would you say your spiritual foundation was really solid and locked in before you got to Berkley?
Alex: You know, I think it was. I was a graduate student, as well; so I was a little bit older. It’s not exactly a one-for-one correspondence. I went to an undergraduate school—also a secular school—called Alfred University. There I was—it was a non-Christian school—I was less grounded in my faith at that time; but I was grounded enough to know: “You know what? I’d better find a church pretty quickly, and I better find other Christians on campus pretty quickly.” If you don’t do those two things within the first couple months, the data is not very promising.
Bob: And I have to tell you—when I’ve been on college visits with my sons and my daughters over the years—
Dennis: Right; right.
Bob: —we walk through the dorms. One of the things I’m looking for on the dorm bulletin boards, as we get the tour of the dorms, are the posters about Bible study going on here, or about campus ministry meeting here,—
Bob: —or what’s going on. If I don’t see that stuff—and I remember being at one very prestigious university, and walking through the dorms, and seeing nothing that indicated anything spiritual—
Bob: —I asked our tour guide/I said, “Are there any campus ministries on this campus?”
Bob: And she said, “I think there’s one: InterVarsity something”; so I checked online.
Bob: I called the head of InterVarsity, and I said, “Tell me about what’s going on.” She said, “Well, there are four of us who meet right now, and we’re trying to figure out how to get it bigger.”
Alex: Yes; that doesn’t sound promising.
Bob: I’m thinking: “This is a great college! This would be a great place to get a degree from—
Bob: —“but I don’t know how my son or daughter would survive, spiritually, in that kind of an environment.”
Alex: Right. I think, even before you choose a college, having a game plan of saying: “I’m going to go to this school; and when I get there, I’m going to consider these churches and these Christian organizations.” Now, with the internet, there’s no reason why that can’t be done in advance.
Like what Bob was talking about—when you’re looking at a college, you can even know then, “Hey, this school has these opportunities to grow in my faith…” If the school has nothing, then you’re right: “Why get a world-class education and let your spiritual life shrivel up over four years? That’s not worth it.”
Michelle: That’s Professor Alex Chediak, reminding us, once again, that we need good, solid friends in our lives. We all need good friends, but especially our students. They need friends to encourage them, to walk through finals with them, to cry with them; but especially to journey with them in their walk with Christ.
Mom and Dad, you’ve done that work that God has asked you to do. If you dedicated or baptized your child, you probably remember pledging to bring up your child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. You’ve guided them, and protected them, and directed them. Yes, they’ll still need you to guide and guard and direct; it will just look differently. Whether they voice appreciation or not, it’s worth it.
Female: When I need to cry, or when I have issues, or if I just need to talk to someone about something that’s going on in my life, I can call my mom. Ninety percent of the time, she picks up within the first three rings.
Female: Yes; I think I would say, “Thank you for everything.” I’ve always known my parents are there for me over their ministry. I knew that I was like their number-one priority.
Male: With my parents being—with me, still staying with my parents, I can use them as—they can help me out with a lot of stuff that y’all probably won’t be able to get help out with; but my parents also challenge me, which makes me better. I appreciate it. I like having a challenge. I appreciate them kind of laying off and letting me figure it out on certain things but, also, being there to help me with things I can’t figure out.
Female: I just so appreciate that they are always willing to pray for me, and never stop telling me that they love me, and that they were very invested in what I was doing—and not just in what grades I was earning—they really wanted to get to know my friends. They were curious about all of my experiences—and were interested/were proud of me—and they reminded me of that.
Michelle: Next week, we are going to dive into the waters of prayer and liturgy and learn the aspect of slowing down to hear from God. Songwriter and author, Douglas McKelvey, joins me. I hope you can join us for that; it will be a great time.
Thanks for listening. I want to thank the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to our engineer today, Bruce Goff. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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