Adolescence offers many kids their first opportunity to manage their own schedules. Unfortunately, with all the obligations they must juggle, “free time” can become a foreign concept. Teenagers’ waking hours are packed with school, homework, sports, clubs, work, and church activities. So much for the myth that the teen years are a time to just hang out!
Time-management guru Stephen R. Covey said, “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” Because the world’s priorities are often skewed, it’s up to parents to model healthy, godly ways to manage the gift of time.
Alex and Brett Harris, twin brothers who wrote Do Hard Things, compare adolescence to a diving board. Both are supposed “to launch us, with purpose and precision, into our futures,” they write. “We will either make a successful dive into adulthood or deliver something closer to a belly flop—a failure to launch.”
Remind your teenagers that time-management is an important form of stewardship, or the wise use of God’s resources. Instead of trying to “out- busy” one another, kids (and adults) can strive to use their time and talents productively and to make themselves available for fellowship with God and with one another.
Take a quick look at the lives of today’s teenagers:
- Only 8% of teenagers get the 91⁄4 hours of sleep that’s recommended for their age group. (National Sleep Foundation)
- Today’s teenagers spend an average of 71⁄2 hours a day consuming media. In addition, kids spend an average of one hour and 35 minutes every day sending and receiving texts. (Kaiser Family Foundation)
- 90% of preteens report feeling stressed because they’re too busy. (KidsHealth.org)
Psychology professor Robert Emmons and his research team found that being busy isn’t a bad thing, in and of itself. Instead, problems arise when kids face “conflicting strivings.” When activities revolve like spokes around a hub, such as faith in Christ, teenagers are likely to thrive. Day-to- day goals that center around faith allow young people to experience more harmony, less stress, and even less illness.
To help your teenagers discover if their goals and activities are harmonious and productive, lead them through this exercise:
- Ask kids to consider what they typically try to accomplish on most days.
- Next, have kids come up with 10 “strivings” that fit their day-to- day goals.
- Have kids rate each of their strivings on a scale from 1 to 10, from “least meaningful” to “most meaningful.”
- Then help kids identify and cut out activities that don’t align with their most important strivings.
Teenagers may not be consciously aware of how their strivings conflict, yet they crave meaning and coherence. Kids hate being conflicted, fragmented, and stressed. They want to know that the stuff packing their schedule is worth doing—and worth doing well. And they need help from parents to figure that out.
- What would you list as your top priorities? Are these evident by how you spend your time?
- How would you rate your stewardship of God’s gift of time? What would you do with more hours in a day?
- What time-management advice would you most like your teenagers to follow, and why?