PhotoBomb Your Kids' Lives

PHOTOBOMB. Foe-tow-bom (verb) - to drop in a photo unexpectedly...to hop in a picture right before it is taken. (Definition from the Urban Dictionary)

Sticking your face into a photo where it does not belong has long been a practice of your prank-minded friends. Now we finally have a name for it. Here's a recent photobomb that I pulled off with some girls at my church on "Tacky Christmas Sweater Day." They didn't know I was there until they went to post the picture on Facebook. Sadly, I wasn't wearing an appropriate sweater.

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I like these two viral photos of animals getting onto the photobomb train. They both show that even those who live on the farm or under the sea appreciate the value of a well-timed smile in someone else's Kodak moment. Just tell me that that cow's expression doesn't make you smile...or that the mouth and holes(?) on that stingray doesn't look a lot like a smiley face. Nicely done, animals.

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If photobombing is about putting your face in a picture where it isn't welcome, then I would like to suggest something that I will call "photobombing your kids lives." In it's simplest terms, this is inserting yourself into parts of your kids' lives that you may not be warmly welcomed. Can I suggest that you get yourself comfortable with doing that very thing. Because your kids need you to.

The older your kids get, they will need more and more independence and freedom. This is a natural part of growing up and serves to enable them to figure out who God has made them to be apart from their family identity. If you are wise, you will begin giving your kids more and more freedom to make their own choices as well as more and more exposure to the natural consequences of their decisions.

But parents should not see these teenage years as a time to check out and leave them to their own devices. Along the way, you should stay close by, offering coaching and wisdom as they interact with the "real world." It is in these seasons of gained independence that they will probably express their desire for you to keep your distance. But it is those times that they might need you the most, even if they don't fully know it. These are the times to offer the relational equivalent of a "photobomb." Here are a few possible examples of what I am talking about:

*Trust your teenager to pick his or her own friends, but don't be shy about sticking your nose into what their friends' values are, what they do when they are together, and what your teen likes about them. Ask meaningful questions not because you are trying to pry, but because you truly care. If you see a bad relationship that is having a significant negative influence on your teen, you may need to address the future of the friendship, but do that only in the most extreme situations.

*Get all up in your teen's business regarding any girl/boy relationships they have. I have said before that most teens are not ready for an intense romantic relationship, comparing it to giving plutonium to a preschooler. But if they are in a relationship that has your blessing, I encourage you to give accountability bordering on the extreme. Parents should know the boy/girlfriend well and articulate clearly and often the boundaries for the relationship.

*Regarding technology and social media, parents (and their kids) must become comfortable with a significant amount of transparency within the family. Teenagers need to understand from their earliest exposure to cell phones, social media, etc. that these are not worlds that are free of parental involvement. Your kids should expect you to carefully monitor what they do in the digital world. I'm not suggesting that you monitor their every movement online, but that you set clear expectations and boundaries regarding what is shared and how much time is spent online. They should know that you have the right to check up on them whenever you want to.

Nobody wants a photobomb in an important picture, but the result is usually pretty funny. Your kids may not like it when you consistently stay involved in their lives, but they will appreciate your investment there in the long run.