The Dual Life
YTN’s research found that a majority of Christian youth are leading a dual life with their parents to varying degrees, often towards the more serious end of the spectrum in the high school years. Depending on the community, Christian school or youth group, the range of Christian youth leading dual lives fell between 60% and 90%.
The dual life, as defined by the youth in our sessions, is knowing how to act and what to say when with parents or adults and then leading a very different life when apart from these influences. While the dual life existed when many of us grew up, it was not as prevalent or as dark according to the youth we have interviewed. Given the post-modern/post-christan mindset of youth that look to community and experience to assess truth the dual life culture in our ministries undermines their faith. They look to their community and find that the truth we are teaching makes little difference in the lives of the students around them.
The advent of technology, the busy schedule of parents, and the dramatic shift in the worldview of today’s adolescents have led to an explosion of young people working together to lead dual lives when apart from adults. Their strategies are fairly simple and straightforward and accomplish the goal of getting around mom and dad’s rules or restrictions.
This dual life begins with small compromises as they enter adolescence and figure out that it is often easier to hide things from parents than be open with them. These lead to larger and larger compromises as they realize they can get away with the dual life. The outcome is that communication with their parents decreases and youth develop a false sense of confidence in their own judgment. The dual life also deeply impacts the faith of post-modern youth who evaluate truth based on whether they see it working in their family, school or group. When the dual life is found in over 60 plus percent of their Christian friends, Christian School or Youth Group it quickly undermines the truth they learn since they do not see it working in the lives around them.
One might expect that with such large percentages of youth leading dual lives that the issues would be so prevalent more parents would be aware of their kids’ dual lives than they are today. However, most are not because the dual life is held in check by the fact that youth are around their parents or other adults a majority of the time and can only escape into their dual life activities a small percentage of the time. Thus the dual life is held in check until they leave home for work, the military or college.
This is one reason so many youth struggle in their transition to life on their own. Once free from the watchful eyes and control of parents, the dual life can take over quickly in the first days on a college campus, on military leave or in one’s own apartment.
The root of the dual life stems from parents’ misunderstanding of adolescence and the relational disconnect that occurs when parents' approach does not align with the real changes occurring in their kids as a result of the brain development phase adolescents enter.
This mismatch is caused by dramatic shifts within the adolescent brain that accompany puberty. The parental response to these changes often leads to unresolved issues and increased conflict that causes youth to distance themselves from parents and begin to hide small things from parents. This is the first step toward a deceptive dual life. As a result, youth distance themselves from parents and fill the void with the influence of friends and the youth culture.
The Secrets of Influential Parenting has been developed to help parents prevent and or reverse the expected outcomes of parenting adolescents. Jeff and Deedee began using the skills they learned with their adolescents with their last child, Eric, when he was three years old. As a result, Eric is the first positive core value kid they have raised!