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    Parents in Training

    Sister Neill F. Marriott Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency

    You can do four simple things right now to build a happy, faithful home in the future.

    Imagine yourself 20 years from now. What will your future home be like? Can you picture it? Is there love there? Does the Spirit dwell within those walls? You have the opportunity now to work toward that personal vision of the home you want to have. Now imagine your children. Are they strong in the gospel? Are they happy? What kind of parent are you? It can be hard to look so far ahead.

    You’re probably thinking, “What’s the point in thinking about things like children and my future home when I’m not even finished with seminary or if I haven’t even started it!”

    The decisions you make today affect not only your future but also your children’s future.

    These things are important now because the decisions you make today affect not only your future but also your children’s future. If you want to teach your children how to be happy, you have to learn how to be happy now. (Check out “How to Find Joy.”) If you want to teach in your home, you need to look at what you’re putting into your head and your heart now. While the thought of preparing to be a parent already might seem completely overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Let me share four simple things you can do that could help you become the mom or dad you hope to be.

    1. Develop a Relationship with Your Heavenly Father

    Man praying

    First, develop your relationship with Heavenly Father. You’ll need to talk with Him through earnest, daily prayer; learn about Him through sincere scripture study; and show Him you love Him by keeping the commandments, following the For the Strength of Youth guidelines, and partaking of the sacrament carefully and thoughtfully. Then, as you develop that trust, that faith, and that testimony, you’ll be converted to the truth that we have a Heavenly Father. (Check out “Learn of Heavenly Father: A Study of Epic Proportions.”) And the promises you have made—and the blessings that He has promised—will seem more real than ever.

    As you bring the Father to a prominent place in your life, you’ll be more willing to pray not only for guidance but also for His love. (Check out “Roger That!” to find out why prayer is critical to victory!) This might not be easy at first, but as you experiment and call upon Him, you’ll begin to recognize His love and guidance in your life, and your testimony of the gospel will continue to grow.

    2. Observe Your Family

    I have a suggestion for you. Write down the following sentences in your journal and think about what they mean:

    • What has my father or mother said or done that has changed me for the better?
    • How did he or she do it?
    • How has service among my family members strengthened family ties?
    • What brings my family happiness?
    • What kind of person do I want to be when I have children?
    • What are the best ways to communicate ideas clearly?

    With these questions in mind, it’s time to observe your family! What works and what doesn’t? (Don’t judge of course, but be objective and honest with yourself.)

    Please don’t expect your family to be perfect—because it will not be. It doesn’t help anyone to dwell on faults and imperfections. Instead, focus on what your family does well, and practice what you’ve learned from the answers to these questions. (Check out “What about Mom and Dad?” to see what other teens learn from their parents.)

    As you strive to become a constant source of goodness, you’ll likely influence your family for the better. And as you recognize the good aspects of your family, you will have a strong foundation for establishing good patterns in your future home.

    3. Find Opportunities to Teach the Gospel

    Girls looking at a tablet

    You’ll have opportunities to teach the gospel in both formal and informal settings. Sometimes you’ll teach by example, and other times you’ll be asked to give a talk in church or prepare a lesson for family home evening. So even without realizing it, you could be teaching the gospel every single day. What better way could you prepare to be a parent!

    Try to find natural opportunities to talk about God with those around you without being preachy or overbearing. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself talking about God very naturally in everyday conversation. (Check out “Sharing the Gospel Naturally.”)

    4. Be a Caring Listener

    When I was a little girl and throughout my youth, my father would come into my room each night and ask me about my day. I can’t remember much of what I said to him; I just remember that he would listen. He showed he cared enough about me to give his time to me. Because of that, I adored my father and trusted the things he said. Just by being kind and interested in me, he made me feel like I put the moon in the sky!

    Boy and girl

    Learn to connect with people around you and give them your time. Some friends will need a joke or a compliment, while others will need advice, reassurance, or validation. And sometimes people just need you to listen. Develop the skill of awareness; notice the feelings of others. You’ll need this sensitivity as you raise your future family.

    You can practice by setting aside time for friends and family now, without electronic devices or distractions, for the sole purpose of giving them your attention. This doesn’t mean a casual “hello” in the hallway or a “How are you?” on your way out the door. It means taking the time to ask sincere, thoughtful questions and listening to the answers. You’ll be surprised how fast you’ll bond with people and how much you’ll find out about them. (Check out “How to Be a Good Friend.”)

    Your Future Starts Now

    Now go back to that future home and life you imagined and ask yourself the same questions you wrote down about your current home. There is much for you there. If you really want a happy, faithful home, now is the time to prepare. Now is the time to be your best self.

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    How will you prepare to be a future parent? Share your experience below.

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