“The finest art of communication is not learning how to express your thoughts. It is learning how to draw out the thoughts of another.“~Tedd Tripp
Do you find yourself having difficulty talking with your teen? Do they seem to have morphed into a different person that you’re trying to figure out who they are much less how to communicate with? Is there dead silence when you ask, “how was your day?” I don’t have all the answers but we’ve raised two of them and wanted to share a bit of insight we’ve learned along the way.
These years are critical in the lives of our children as they are going to make choices that may affect the rest of their lives. We, as parents would like to have the leading role, next to the Lord, in helping them maneuver through the difficulties and challenges of life. If my child is going through anything I want them to come to us as parents first and know that they can talk to us about anything – unconditional love should be lived out in our homes – always!
First off remember there are no perfect parents and there are no perfect children. I am not going to lay out a twelve step plan but share some principles and ideas that have helped with our children. I am not saying in this post that we allow disrespect or disobedience from our children – those areas need to be dealt with as parents. We’re just chatting today on how to build better communication with our teens.
Some Helpful Communication Tips:
– Don’t talk at your teen but talk to them. Many times as a parent you can find yourself just barking out orders or having a one sided conversation.
-Take the time to engage your teen in conversation. Just from my experience the quality time does not come without the quantity time. Linger over meals, have coffee dates or go out to dinner together. Chat while doing dishes or yard work – don’t miss those moments to engage them.
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-Be sure they know they are safe to tell you anything. Let them know your love for them is unconditional and will never change. You should be the safest place on this earth for them to share anything that is going on in their lives.
-Remember with me for a moment when you were a teen. You probably had some silly ideas that your parents thought were dumb and they told you. Bad idea. Even if you think their ideas are silly (as long as they’re not sinful) don’t tell them. When you continue to knock down or tell them their ideas are dumb you’re probably not going to gain much in the area of good, trusting communication with them. Encourage them in their interests, whether or not you think they’re interesting.
– Do they know you think their ideas and dreams and opinions are important?
–Do you build your child up or tear them down?
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-Really listen to them. I mean really listen. Don’t think about what you’re going to say in that next moment of quiet in the conversation but focus on what they are sharing with you.
–Do they feel like they can never do enough to please you? Are your standards or expectations too high? Are they unattainable or close to perfection? Are you highly critical?
-The world already tells them they are not good enough in all sorts of areas – what do they hear from you? Is it encouragement or kindness or criticism?
–Are you respectful of their time? How many times do you ask them to do something immediately, not being considerate of what they may be doing at the moment instead of just asking it do be done when it is convenient for them. Would you appreciate if you are in the middle of washing dishes for your husband to demand you to take out the garbage? How often do we place those types of demands on our teens?
–Think before you speak. Is what your about to say really necessary? Is it kind?
–Respond to them in a Christlike manner even in moments of disagreement. Stop and pray before you speak – don’t just react or snap. Offer them the same grace and mercy you have been given by the Lord.
-Speak truth with love calmly. No matter how difficult the situation.
–Pray with them in and through trials of their life.
-Teach them to look to God’s Word for direction and answers.
-If you have sinned against them in word or deed ask their forgiveness.
-Don’t immediately panic if they don’t open up about something. Pray for them and know they may need some time to sort out their thoughts before coming to you. Let them know you are there to talk with whenever they need to. Some of our best conversations happened late at night when I would truly rather be sleeping but I am thankful for those times.
–Spend time with your teen – I cannot emphasize this one enough. The days will get busy but family time together is important. Good communication starts here.
–Have fun and laugh a lot together. Humor is so healing and can turn a seemingly difficult moment around in an instant. (Thankful for my husband’s sense of humor).
-Make time for family traditions. Family worship time together, game or movie nights, picnics, special dinners out or special weeknight dinners at home together. Read my post on Making the Most of Family Dinners.
One of the best tips to share is to listen to your teen. Let them know they are important to you. Let them know you respect what they have to say and their opinions matter. If someone continues to shut you down and knock your ideas you probably won’t have much to say to them. How many times do we do this with our teens? There will not be much communication going on with a teen who feels their parents have no respect or value for anything they have to say.
Find out what their interests and likes are and participate in them. What kind of music do they like? Books? Movies? Be engaged in their lives and that is a great step in connecting with their hearts. Ask questions like, “tell me more about that” or “what do you enjoy about it?”
I am not 19 anymore so my choices in life are going to look different then what might interest my children but I need to be reminded we all have different interests and just because their interests differ from mine doesn’t make them wrong – it just makes them different. I am not talking about sinful choices but differences in clothing styles or music or books etc.
May we take the time to let our teens know their thoughts and dreams are of value to us. Let them know you believe in them and that you are their biggest fan. Find them doing things right more than what they do wrong and praise them for it.
“Attentive listening entails an eagerness to hear everything with regard to (another’s) thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It’s more than just keeping our mouths shut. Listening means making full eye contact, not looking around with a blank stare. We don’t interrupt, yawn, or prematurely formulate an answer. Careful listening will encourage (others) to bare their souls to us and share their innermost thoughts.” ~Carolyn Mahaney