Sarah M. Farrell
Many parents experience a lot of confusion and nervousness about talking to their teens. I would guess that this has been the case since the dawn of time. However, in the age of Snapchat, Tinder, Tumblr, and Vine, the age gap can seem insurmountable. Let’s face it: A new type of bullying has even reared its ugly head. Many things have changed dramatically during the past generations. However, there is one thing has not changed.
Your teens need you. No, they are not in diapers anymore. They don’t require your assistance with putting on the dirty socks they just dug out of the hamper. They pick out their own clothes for school. What’s more, they may even drive to school on their own. But they still need you. Arguably, they need you just as much as they did when they were cutting their first tooth. Their needs have definitely changed, but that does not mean that they have disappeared. Talking to them and keeping the lines of communication open is a vital avenue through which you can inspire and impact your teenager.
Before we talk about the “what,” let’s work on the how.
1) Start with Respect
Respect their opinions, their feelings. No, you don’t have to agree. And half of the time, you probably shouldn’t. But respectfully talking something through and giving your reasons will get you a lot further with your teens than anger.
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. (Colossians 3:21)
2) Have a Conversation
When you approach your teens calmly, and respect their feelings, this increases the likelihood that you will be able to have the important conversations that need to be introduced. Avoid arguments and lectures. Just try to talk, calmly.
3) Start Conversations at the Right Time
When there is already tension isn’t a great time for conversations. Instead, find neutral times when you can talk—in a quiet time before bed when siblings might not be around, when out to lunch with just the two of you, etc. Find that “no man’s land” space where you both feel free to share.
4) Own Your Stuff
Be real with your teens. You can share your fears, your concerns, your excitement. Using phrases that begin with “I…” or “I think or feel feel…” go a lot further than “You always…” or “You never…”
For example: “I sometimes feel that you don’t feel comfortable sharing about your life with me.” vs. “You never talk with me and you purposely keep things from me.”
5) Respect Your Position in Your Teenager’s Life
You are the parent. You have been a teenager. Yes, a lot of things have changed since then. Yes, there are things about their lives that you do not understand. However, you are the parent and you know them and love them. That goes a long way. Don’t let fear of demonstrating your level of “out of touch” keep you from being present when they need you. Celebrate your differences and grow with them.
6) Finally, Be the Parent
Communicating with your teenager in the manner described above does not negate your authority. Rather, it demonstrates that you know how to use it. While discipline is obviously necessary and important, so is showing your child love and modeling great ways to communicate.
Christian Counseling Can Help You Talk to Your Teen
In my new article series, I will not only be talking to you about the topics you should discuss with your teens, but I will also provide a snapshot of the reasons why through an introduction to various topics. We will briefly explore the “How to talk to them” on each topic. However, using the basic tips presented in this article as a groundwork should give you a great head start in becoming and staying involved in your teen’s life.
If you would like help beginning this conversation, or feel that your teen needs additional assistance, counseling is a great option. Our Christian counselors would be happy to come alongside you and begin the process with you, either individually or through family counseling.
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