CITYHOPE YOUTH STAFF
“Whenever you talk with your teenager, you’re either opening the door for future communication or you’re shutting them down.” -Dr. Kevin Leman
One of the most crazy awkward conversations that parents and teenagers have is The Talk. Parents and kids dread it and, for some, this is the first deep conversation parents have with their child. Before you dive into a deep conversation like The Talk, it is important to establish an open line of communication with your teen. It is imperative that you have “the talks” before The Talk. What I mean by that is the sex talk should not be the first or only time you have a real intentional conversation with your growing, soon-to-be adult. The talks before The Talk are every day, real conversations with your child. If you work at having better communication then, you are one step closer to winning as a parent.
8 Tips on having meaningful conversations:
Take time to invest - Take time every week to invest into your teenager. Plan time to go drive around and hangout. Go grab fast food, go catch that movie they have been wanting to see, and spend time together. The point is the more you spend time with them, the more likely they are going to be willing to open up.
Let their interests, interest you - Your teenager has hobbies and interests just like you do! Whatever they are interested in, begin an interest in it too. It is a part of their world and you need to be in their world. There is a reason your child likes it and there is no better bonding experience for a parent and child than doing something together. Check out this link about actor Terry Crews taking interest in his son’s world.
Practice the art of listening - Don’t dominate the conversation, let them talk and practice the art of listening. Listening communicates that you value them and care about their opinion. Don’t make the mistake that your teenager wants to hear about all the wisdom you have. Until you have shown a track record of listening well, they will not care about what you have to say. You are earning the right to be heard on the big things. To do that, you’re going to need to be a great listener when it comes to the less important things to.
Be a regular - In a restaurant, there are always “regulars” who pop in to eat. Everyone knows who they are, they typically order the same food every time, and they are always a joy to serve. (Think of “Norm” on Cheers!) There are going to be a lot of voices in your child’s life and you need to be a “regular” voice. Be the one who shows up and tells them that they are doing a good job, that you’re proud of them, and they are loved. There maybe times where you get tired of telling them how proud you are of them but, they will never get tired of hearing it.
Be There - If your son or daughter comes to you, be glad to give them your complete attention! Turn off the tv, close the laptop, stop whatever you are doing. If they are coming to you with something, it means it is important to them… which means it should be important to you. Show them that they matter because no teen will share with a parent who does not seem to care about them. If you fail at this opportunity to connect chances are they won’t come to you again.
Share a Story - If they are going through a tough time, share a story with them about when you went through a tough time. That lets them know that you can sympathize with them and have had similar feelings. It opens the door for them to ask questions. If they just had their heart broken by a girlfriend or boyfriend, tell them about your first break up. It will engage them and I guarantee they will ask, “what did you do?”
Admit your mistakes - Swallow your pride and own up to your mistakes. Chances are if you do, they will do the same. If you did not handle a situation well, let them know and apologize. You’ll be surprised by the response you’ll get when you do this. “Hey I’m sorry for getting angry and going off I shouldn’t have done that I let my frustration get the best of me. I would really like to sit down and talk about what happened.” Remember, you’re earning the right to be heard and nothing earns more respect than a person willingly admit when they have been wrong.
Be First - Be first when talking with your child about the reality of drugs, sex, bullying, and shady corners of internet. They are being exposed to all of these things way earlier in their life than you were as a kid. You need to beat society to this stuff because if you don’t, society is going to be the one teaching them. Whoever gets there first sets the tone. You want to be first. You want Godly reasoning to be your guide. Always remember to pray. Use discernment when approaching these topics. Remember that they are not just a one-time conversation! You will have multiple conversations with your child regarding these topics. We want to protect our kids from ugly things but, avoiding the topics and not confronting them head-on is NOT protection. Blindly pretending that ugly things won’t be a part of our children’s lives isn’t wisdom. So many parents are paying the price for waiting too long to broach those subjects. So many families are in major struggles with some spiritually nasty things because they avoided talking about the not so pretty parts of growing up. Beat the odds. Be first!
We hope that this has helped you and pray for meaningful conversations for you and your family. If you have a question or response we would love to hear from you.