Get Your Teen to Talk to You
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2003 3 Oct
You may be talking quite often to your teen. But does he or she talk to you? It's all too common for parents to struggle to get their teens involved in conversations. Many times, parents end up talking to or at teens, rather than talking with them. It is possible for you to achieve two-way communication with your teen, however.
Here are some ways to get your teen to talk to you:
Build and model and strong character: Remember that if you want your teen to trust and respect you, you need to live with integrity. Make sure your actions match your words so you're truly living out what you profess to believe. Set strong standards in your home to give your teen a sense of security, and be consistent about enforcing those standards. Treat your spouse well to model healthy communication. If you're often in a bad mood, ask God to help you become a more positive person. Treat your teen with respect, and look for ways to perform acts of kindness for him or her. Do your best to keep your promises, and if you can't, explain why and ask your teen to forgive you. Eliminate unnecessary stress from your life so you can properly focus on your teen. Give your teen your full attention when he or she is talking; listen actively, with eye contact and without distractions.
Understand and respond to your teen's unique needs: Help your teen navigate the chaos that developmental changes bring. Never tease your teen about his or her changing physical appearance. Seek your teen's input about various issues, and encourage debates. Give your teen some space to figure out his or her personal identity. Be patient with your teen's roller-coaster emotions. Help your teen develop a plan for independence, in ways such as giving him or her the freedom to make his or her own choices (in age-appropriate ways), connecting new opportunities to new responsibilities, and allowing your teen to experience the natural consequences of his or her own actions. Monitor your teen's media use (such as the Internet and television), and discuss the culture with him or her. Get to know your teen's friends well, since they exert a great deal of influence on his or her life. Be proactive about discussing issues like drugs, alcohol, and premarital sex. Make these ongoing conversations, not one-time lectures. Set, clear, explicit guidelines for dating before your teen ever expresses an interest in dating. Help your teen examine his or her worldview, and contrast postmodern philosophy with biblical truth.
Encourage deeper communication: Choose your conversations wisely - focus on big issues of lasting significance, and let small issues slide. Rearrange your priorities so you can be available whenever your teen wants to talk with you. Don't spoil your teen; instead give him or her the more-valuable gift of strong character by encouraging him or her to work toward long-term goals. When you say "no," stick to your answer so your teen will learn that you mean what you say. Say "yes" as often as you can. Don't buy into the myth of quality time. Realize that quality time will happen naturally if you care enough to spend quantity time with your teen. Discover what makes your teen feel loved, and interact with him or her in those ways. Give your teen some privacy, and maintain an active life of your own so you don't depend on your teen for your emotional well-being. Keep your anger under control. Ask your teen questions that invite him or her to share thoughts and feelings. Accept your teen, and offer him or her unconditional love. Work to create a relaxing, welcoming atmosphere in your home first thing in the morning and when your family comes back together at the end of each day. Have fun together. Laugh together. Hold weekly family meetings in which everyone can participate.
Strengthen your connection: Work with your teen to serve other people together. Be a leader first in your parenting, and a friend second. Help your teen discover his or her passions, and encourage him or her to pursue them. Make your house a welcoming place for teens so your teen can have his or her friends over often. Keep confidences that your teen shares with you; prove you can be trusted. Get to know more about your teen's personality and gender traits. Surprise your teen by offering to do something together that he or she has wanted to do for awhile. Admit your mistakes and seek your teen's forgiveness. Pray for your teen often. Compliment your teen regularly. Be willing to let go of your teen and encourage him or her to soar as a young adult.
Adapted from How to Get Your Teen to Talk to You, copyright © 2002 by Connie Grigsby and Kent Julian. Published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc., www.multnomahbooks.com.
Connie Grigsby, a popular teacher and speaker, is the coauthor of How to Get Your Husband to Talk to You and The Politically Incorrect Wife - a finalist for the Gold Medallion award. She and her husband, Wes, have three teenage daughters. Kent Julian, a sought-after communicator and veteran youth pastor, currently serves more than 2,000 churches as the national director of Alliance Youth. Kent and his wife, Kathy, live in the Atlanta area and are the parents of three children.