How to Get Your Teenager Talking
- Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jonathan McKee’s new book Get Your Teenager Talking: Everything You Need to Spark Meaningful Conversations (Bethany House Publishers, 2014).
Conversations between teens and adults can be awkward, so teens will often avoid talking much with the adults in their lives, leaving parents to feel frustrated by the lack of communication. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Teens actually do have a lot to say, and they want to be heard. They will open up and start talking to adults who know how to approach conversations with them wisely.
You can get your teenagers talking by relying on the Holy Spirit to help you ask wise questions and listen well to your teens’ answers. Here’s how you can do so, plus some questions that can serve as springboards to interesting conversations with your teens:
Ask interesting questions that require more than a one-word answer. Avoid asking questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” – such as “Was school fun today?” Instead, plan ahead for the next opportunity you’ll have to talk with your teens, preparing questions that aren’t boring (such as asking about a controversial story that’s currently in the news) and that cover topics that interest your teens (rather than just what interests you).
Listen and notice. Pay close attention to the thoughts and feelings that your teens choose to share with you. Eliminate distractions when your teens are talking so you can fully focus on listening to them carefully. Seek to learn more about your teens each time you talk together. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you notice opportunities to talk so you can take advantage of them.
Ask who they would text, if they could text anyone in the world right now and be guaranteed a response, and what they would ask that person. This will reveal information about who and what most captures your teens’ attention.
Ask what one world evil they would destroy if possible, and why. This will inspire your teens to think about what role they could play in helping to solve the world’s problems.
Ask why they chose the outfits they’re wearing right now. This will tell you something about the images your teen are trying to communicate to others, since teens often use clothing as a way of presenting themselves to the world in a certain way.
Ask what songs are on their current playlists, and why. This will give you insight into your teens’ feelings, which are often reflected in the type of music they choose to listen to.
Ask what makes someone popular among the people they know, and how their personal qualities compare to the characteristics that make teens popular. This is a good opportunity to discuss the difference between external qualities (such as looks) and internal qualities (such as character) and inspire your teen to think about what’s truly worth pursuing.
Ask what their favorite phone app is and what it does. This will tell you about their habits on the phone, where many teens spend a great deal of time.
Ask about what family members do for them that help them out the most. This will show you what your teens perceive as being helpful, which may be surprising for you and can show you how to help them in ways that strengthen your relationships with them.
Ask them to name a past accomplishment that they’re proud of, as well as something they would like to accomplish in the future. This will encourage your teens to think about what’s important to them and give you opportunities to affirm the good values that they want to pursue.
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