Five Critical Reminders on How to Not Lose Touch with Your TeenOct 14, 2021
Inspire by example—vulnerability and transparency. As I’m sure you have encountered, both as a child and as a parent, your child’s perception of you changes as they get older. Teens can become disillusioned by the “humanity” of their parents, realizing intuitively or overtly that you are fallible. Being honest with your failures, struggles—and how you respond to them can teach your teen important lessons about dealing with their own failures and frustrations. Knowing that you realize your mistakes and know how to deal with them in a healthy way is valuable parenting and true discipleship. If you struggle with dealing with your mistakes in a healthy way, seek coaching or counseling to help you move forward. This, too, provides a healthy example.
Ask specific, open-ended questions. Many teens are stingy with information about themselves and their lives. I certainly was, and I’ve encountered enough teens with the same reluctance. Asking yes/no questions offers the option to say less. Instead of asking, “Did you have a good day?” or even, “How was your day?” try asking, “What was the best part of your day?” or “What was your greatest success today?” opens the door for more communication.
The other critical element is to let your teen know that they are more important than their performance. The first questions you ask show your priority. Asking about the Math quiz or History test first may communicate to the teen that their performance matters more than them, even if your intent is to find an easy connection point between you. It might be that the best part of your teen’s day was a break between classes when a friend they respect complimented their new haircut. It might not matter to you, but celebrating that “win” with them means more than you know.
Spend time with your teen. My son is a sensitive introvert. When he chooses to share something, he needs to know that I am there for him on every level. Often this means taking the time to be with him without any agenda. Creating the opportunity for him to share sometimes opened up those “magical moments” where he would share what was closer to his heart. It didn’t always happen, but the time was never wasted. Even if your teen has a very different personality (and they probably do) discovering ways to spend time together—on their terms—can make a huge difference.
Clarify priorities. I can be competitive. When I played games with my kids, I had a difficult time not engaging my competitive edge until my wife asked me why I was playing the game with my daughter. Upon reflection, my first priority was to spend time with her, not to win. In fact, because I wanted (want) her to be amazing (and she is), I started explaining my strategies, so that she would become even better, eventually beating me in many of the games we played. I “won” because my daughter liked spending time with me because I was “for” her, and she became better because of it.
Another example is when we would travel together. As the kids grew, they developed stronger interests and personalities. Travel became more challenging because everyone wanted to do their own thing. We decided to prioritize and value each other by having each of us plan a day. We knew where we were going to be, so we could assign each person a day. On that day, all of us got to experience the city through that person’s perspective. It became a way to understand each other better and experience the location wonderful ways.
Have a “Family Night.” Especially in high school, schedules can get complicated. Consider reserving one night a week where everyone commits to being home for dinner. There are all kinds of things that can be done to make this time more meaningful, such as
- Celebrate one child each Family Night; that child can choose the dinner and/or dessert.
- Play a game that inspires thought, creates teamwork, or gives insight into others. For example, games like Pandemic Legacy, where the players work together against the board to protect mankind from a deadly virus, inspires cooperation, strategy, and teamwork. Other games, like Dixit, require more of an ability to understand the way the other players think.
- Share one positive action or trait of each person from the last week.
- Read or share something that inspired you.
- Have two people share their favorite song at the moment and explain why they like it.
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