In our family, we have a fun mix of ages and stages.
We’re celebrating our grown son and his bride as they build a new life together. Our young adult daughter is finding her passion and path to the mission field. Two teen girls keep our house full of creativity and laughter.
Rounding out the crew is our seven-year-old son, gifted to us by God through adoption. The dream Rob and I shared over late-night cups of coffee in college has come true in the big, busy family we adore today.
Each of our sons and daughters is moving through a distinct stage of maturity and growth. This reality challenges us to parent and communicate differently with each child. I want to grow alongside them, adapting to each unique personality and the challenges that come and go.
One measure of how I’m keeping up as a mom is found in the words I say.One measure of how I’m keeping up as a mom is found in the words I say. Click To Tweet
How to Communicate with Your Teenager
I caught myself at the dinner table recently, blurting out “You should…” to my daughter.
Clamping my hand over my mouth, I stopped myself from throwing opinions and advice her way.
It was tempting to instruct her like she was my second-grader, as opposed to the
capable young woman she truly is. I watched her grow tense and guarded at that moment–it proved once more that a fresh vocabulary is needed.
Here are six strategies to communicate with your teenager:
First… “Ask, before you tell.”
Before we dictate our daughter’s clothing choices, we can ask what she thinks is fitting for the situation or what she’s trying to express through her appearance.
Also, before we override a purchase at the store, we can ask how that spending decision will affect other financial goals.
Before we set up barriers to our son’s new social circle, we can seek to understand what he’s gaining from his friendships. Seeing from our child’s point of view goes far to earn a voice in their lives.Seeing from our child’s point of view goes far to earn a voice in their lives. Click To Tweet
Second… Let authority give way to influence.
Our goal as moms and dads is to help our kids grow into independent, self-sustaining adults. They’re to move from leaning on us for money, wisdom, and help to handle the demands of life for themselves.
Verbally “laying down the law” and solving every problem hinders their ability to strike out on their own.
During the teen years, we gradually let out the leash, allowing them to try and fail, explore and experience, struggle and overcome. In this way, they’re free to discover their strengths, gifts, and dreams for the future.
Third… Admit it’s a struggle.
Honesty is important.
Express your disappointment when a poor work ethic wrecks an opportunity. Explain your confusion when you see a mismatch between goals and actual day-to-day choices.
Describe your hurt, offended emotions if your teen is distant or disrespectful.
Be transparent with the fact that letting go brings a real sense of loss. Invite your
child into your own emotional world as much as you press into theirs.
Fourth… Stay available.
Our kids will collide with problems they’ve never had to solve before. Multiple
voices will compete for their attention, and they won’t be sure who to trust.
The future will spread out before them with an overwhelming array of choices. Broken friendships and romance will wound their hearts and they don’t know how to move through the pain.
As parents, we can remain quietly present and ready to listen. We can offer a shoulder to cry on, prayers for God’s guidance, and insight for the asking.
Unconditional love that “bears all things” and “hopes all things” creates a safe space to share their burdens. (1 Corinthians 13:7)As parents, we can remain quietly present and ready to listen. We can offer a shoulder to cry on, prayers for God’s guidance, and insight for the asking. Click To Tweet
Sometimes we find ourselves at a loss for words. We’re just as upset and confused as our
child by the circumstances they face.
Destructive choices and betrayal make us want to run the other way. When we’re eager to react or force a quick fix, we need to stop. Take deep breaths, pray, and remember it’s better to say nothing than the wrong thing.
Give yourself the gift of time to calm down before you engage.Give yourself the gift of time to calm down before you engage. Click To Tweet
Finally… Start with love.
Our best words are affectionate. Life-giving. Affirming. Hopeful. Sincere.
Expressions of love and admiration fill up our kids’ hearts. They prove we’re on their side.
Loving words bring healing and break down walls between us. Let’s take every opportunity to declare our kids’ priceless worth as they grow.
Our words are powerful. Let’s call on God for wisdom in what to say.
As the Spirit and the Bible guide our ways, we’ll be able to reach our kids right where they are on their path to growing up.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Ephesians 4:2-3, 29Our words are powerful. Let’s call on God for wisdom in what to say. Click To Tweet
About the Author:
Joanna Teigen and her husband Rob have shared over 25 years of marriage and life with five kids, plus a beautiful daughter-in-law.
They’re a neat-freak married to a mess, an explorer to a homebody, and an introvert to a ‘people person.’ But they agree their vows are for always, children are a gift, and prayer is powerful.
Joanna is the co-author of Mr. and Mrs., 366 Devotions for Couples, A Mom’s Prayers for Her Son, and a variety of other resources for couples and parents.
She looks forward to meeting you at GrowingHomeTogether.com.
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