Two teens. Both girls, but entirely different. It is quite fun living in a house with a 16 year-old and 13 year-old (my 19 year-old is off to college!). They are in such different stages, yet still have many things in common.
Scene: Pick up from senior high school car pool.
“How was your day today?” “Fine.” “Anything fun happen?” “Not really.” “Do you have much homework?” “It’s not too bad.” End of conversation.
Scene: Two hours later; pick up from middle school
“How was your day today?” Well, in first block…..” The conversation goes on and on until we pull into the garage.
Maybe you too have children whose communication styles are completely different. One who spills her heart at the first opportunity while the other carefully guards her thoughts.
Now, I certainly do not have all the answers to the question, “How do I get them to talk?”. It is one I grapple with often. This week, though, I have experienced some success that I want to share with you.
Sure, this one should be a given. We pray often, even all day long for our kids. But do we pray that they will open up and specifically, do we pray that they will open up to us. This is definitely the place to start.
2) Listen Without Conditions
This is the toughest. Sometimes, ok, most of the time, our kids don’t want advice. What they want and what they need is a safe place to vent. We need to be able to be that safe place. We need to be able to listen and empathize; all the while being sensitive to how we are to respond. Is it a hug? Is it some words of encouragement? When we just listen, without giving advice, it shows them that we can just listen. We are capable of filling the role of friend when that is what they need. At the same time, we are praying for the right time and place to address things that need to be address. Not everything that needs to be addressed should be addressed right away. Sometimes we need to confront issues when emotions are not on edge and there is a more relaxed atmosphere.
3) Windshield Time
Relaxed atmosphere; that is exactly what “windshield time” can be. I have had most of my best conversations with my kids in the car. (That is part of the reason I get sad when they get their license! Next week, child #2 will have the power!)
When we are driving in the car, we are usually together for a period of time. Hopefully there is no competition for your attention (No cell phones here; and that goes for us too). When we are not looking directly at each other, but at a windshield instead, tensions and intimidation is lowered, allowing our children to be more vulnerable.
With that in mind, be intentional about trips in the car. Can you take one child along on a trip to the grocery store; even if he is 14? (A little bribery helps here. Reese cups works at our house). How about skipping car pooling with another family? I made this decision this year. I decided that the time I spent driving my child to school was actually very valuable; valuable enough that I wanted to do it each and every day. During that drive in the morning, we talk about topics brought up on our Christian radio station. We pray for our day. We discuss things that happened in the family the night before. Hopefully on the ride home, I get to hear all about her day.
I hope these three tidbits can help you as you look for opportunities to engage your teen. Dannah Gresh shared this week that the parent/child connection is the number one thing that empowers our children to live pure lives. That is something we can do something about; we can be intentional about increasing our connection.
Go ahead…pray, get in the car pool line and just listen!