starters: Talking to your teen
Today’s teens encounter a
world that, in some ways, is strikingly different from that of their parents.
But there are also common denominators of life that connect the generations.
Parents need to remember the physical and emotional changes they experienced
growing up as they deal with children going through the same adjustments.
Just as parents are prone to do, adolescents can think of and test many possible
explanations for an observed event. They can evaluate what they’re told
on an abstract level without reference to real-world events. When their reactions
are run through a parent’s mental and emotional filters, teens may come
across as unrealistic or unreasonable. But it is vital that parents listen
lovingly, even to seemingly crazy ideas. Parents should constantly encourage
their teens to remain open, and the key to encouraging such communication
is the respect and love shown when it is offered.
Here are some suggestions for conversation
starters and effective listening.
• “What do you think
about (a real life situation in your community)?”
• “Is there a way I
• “What would you do
in a situation like that?”
• “Can you imagine
how that must have felt?”
• “This is uncomfortable
to talk about.” (Let’s be honest. It gives us some credibility.)
• “I worry that (you’re
sexually active, using drugs, will use drugs, etc.). That’s why I’m
• Genuinely be interested
in what they have to say whenever they talk to you.
• Discuss what you hear together
in a sermon, on the radio, television, etc.
• Talk about
how God is moving in your life and the ways in which your personal
devotions help you.
is a powerful way to teach. Teens see what parents do even if
they don’t seem to hear what parents say.
• Listen without
comment as you travel with them. You’re part of the vehicle
as far as they and their friends are concerned. You can learn
a lot this way.
Wetherbee, Ph.D., is clinical director at EMERGE Ministries in