Connecting Through Conversations
by Karin Sasser

Throughout the whole of the Bible, we see how important relationships are to God. He created us to be in relationship with Him as well as relationship with others. Our most formative relationships are within the family. In order to have healthy relationships, we need to have healthy communication, which means we need to be able to have healthy conversations. During the teen years, this can be difficult. Teens tend to be more self-focused, challenging of what others say, and rebellious as they begin to assert more independence. So, during this stage, more than ever, parents need support in engaging in healthy conversations with their teens and tweens. Here are some suggestions you can share with parents as they navigate this process. 

Relationship is key. And the key to having healthy conversations with teens and tweens is to have a healthy relationship with them first. This is true for parents as well as youth leaders. If a child trusts their parents and experiences love and grace from them consistently, they will be more open to what their parents have to say. On the other hand, if every conversation is a battle, a power struggle, a conflict, the relationship will begin to erode. Parents need to be looking for ways to connect with their children regularly. And when conflict does occur, parents need to be willing to initiate reconciliation. This may come in the form of an apology – not necessarily for what they said, but perhaps for the way they said it or for not doing a great job of listening to their child’s perspective, which leads us to the next suggestion.

 

Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Does this sound familiar? James tells us this because he knows the importance of promoting peace and unity, and he knows human nature and the kingdom of the world promote the opposite. And it’s amazing how much credit a parent can earn by genuinely listening to what their child has to say, particularly when in a disagreement. Parents need to try to put themselves in their child’s shoes, and once a child really believes they have been heard, they are likely to be more open to hearing what a parent has to say.

 

Timing is everything. I’m the kind of person who if something is on my mind or bothering me, I want to tackle it head on right away. However, this can tend to backfire on me. Sometimes, there is definitely a right time and a wrong time to have a conversation. If a teen is already in a sour mood, hungry, or tired, it is likely beneficial to postpone a difficult conversation to another if at all possible.

 

Sometimes, talking side-by-side is easier than talking face-to-face. Both of my kids had an activity they loved to do with their dad. They loved to just take a car ride. This occurred both before and after they got their driver’s licenses. Sometimes he would drive, and sometimes they would (individually). Sometimes, they spent the whole time just shooting the breeze. Sometimes, they would have deeper conversations. Sometimes, having to look someone right in the face when having a difficult conversation can be awkward. So, my suggestion to parents is to take a car ride, take a walk, take a bike ride, and do something that is NOT just sitting across from each other. Does their child like to bake, build, craft, or tinker? Then, do one of these things while having a conversation.

 

Talk to them about anything so they will talk to you about everything. This is something my pastor taught us. It goes back to the first suggestion. Connection is so important to having healthy conversations. Even having the most mundane conversations act as building blocks to having deeper, more meaningful conversations. If parents take a genuine interest in the interests of their adolescents, listen, and engage with these topics, they are laying the groundwork for more difficult conversations that may lie ahead. Essentially, they are building trust.

 

Hopefully these suggestions will help both you and parents as you engage in conversations with teens and tweens.