Learn to Talk to Your Teenager

by Mark Gregston

Talking with teens has always been tricky for parents. But the age of social media has changed the dynamic of communication––they may talk more with their thumbs, and less with their mouths. But that doesn’t mean they’re not interested in connecting with you. In this article, I’ll share eight tips to help you keep the conversation with your teen alive and thriving.

Tip #1––Talk For Your Teen’s Sake, Not For Yours
Are you conversations with your teen centered around simply getting and giving information? Too many times we approach our conversations like a fact-seeking assignment. Instead of talking to your teen in order to get what you need, consider what your teen needs right now, perhaps––a connection, a listening ear, validation, someone who is interested in their world. Mom and Dad, keep the discussions about them.

Tip #2––Show Genuine Interest
Teens have a knack for starting up conversations at inconvenient times. But you would do well to be willing to talk whenever your teen is ready. Don’t put off the conversation for later and don’t be distracted by your phone! Let your teen know you are ready to talk, by putting down your phone, stepping away from your work, going for a walk together, and really listening to what he’s saying. It’s easy for a teen to tell when you are distracted. You may not want to talk about their favorite sports team, latest video game, or fashion choices, but if it’s what your teen wants to talk about, then pay attention. Set the example for them about how to engage in a conversation by being engaged with your teen. Giving your full attention communicates a lot. Teens feel loved when you are genuinely interested in what they’re saying.

Tip #3––Ask a Question About What Your Teen Shared
To keep the conversation going, be ready to ask a question about what your teen just said. Ask him something that takes the conversation one step deeper into the topic you’re discussing. As your teen responds, really listen for the answer before jumping in and assuming you know what’s next. Probe deeper into your teen’s world and encourage your teen to think by asking questions that will stimulate deeper thoughts. There are very few meaningful conversations that can be wrapped up in one sitting, so leave the door open for more.

Tip #4––Be Okay With Laughing
Mom and Dad, stop lecturing your teens all the time! Not every conversation needs to be a serious life lesson. Try laughing at yourself by telling a funny story from your past or joke about the situation you’re in right now to help build a closer connection. Stop trying to be perfect. Connect with your teen by laughing about life’s imperfections. It’s okay to lighten up the conversation from time to time. A little laughter can take the tension out of a tough conversation.

Tip #5––Only Give Your Opinion When Asked For It
Has your teen rolled his eyes while you’re trying to talk? As your teen gets older, practice only sharing your opinion when you’re asked for it. If you give your two cents too often, your teen will tune you out. Resist the urge to tell them what you think all the time. By asking questions, listening to their response, and keeping your mouth shut, you’re giving space for your teens to come to their own conclusions. Proverbs 18:2 tells us that “a fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in his own opinions.” Mom and Dad, don’t be that person.

Tip #6––Ask Questions That Require More Than “Yes” or “No” Answers
We’ve all experienced those awkward teenaged conversations consisting solely of grunts and one syllable answers. To avoid this trap, toss the ball in their court. Ask your teen questions that make him think and reflect on the topic and issue at hand. Ask questions that get to the heart of what’s really going on. No matter how your teen responds, welcome him with a friendly smile and the opportunity to engage in deeper discussion and a more meaningful connection.

Tip #7––Don’t Get Discouraged if One Conversation Topic Falls Flat
Sometimes we try to connect with our teens and they aren’t interested. Some conversations will be wonderful and some will flop. Not every conversation will create a “deep connection” moment, and that’s okay. But you will start to see your teen’s heart more clearly over time. If your teen responds with silence to one topic, try another. Don’t give up.

Tip #8––Keep Practicing
Consistent conversations, especially ones that are not just about information, will slowly build up your relationship. Strengthen your connection by setting aside regular weekly time to dive into a discussion with your teen. Trust me, your teen wants a connection with you and they want to be heard just as much as you did when you were their age.

Hey moms and dads … your conversations with your teen are important opportunities to help them develop a style of communication that can get to the heart of their issues and deepen your relationship with them. It all begins with your ability to listen. Listen to what your teen is saying and respond in such a way that encourages, not discourages, future conversations. When having a discussion, don’t correct, don’t tell them how to say it better, and don’t tell them how they can say it differently. Don’t tell them, show them! Create the conversation they long for and they will come back for more. In a world where no one listens, be the one who always gives an ear to your teen. As the Bible says––be slow to anger, slow to speak, and quick to listen.


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