Two weeks ago I shared a challenge I had given myself. Recognizing that much of my conversations with my own teens revolved around COMMANDS, CRITICISMS OR CORRECTIONS, I decided I needed to be more intentional to create conversations centered upon creating a richer CONNECTION. I invited my readers to join in this challenge to increase our efforts to create deeper conversations with our teens. Whether you were able to join me or not, I would love to hear about your triumphs as well as your struggles in this area. And if you have any great ideas or insights , please comment on this blog. My own observations and insights are listed below.
Before I say anything, I must say that God sure does have a sense of humor. Because of winter weather, school was released early one day. The next two days were snow days and the final day of the week, they reported to school on a delay. The Lord definitely increased the amount of time I had to work on this area with my teens! And while I absolutely love snow days, I am not a fan of the messiness that seems to be associated with these days in our home. I think you know what I mean- wet snow pants, boots, jackets and gloves all over the place; empty cups, plates and snack wrappers; socks, blankets and pillows left in the family room from after they lolligagged on the couch for hours. While their time at home was indeed a blessing, there were definitely moments where it was much HARDER for me to minimize the three C’s in conversations with my kids in order to increase the connection! Throughout the last two weeks, however, I did learn a bit about what interfered and what added to my ability to remain intentional in our dialogues with each other.
Here are a few things that hampered my willingness/ability to focus on connecting conversations.
Amnesia: Simply put, I forgot what I was trying to do. When this challenge was not on the forefront of my mind, I sadly found myself commanding, directing, correcting or even criticizing. While my goal was not to completely avoid directive interactions, if I wasn’t consciously thinking about my desire to be intentional in my conversations, I often failed to create deeper dialogue. Change is hard and it’s easy to forget about our goals.
Agenda/Activities: My agenda, my wishes, my needs. These all trumped my ability to have deeper conversations. Rushing from one activity to the next, wanting/needing something for myself and getting caught up in the busyness of my day kept my eyes and heart turned inward instead of outward.
Attitude: Just like our teens, our own emotional state can interfere with our desire to discover what is going on in the heart and mind of our kids. Exhaustion, anxiety, and irritability often made it difficult to move beyond the three C’s. If I was not in the word daily and talking with the Lord on a regular basis, oh how I could become a big grump. Lord, how I need you.
Despite the problems that hampered my ability to remain intentional, there were some things I noticed that really aided me in my challenge to be more intentional. Perhaps, they will spur you on in your efforts.
Continual Prayer/ Surrender: Constantly praying, confessing and leaning into the Lord helped me to stay present, focused and committed to creating a deeper conversation. Thankfully, when I am weak, He is strong!
Communicating with a Confidant: Sharing this challenge with my husband as well as a friend helped me to work harder at minimizing my commando language and maximize my caring words. God bolsters us up as our friends spur us on.
Connecting with their Friends: This may seem odd, but when my teens had friends in our home, it seemed easier to create dialogue with all of them. The conversation with friends in the kitchen or family room seemed to offer me a bridge to my kids’ hearts. Even after their friends left, sweet conversations often continued.
Creating an Atmosphere: Snow days most certainly helped me in this regard. A fire, bowls of chili, hot cups of cocoa, and delectable delights all seemed to foster connections in our homes. With two teen boys at home, I was repeatedly reminded that good food or lots of food surely is a way to a young man’s heart!
Calling on their Expertise: I am a techno-dummy and my teens are techno-savvy. When I asked my boys to help me out with anything to do with media or technology, they jumped in and longed to show me all that they knew. This jump started conversation about their interests and passions. I now have a Sound Cloud account and can tell you about “all the cool things you can find on there!”
Whether my observations and insights help you or not, remember that Jesus offers us the perfect example of selflessly interacting with others. Read the Bible and study His example. And, remember with Christ in us, we have the ability to deeply love and connect with our teens as well. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” I think it is awesome when we consider that listening and loving our teens well as a “spiritual act of worship”. As you consider being intentional in your conversation with your teens, I pray that you will find streams of living water flowing out of you as you ask Him to help you move toward a healthier connection with your teen.
Jackie E. Perry: MS, LPCS, NCC