Communicate to Stay Connected to Your Teenagers
Last month’s topic was helping your kids stay connected to God. This month, we turn to parent-teen communication, which is notorious for breaking down. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With some insight, strategy, and patience, you can keep the lines of communication open with your teenagers, who need you now more than ever.
 
Most importantly, you must be willing to work hard at really communicating. Because language is always changing, what adults say and what kids hear—and vice versa—sometimes aren’t close to the same thing. Be ready to hear things you aren’t so sure you want to hear, and listen without getting ahead of yourself when you don’t know how to respond.
 
Although it’s a cliché, communication really is a two-way street. The more honest and transparent you are, the more your kids will open up. Maintain an “open door” policy about any and all topics. Instead of pushing for information, share fun activities together so your teenagers feel comfortable about opening up. And assure them that you’ll keep what they say private.
 
Listening well to your teenagers shows that you respect their feelings and value their opinions, even if you don’t agree with them. Read on for helpful ideas about keeping the lines of communication open.

 

PulsePulsePulsePulsePulsePulsePulse
Check out these communication stats:
In a survey of 20,000 Christian teenagers, most kids listed “hangout time with parents” as their number-two priority (behind developing a relationship with God). (Group Magazine)

On average, it takes eight seconds for our brains to process a question and formulate a response.
Parents eager to stay in touch with their teenagers should consider learning how to send text messages. Nearly one out of three kids ages 12 to 17 sends more than 100 text messages a day. The average adult sends just 10 a day.
(Pew Research Center)
 
In a study of 3,000 teenagers and their parents, 79% of parents interviewed thought they were communicating with their kids. But 81% of the teenagers said their parents weren’t communicating with them. (University of Michigan)

 

Great Questions …to Ask Your Kids
Connect with your kids by asking these questions:
1. What are the most important requirements for good communication? What often gets in the way of it?
2. What can happen when communication breaks down? How can people restore good give-and-take?
3. How would you rate our family’s communication skills? What do we need to work on the most, and why?
4. How can you tell when someone’s really listening to you? How does that make you feel, and how does it affect your relationship?
 
GOD AND YOUR FAMILY
Pray that:
1. Communication lines stay open between you and your teenagers as they grow.
2. God will help you be an active listener who strives to understand what your kids are saying.
3. You can use good communication to resolve family conflicts.
4. God will help you effectively communicate your love—and His love—to your teenagers.
 

VERSE OF THE MONTH
“Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” (Romans 12:16)

God places people in families so they can nurture and support each other. One way we do this is by communicating our experiences, thoughts, and feelings. When family members feel free to express themselves and truly listen to one another, homes are more harmonious.

 

INSIGHTS from SimplyYouthMinistry.com
Youth ministry veteran Jim Burns discusses strong communication at SimplyYouthMinistry.com:
The healthier the family, the more effective the communication. When communication fails, it usually isn’t because of the content but rather the relationship. If we didn’t grow up with good role models, we’re at risk for passing poor communication skills to our kids. Use these strategies to build healthy communication and relationships.

Actively listen. Listening communicates value, significance, and worth. Good listening skills include giving someone your undivided attention, maintaining an accepting and open attitude, looking past words to notice tone and body language, using reflective and respectful questioning to clarify your understanding, and giving appropriate verbal responses to what’s being communicated.
Learn and use love languages. In The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman identifies ways people prefer to be loved: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Most of us have a primary love language, but they all can be important to good communication and relationships.
 
Communicate honesty and integrity. The parent who tries to come across as perfect is making a big mistake. Believe it or not, apologies improve communication. Let your kids know you’re human. Admitting your mistakes promotes sharing and removes barriers to real communication.
 
Work through conflicts. Conflict can either block communication or be a path to greater understanding. A natural inclination is to get defensive when conflicts arise. The better approach is being open to learn and assuming responsibility. Working through conflict takes greater emotional involvement, but it’s the loving way to care for yourself and your teenagers.

 

Communication Tool Warrants Parenting Tech Alert
About once every week, school officials in Oklahoma City catch students “sexting” racy pictures of a young teen over their cell phones. The officials call police, who show up at the school and deliver a stiff notice: Lose those photos immediately, or face prosecution for child porn. It’s a scheme that is working well to curb the growing problem of “sexting,” law enforcement officials say.

“It is a serious and growing problem,” Oklahoma County, O.K., Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said. But a federal court is now considering whether teens can be prosecuted at all for taking their own photos and sending them to their friends. The ruling could be the first in the country to determine whether “sexting” — the cell phone messaging of photos is constitutionally protected speech or a public safety concern serious enough to alarm law enforcement.
 
Civil liberties groups and some juvenile welfare firms have a different view than prosecutors. “Research on adolescent sexual development suggests that teens often use technology to express themselves,” Riya Shah, an attorney for the non-profit Juvenile Law Center, wrote in court papers opposing prosecutors’ involvement in “sexting” cases. “‘Sexting’ is merely the newest form of doing this. Prosecuting these cases as child pornography misapplies the law. Usually it’s an innocent but ill-advised decision by a teenage girl to take a photo of herself and send to a boyfriend,” Shah said.
 
Internet safety expert Parry Aftab, of Wired Safety notes, “We found that 44 percent of the high school boys that we have polled have seen at least one naked picture of a female classmate, and the boys are sharing their pictures too.”
 
While today’s tweens and teens may be more digitally savvy than their parents, their lack of maturity and life experience can quickly get them into trouble with social media. Really, it comes down to creating a climate where your kids are going to be comfortable telling you about any issue in their life. It’s not you nagging about SM that is good for decreasing problem behavior; it’s having your kids voluntarily tell you what they’re up to. That’s where that information and knowledge needs to come from, in order to make a real difference.
 
VALUES CLARIFICATION – Sharing your values helps kids to identify and interpret competing values systems.
 
LIMIT SETTING – Setting age-appropriate rules creates a healthy and safe environment for children and adolescents.
 
ANTICIPATORY GUIDANCE – Prepare your kids for the times when they’ll have to rely on themselves to make responsible choices. I, for one, am going to start by trying to control my head-shaking and gasp reflex the next time another appalling story about teen sexting appears on the evening news, play it cool and talk to the kids about their choices.