Every parent of a teenager wants to build a strong line of communication with his or her teen. But sadly, the opposite is most often true. I’d like to share with you some simple tips to improve your communications with your teen.
When a teenager’s behavior is way out of line, when he or she crosses established boundaries and offends us and makes us angry, it is easy to think he or she doesn’t deserve grace. But that may be exactly the right time to give it.
It’s been said that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. And teens? Well, they seem to be from a completely different universe! Sure, teenagers look human, but the way they speak, the way they dress, and the things they value all seem to point to an origin in a galaxy far, far away.
For Lucas, it started in high school. “I guess I have a face and personality that invites bullies,” he told me. Kids in class would ridicule Lucas’ clothes, mock his behavior, laugh at where he came from, and deride him constantly. But in teen culture, you can’t show weakness. Teens know that if you let on to bullies that they’re affecting you, you’re giving them an open invitation to continue the abuse. So Lucas put on his impervious face each day, and endured the barrage of mistreatment at school. But that kind of ill-treatment wears you down. “When I would finally come home,” explained this young man, “the littlest thing would set me off. I mean, my mom would ask me to take out the trash and I could feel the anger building. At first I wouldn’t talk, but that made my mom mad, so eventually all this anger would just, kinda, explode. I would yell, throw things, break things. My mom didn’t know what to do.”
As parents, we often put a lot of blame on ourselves for what we cannot offer our kids. When Christmas or birthdays roll around, we feel guilty when we can’t afford the latest and greatest iPads, video games, designer shoes, or state-of-the-art cell phones. Perhaps we feel embarrassed that, when it comes to housework, we’re barely keeping our head above water, and it’s all we can do to start the laundry, run the dishwasher, and feed the dog. And if that’s not bad enough, we have the tendency to compare ourselves to what other moms and dads can offer their teens. Instead of being able to take a family vacation to Disney World, perhaps all you can do is pack the car up for a weekend with Grandpa and Grandma in Peoria, Illinois (I love people in Peoria; this is just an example). While other teens you know are taking private ski lessons, learning Italian in Europe, or going out to a movie every weekend, you feel like you’re letting your teen down because you’re not able to offer the same type of experiences. So we start to believe that we don’t pass muster as parents.
If you swim with the sharks, you’re bound to get bit. One bad apple spoils the whole bushel. Bad company corrupts good character. Many parents have added these phrases to their lexicon, because they illustrate the dangers of running with the “wrong crowd”. As moms and dads, we know how susceptible kids are to peer influence. You’ve likely spent many sleepless nights worrying about the people your child is hanging around. What are they teaching my son? What are they pressuring my daughter to do? Are these friends that will give needed support and encouragement to my teen, or are they the type of people who will bring my child down?
It’s never a conversation a mom or dad wants to have with their child. Talking about sex with your teen or pre-teen is uncomfortable for both you and your kid. There’s a level of embarrassment, a fumbling for the right words, perhaps a hesitancy to share or to ask questions. I’ll be honest; I’ve been talking to teens about sex for close to three decades, and it never gets any easier.