how to talk to teenagers

3 Ways to Actually Talk to Your Teen

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I know a dad with four teens. Over the years, I’ve seen the strong relationship he has with each of them. They talk about anything and everything and laugh together a lot. But here’s the most noticeable thing: His teens want to be around him. It’s a beautiful thing to raise kids who can love, respect, and honor their parents.

How can this be? Well, my dad-friend with teens would tell you it hasn’t been all gumdrops and lollipops. But if you sat down with him, he’d tell you with his calm and gentle tone that it’s possible to know how to talk to teenagers. I think we can all learn from the interactions I’ve seen between this dad and his kids. Here are 3 ways to talk to your teen.

1. Be quiet and listen.

Good communication is dependent on how well you listen. James 1:19 says that “everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak…” We must listen more than we talk. I’m generally decent at listening. But when I’m arguing with my teen, I become the worst listener ever. If I’m not careful, I’ll rush to judgment—which never helps anything. The point is, we’re prone to saying the wrong thing if we aren’t listening.

When we realize the relationship is more important than winning, we’re more likely to listen. Learn to concentrate in the moment and consider what your kid is saying. Don’t interrupt. Don’t think about what you want to say while your kid is talking. Ask questions: “Could you say that again?” Get clarity: “Explain that a bit more.” If all else fails, take comfort in knowing that listening now pays dividends later.

2. Watch your non-verbals.

You are communicating even when you aren’t talking.

You are communicating even when you aren’t talking. When your kid is sharing with you, are you leaning in and engaged? Be careful how you use the volume and tone of your voice and your hands and facial expressions. Pay attention to posture as well. Everything you do when your teen is talking communicates whether you care.

3. Spend more time than you think.

Your teen needs unrushed time with you. One of my daughters is an early bird. So, we enjoy dates early on Saturday mornings before the rest of the family wakes up. I always plan to have meaningful talks about God and worldview over our breakfast. That rarely happens. I’ve learned to let her drive the conversation on our Saturday mornings. I’m simply spending time and building relational equity for future, more meaningful talks down the road. Meaningful talks will come—but I can’t force it.

Often, the quiet teen wants to talk. He or she just needs help opening up. But even when teens are talkative, you need to spend a lot of time with them before you can expect them to share their deepest concerns. When they’re ready, they’ll come to you and talk openly—if you’ve shared time connecting with each other. 

Sound off: How are you doing talking with your teen in these three areas?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s your favorite topic to talk about with me?”