Several years ago, Sarah, who was about ten years old at the time, came in and sat on my bed.
“Momma, how do you really know Jesus is real?”
For the next hour, I sat there answering questions about God, the Bible, prayer, and more— and praying the entire time for wisdom! As we were wrapping up, she said, “Wait, what about Santa Claus?”
Y’all, after fielding questions about the authenticity of Jesus and the Bible for an hour, this one was easy. “Nope. No Santa. It’s just a legend. It can be a sweet way to add magic and joy into Christmas, but the man in the red suit? Nope. Not real.” (Shhh, don’t tell Jeff!)
Part 4: Engage in the Hard Conversations
Now, let me ask you a question. When is the last time your teen initiated a hard conversation all on their own? Wouldn’t it be nice if it always happened that way?
While we’re daydreaming, what if before they brought it up, they sent us an email outlining all their questions, giving us adequate time to look up Bible verses and expert answers? And once we were ready, what if they sat at our feet, soaking every word of wisdom like it was the latest Marvel movie?
Unfortunately, you and I both know that’s not how it works.
Sometimes, if we’re lucky, our teens do come to us with their questions. More often, though, we sense something is going on with them or notice them wrestling with something in current culture, and it’s up to us to make those conversations happen. How do we do it? Here are a few tips on how to approach these hard conversations.
What is the best way to approach these hard conversations?
I know it sounds trite, but it’s true— God can pave the way in prayer so that our teen’s hearts are open in ways we never imagined possible. Without fail, our conversations go better when I have been praying about them beforehand. Sometimes the Lord even surprises me— while I fret over how to start a conversation, my teen ends up bringing it up first! That’s when I know God is already at work.
So when you know you need to talk to your teen about something difficult or awkward, start praying about it long before you start speaking. I mentioned in Part 1 of this series that I believe prayer is foundational to all the ways we connect with our teens, and I meant it!
2. Listen to the insignificant things
I get it; listening to them tell you every single detail about Fortnite or Dude Perfect or the latest Olivia Rodrigo song can be, well, excruciating!
Trust me, I know.
I spent two years listening to one of our girls give daily recaps of every episode of Full House. That same child was so annoyed when her younger brother began launching into a two hour monologue about the first 27 episodes of The Lion Guard… “How do you listen to him, Mom?”
Seriously?! “Lots of practice, my dear child…”
Friends, we need to engage in these seemingly insignificant (and yes, sometimes annoying) conversations because they pave the way for the hard ones. When we’re willing to listen to the ordinary things, it makes it easier for them to open up about more significant things. When we don’t, they tend to shut down, and we miss the opportunity to hear what’s on their heart.
So next time your teen says, “Hey, guess what happened?” take a deep breath, put down your phone, and listen! (For more on listening, see Part 3: Learn to Listen More than You Talk.)
3. Sneak in the back door
I don’t normally advocate being sneaky with teens because they are smart and see right through it. But this is sort of like hiding spinach in their brownies…
Often when we bring up a difficult or awkward topic, our teens simply shut down or slam the door in our face (metaphorically or literally!). Knowing that, and knowing these conversations are essential but just difficult for them to have, we can make it easier by sneaking in through the back door. After all, once we’re snuggled up next to them on the couch, they tend to start talking! We just have to figure out a way to get into the house.
What do I mean by this? Find less obvious ways to engage in hard conversations.
A great example of this in the Bible is when the prophet, Nathan, confronts King David about his affair with Bathsheba (oh yeah, and having her husband murdered… you can read all about it in 2 Samuel 11-12). If Nathan had called him out directly, or even off-handedly asked David what he thought about certain sins (like, say, adultery and murder) he might have ended up with his head hanging on a post outside the palace. Instead, he tells David a story, seemingly completely unrelated, hoping to appeal to David’s character, and then makes his point. It works, too. Once Nathan makes the correlation between his story and David’s sin, they were able to have a totally different conversation!
So how do we do this?
- Stay up on Culture. Use movies/ tv shows/ popular artists & athletes & influencers to segway into “general” conversations on moral and spiritual issues.
- Listen carefully when they talk about what’s going on with their friends; you’ll learn their opinion on various issues and have opportunities to speak into it them without it being “about them.”
- Resist the urge to lecture and instead ask questions. We’re sneaking, remember? A lecture is too obvious. We want to help them discover the truth without them knowing that’s what we’re doing.
4. Figure out their rhythms
When it comes to conversations with teenagers, timing is everything! Friends often tell me how they bombard their kids with questions on the way home from school, but all they get is one-word answers.
“Fine.” “Good.” “Okay.” “Whatever.”
Obviously, some kids just naturally talk more than others, but more often than not, this issue can improve drastically when we focus on our timing. If we become a student of our teen, we can discover their rhythms— when they are most open, when they tend to shut down, when they like to be alone, and what subjects get them talking.
Figuring out their rhythms can be the key to engaging them in hard conversations. But… that’s our topic for next week, so stay tuned!
You can click here for a FREE PRINTABLE, plus an Action Sheet to help you be intentional about connecting with your teen!
Stay tuned next week as we move on to #5: Take Advantage of their Rhythms.” Here’s a sneak peak at the different topics we’ll be discussing in this series…
- Pray with them and for them
- Make time for them
- Learn to listen more than you speak
- Engage in the hard conversations
- Take advantage of their rhythms
- Be the first to say you’re sorry
- Hug them!
If you know someone who might find this series helpful, will you please send them an email link or share this with them on social media? And if you want to talk with other moms about Biblical parenting and faith, come join the conversation in my private FB group!
Leah Garland says
Great insight and practical advice, which I need. I struggle with asking questions because I typically am in fix in mode instead of listening mode. When I do ask questions, they aren’t as open ended as I would like. I am working on this and finding ways to integrate natural questions into our conversations.