If you’re just finding this, we are in the middle of a series on connecting with your teen. So far, we’ve discussed Prayer, Time, Listening, and Engaging in hard conversations. Today we are going to talk about how to take advantage of their rhythms.
Recently, I asked my Facebook friends, “What topics are hard to discuss with your teens, and what makes it difficult?” As expected, the answer that resonated with the most people was, “Everything!” LOL!
Just getting teens to talk at all can often be a challenge. One of my sweet friends went on in her Facebook comment to give an example of what she meant:
Here is how one conversation went today:
“Hi! How was your day?” Fine. “Anything interesting or fun?” No. “Well, what was the best thing that happened today?” Nothing. “Ok, then what was the worst thing?” Nothing. “What did you get to do in your classes that you didn’t have tests in?” Study. “Oh, what did you study for?” Spanish. “Did you get to spend much time with any of your friends today, since it was just a half day?” Not really. “Did you get to talk to them at all?” Mom, just stop. “But I just love to hear about your day!” I said, STOP!!! Silence for rest of ride home. She hates me. What am I doing wrong!?
Y’all, this is so common! There’s a reason movies and TV shows depict despondent teens staring out the window or stomping up the stairs and slamming their bedroom door!
Adolescence is a time of hormonal chaos and growing independence. For the most part, our teens have no idea what is happening inside or around them, let alone how to describe it to someone else. They need time and space to process before opening up.
I know this particular family very well. Despite how the conversation went, this precious girl adores her mom! She just doesn’t adore “spilling the tea” to her right after school. And chances are it’s the same in your family. You may be asking all the right questions, just at the wrong time or in the wrong way.
Part 5: Take Advantage of Their Rhythms
One of the first things I learned in Student Ministry is that teens have certain rhythms: patterns and trends of how and when they are willing to talk. Knowing these rhythms can make all the difference in reaching a teen’s heart, which is essential not just for discipleship, but for building relationships in general.
But how in the world do you figure out what those rhythms are? It’s pretty simple, really— we just have to pay attention. Here are some practical ways to help you discover and take advantage of your teen’s rhythms.
Pray for discernment
You may be sensing a trend by now, but the best place to start is to pray for discernment. Sometimes we think we know everything about our kids; sometimes we feel lost, like we have no idea where to even begin. This is absolutely normal. They pretty much feel the same way!
Thankfully, there is One who knows them better than they know themselves. He knows what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling, and what they need most. Nothing is hidden from Him! If we take the time to ask the Lord to reveal when our teens are most open, He will do it.
Believe it or not, I pray for my kids to get caught when they’re sinning. I pray for discernment to recognize when they are being dishonest or hiding something, and to notice when they need encouragement. I ask Him to prepare their heart and mine (and Jeff’s) and to guide our conversations. And when I know something is up with them, I ask the Lord to help me keep my mouth shut until He knows they are ready to talk.
Taking the time to pray for discernment will help us more clearly see their patterns and rhythms.
Taking the time to pray for discernment will help us more clearly see our teen’s patterns and rhythms.—Kelly Heath
Look For Patterns
Once you’ve prayed, make sure you are intentional about looking for patterns! The best way I’ve found to do this is to pay attention to time, place, topics, and moods.
1. Take Advantage of Time
In my friend’s example, the issue was obviously timing. Now that she’s paying attention, she knows her daughter is unlikely to open up right after school. Should she continue to ask about her day? Sure— that way her daughter still knows she’s interested. And who knows? She might get lucky! But she doesn’t need to push the issue, and she doesn’t have to take the lack of conversation personally.
Instead, she can start looking for when her daughter does tend to open up. This is different for every teen, but one thing is for sure— it is almost always when it is least convenient for us!
If you have an early riser, it might be when they first get up in the morning. Or they may consistently want to tell you stories while you’re cooking dinner or checking email (never fails!). I’ve found that most teens come alive at bedtime.
On more than one occasion, our girls have plopped down on my bed (just after I turned out the light, of course!) and poured out their heart about something I tried to talk to them about days earlier. For whatever reason, their defenses seem to come down at night, and it’s easier for them to talk… and listen.
So take advantage of their timing! When they are ready to talk, let’s make the choice to listen.
2. Take Advantage of Place
Another thing to watch for is where your teen tends to open up. This wasn’t the case for my friend, but some teens open up easier after being in the car for awhile. It’s also not unusual for teens who shut down in face-to-face conversations to respond better while engaged in some sort of activity together— yard work, cleaning out the car, folding laundry— because the pressure is off. My theory is they feel too exposed when the focus is on them. Having somewhere else for both of you to look makes them feel less exposed, allowing them to actually be a little more vulnerable.
When one of our boys wants to tell me something important, he pulls me into our guest bedroom. Coincidentally, that’s actually where we used to send them for “time-outs” and spankings. After we both had time to calm down, I would go in and we would talk about what happened and make up. I’m not sure if that’s why he chooses that space, or if it’s just random, but I have learned that if he calls me in there, he’s ready to talk, and I need to put my game face on and get ready to listen.
3. Take Advantage of their Topics
I have mentioned several times in this series how important it is to listen to the little (or unimportant) things. This comes in really handy in recognizing their rhythms!
When are they normally hitting you up to watch Tik-Tok or YouTube videos? Do they often end your family dinner conversation by filling you in on the latest episode of their favorite show? Pay attention, friends!
We’ve already learned that these things can help lead into conversations that are sometimes challenging to know how to approach. Knowing what topics get your teen talking and when they like to talk about them can also help you take advantage of their rhythms in order to initiate conversation.
4. Take Advantage of Moods
Moodiness is a thing, obviously— especially for hormonal teenagers. I often find myself trying to enter conversations when my teens are already upset or defensive, and as you might guess, it doesn’t go well.
When our kids were very young, it was important to address their behavior immediately so they could connect the discipline with their behavior. However, with teens, the opposite is actually true. Cognitively, they are very capable of connecting behaviors at a later time, and it’s actually more effective to give them time and space to decompress before discussing an issue.
FULL DISCLOSURE— I am so bad at this! I know this concept is true, y’all. I watch it happen with my friends. I teach it, write about it, and encourage other parents to do it. But when I am in the heat of the moment with my own kids, I WANT TO ADDRESS THE ISSUE RIGHT THEN!!
I can’t help it; I just do.
But all of us process in different ways, and the same is true for your teen. So, pay attention! Do they shut down when they are angry or do they spew all their feelings? Do they want solutions when they are crying or do they just want comfort? Do they do better if they have time to internally process an issue or talk to a mentor before they discuss it with you?
When we are aware of how their moods and processing patterns affect them, we are able to respond accordingly and make the most of our moments.
Paying attention in these four areas can help us take advantage of our teen’s rhythms so we can connect with them more effectively, which is our goal! Like me, though, sometimes you’re going to mess it up or get it wrong. That’s okay! The important thing is you are trying.
And when it doesn’t go well (which it won’t sometimes), it actually gives you another opportunity to connect with your teen… by saying you’re sorry. We’ll talk more about that in Part 6!
You can CLICK HERE FOR A FREE PRINTABLE AND ACTION SHEET to help you be intentional about connecting with your teen!
Stay tuned next week as we move on to #6: Be the First to Say You’re Sorry. 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!