7 Keys to Engaging Your Busy Teen
If you’re like me, you have a new driver adding key tracking, gas watch, and drive time to his added list of teenage responsibilities this school year. I’ve tried to be a voice of encouragement as he works out the kinks of a new routine, and I’ve been prayerful and thoughtful as he bounces out the door and drives away, the master of his own steering wheel. Those twice a day moments of precious and captivating conversation that
I intentionally cherished last year are now things of the past, as I knew they would.
I expect many parents, like me, looking for new places and spaces to be intentionally engaged with their teen. At my house, as we all find our footing in this new season of back to school and with unusual pomp and circumstance, I find that planning ahead for the best kind of loving well and asking good questions can better and quickly engage my kid’s heart and help guard my own from feeling disconnected and disappointed. They may not act like it, but they need us to rise above negativity and neutrality to be present and responsive to what they may never communicate is a challenging time in their lives.
Here’s my simple SEVEN tips for finding a fuller conversation with your teen.
#1 Pray daily for opportunities to encourage the social, emotional, physical and spiritual life of your teenager.
#2 Notice when they walk into the room, every time. Look up from your own computer. Catch their eye and smile. Brighten and greet them. Let them know that their presence makes your space better. Don’t stop even when they don’t seem to care. They feel it anyway. I promise.
#3 Let them decompress. If you’re like me, you’ve actually missed them during the day. You can’t wait to see where they’ve been, who they’ve seen, what was meaningful and what kind of moments have been added to their life experience today. WAIT. Let them arrive home, settle and catch their breath. Even verbalize that, “Hey, I know you’ve just arrived from a long day, I’m just gonna love you with a smile from over here while you breathe a minute”.
#4 Remember all that Gary Chapman love language material and hype? Well, it still goes a long way in preparing a foundation for connection with your teen. Dig it out of the closet, and see how your young guy or gal receives love best, and start a careful habit of communicating love in their language.
#5 Create opportunities for connection. Teens talk more easily and deeply when they are engaged in an activity. They often feel pressure and freeze up when put on the conversation spot. Create projects you need their help with, like dinner prep, yard work, small handyman jobs or some other activity or sport you can do side by side. Instead of a face to face sit down, tackle tougher topics or deeper thoughts during times when the actual conversation isn’t the only focus. Teens often freeze up when put on the spot.
#6 Get Good at asking better Questions and asking Questions better. As one example, Check out these 28 ways to ask your student, ‘How was school today?” without asking, “How was school today?”
#7 Let them know family plans and commitments you desire or expect that they will be a part of. At sixteen, our son has his own spontaneous plans popping up and his own expectations of how to order his day or night. Wise parents recognize this as a part of healthy growing up and growing out. Respect flexibility and keep plans spoken or written a day or two ahead somewhere in the house. Some of these small moves create a noticeable and positive shift in how we navigate this journey as parents of a wonderful and radical teenager. It’s not a turnkey process, but solid habits of love and respect can be a powerful driving force toward the deeper relationships we want.