Monday, June 3, 2013

Getting Your Children to Talk to You


Generally I blog about what I’ve been learning in Scripture. You may wonder if my recent lack of blogging has meant I haven’t been reading my Scriptures. The answer, thankfully, is no. The reason I haven’t been blogging is three-fold.

First, my scripture study has revolved around the inductive scripture study I’ve been writing. I have a great test group that has been going through that with me. To be fair to them, I didn’t want to post any of its contents until my test group was completed. Secondly, my time has also been taken up by completing my first novel.  Though it is completed, I’m still doing some revising and am in the process of shopping it to literary agents. Thirdly, I have been very ill.  I’m being treated for a bacterial infection in which the treatments make you even more sick.  Given the fact that I have to work full-time and I have four children to raise and homeschool, an illness makes my schedule almost unbearable.  Blogging is the first thing to go in that case.

However, I’ve been getting many emails of concern from my readers. I didn’t even know I had so many readers.  I apologize. Had I realized, I would have been more conscientious with my blog. So, I will make a commitment to make this more of a priority. Until my inductive study is ready for print I will blog about parenting and women’s issues. Some of my opinions on women’s issues may be a little controversial, but I’ll be completely honest regardless.  Today, I want to focus on developing a good relationship with your teenagers. Don’t tune out if your children are young, because it starts when they are toddlers.

We all want our children to talk to us. It becomes even more important as they grow into their teen years. We want them to share about the details of their lives. From the mundane…What kind of movies do you want to see? To the serious….What is going on in their personal relationships? Do they have anything they need someone to talk to about? How do they feel about a mission or life direction?

We all know that teenagers tend to get less communicative right at the point in their lives when they need an adult’s direction more than ever. So, how do you keep the lines of communication open? The first, and most important thing is to start the line early. Be in a habit of really talking to your children from the time they can first begin speaking.  If you want your children to share the things that are important to you, then you must show them that you care about what is important to them. That starts when they are a toddler. If you just pretend to listen to their “important” babble, they will quickly learn that what they share is not important to you.

When my oldest child was a toddler, he would spend an hour telling me about his play date with his imaginary friend. That kind of talk is important for two reasons. First, it is important to him. That alone makes it worth my time. Secondly, I learned a lot about how my delightful son thinks. I learned about the things he values. I learned what he considered good and bad. That is indispensible information.

As he got older, the things that were important to him changed. In his elementary school years, he really got into Bionicles and Lord of the Rings. I knew Lord of the Rings well, so that gave us many great conversations. My Bionicle lore was much less solid. He would instruct and quiz me on their elemental powers.  I was horrible at his quizzes, but he loved that I tried.

When he hit his teen years, our life had changed. I was now having to work full-time in addition to homeschooling them and caring for the house. It left me little time for anything purely for fun. About that time he began to get interested in a complicated card game called Magic: The Gathering.  It takes ages to play and even longer to learn.  When Dillon mentioned that he wanted me to learn the game, I was discouraged. How could I find the time? When he mentioned it a second time a few days later, I knew it was very important to him. So, I made the time to learn. We had so much fun that first game. We laughed together a lot. He told me, “I knew you’d be good at this game.”  We have a standing date to play it every Sunday, which is the only day I am not working non-stop.

Those times have made for some of our best and most open conversations. We talk about his girlfriend. We talk about his frustration with some adults in another ward that were spreading a false rumor about him. We talk about what frustrates him with his sisters. We talk about his future.  We talk about his joys. Would he have been as open if I didn’t make sacrifices to join in on what he values? I don’t know. But, if I wasn’t willing to spend time in his enjoyments, why should he open up?

There are times that teens need someone else to talk to aside from parents. It is good if we realize that and not feel threatened. I loved when Dillon wrote the young men’s president in our ward. He wrote to him about the adults that were spreading rumors about him. He asked his advice on handling it. I was grateful my son had someone to go to. I was also grateful my son told me he had written him and why.

Does my teenage boy tell me everything? I sincerely doubt it.  I’m sure there are many things he doesn’t tell me. I’d be a fool to think otherwise. All I can do is trust that my son has enough faith in me and my love for him that he will come to me about the things he thinks are really important.

I firmly believe that that trust starts when they are young and what is important to them seems childish to us. 

What do you do if you’ve not had a good relationship with your child and they are already in their teenage years? I believe God can heal any relationship. It will take work and brutal honesty.

Go to your teenager. Plan a nice meal for just the two of you. Tell them your regrets and failures. Tell them you want to start over and develop a relationship with them. Then, pray, pray, pray.  Make sure you are intentionally spending time on the things that are important to them, even if it is something you have no interest in whatsoever. Talk to them about your days also. Be vulnerable. When your children see and believe that, they will begin to talk to you as well.

1 comment:

Michael Brinson said...

Great post as always Annmarie.

Gave me some good things to think about in my relationship with my children.