Q: How do I get my teenagers to engage in conversation? They're good kids; still, there are so many things I want to communicate to them before they go off to college in a few years. I just can't get them to respond when I try to share something that's on my heart.
Jim: Having raised two sons into their late teens, I can sympathize. My boys can be pretty interactive, but there are always those times when just one syllable (or even a grunt) is about all we receive.
As parents, we need to be aware if we're falling into the pattern of trying to impart wisdom through one-sided lectures. That's all too easy to do, particularly when we're not getting the response we'd like. Simply telling our children about life won't prepare them to navigate the real world. That requires a relationship. And to develop that, you have to deliberately talk with them. Here are a few suggestions.
First, model humility. When parents admit we're wrong, it helps our kids feel safe to open their hearts. Appropriately sharing your emotions teaches them it's OK to be authentic with trusted people.
Second, take advantage of available moments. Consider making that 10-minute drive to school a "tech-free zone" and have a chat instead.
Third, listening is an important part of conversation, so give your kids a chance to share what they really feel, even/especially if you disagree. Ask open-ended questions. Teens who feel listened to will feel valued and will likely be much more willing to open up and share.
And fourth, welcome questions from them. That's how kids explore their beliefs and grapple with new ideas. Give them the freedom to dig beneath the surface and ask challenging questions.
For more information on communicating with your teens, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: My wife and I have been happily married for 46 years. We raised four kids, enjoy being grandparents, are active in church and civic activities -- our life is good. But we want to keep strengthening our relationship even more. Do you have any suggestions?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: First of all, I want to thank you for the example you have set. In this culture where almost everything is "disposable" -- including relationships, in some people's minds -- your faithfulness to each other provides a shining light of encouragement to all of us who are trying to make our own marriages the best they can be.
And I think that might be your answer. The old saying goes that "the best way to master a subject is to teach it." In other words, when we seriously apply ourselves to learning a collection of material or a skill so that we can pass it on to someone else, we better grasp and retain that knowledge ourselves.
Here's the point: You and your wife have obviously learned to communicate and work together as a team -- you couldn't have made it this far without those skills. Now I'd challenge you to come alongside younger couples and mentor them in these same principles. Countless other marriages could benefit from what you can demonstrate. And most of us are readily willing to listen to someone whose life experience has helped them successfully navigate the ups and downs of a long journey together.
So I suggest you seek out some younger couples to mentor -- maybe even just one to start with. I'll predict that as you pour into others, you'll be "recharged" in your own relationship. You might even find that their energy rubs off on you, making you feel younger, too.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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