Category Archives: Teens

Listen In: A Face Time Podcast Interview

Over the last six to eight weeks surrounding the release of Face Time, you’ve possibly seen posts from the fun book release parties and speaking I’ve done, but I’ve also spent quite a bit of time hunkered down with my laptop writing extra articles for various publications, in addition to keeping up my own blog. I’m not complaining, it’s part of what comes with a book. But, it is time now for a little siesta.

During this short hiatus from posting any new articles here (unless something strikes me and I can’t help but write) I will instead share a few podcasts I have recently been interviewed on. This week I hope you will listen in to The Heart Lesson’s Podcast with host Sarah Rieke. We talk about the book, issues of identity and worth as it pertains to teenagers, but also to adults. And we hit on my recent blog series about what parents can do now to shape the teen years ahead.

The Heart Lessons Podcast // Episode Thirty-Seven // True Identity in a Selfie World

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How To Get Your Teen To Open Up To You More?

Last week I ran a mini-series on what parents of younger kids can do now to help shape the teen years ahead. I wrote that it is never too early to start laying a foundation, and it is also never too late to redo/undo what we should’ve done differently because God is a God of grace and in the business of transformation. So if you are a parent of teenagers feeling like you’ve already messed up or are unsure how to get into your teen’s head don’t resign yourself to the lie Satan would have you believe that it’s hopeless to even try.

Believe me, I know the hard work of parenting teens makes giving into their desires and the ways of the world seem like our only option for keeping the peace. And when they’ve pushed us out and we can’t figure out how to get them to talk it’s easy to think catering to their every whim will make for a better relationship. But all that leads to is an entitled teen who knows how to get what they want.

What I want to suggest as a mechanism for change in the way we relate with our teens and getting them to open up more is something I’ve personally been learning. Now as I’ve said before I don’t believe following a “formula” is a guarantee, only the intervening grace of God can ultimately make things right. But I do think on a human level when we IDENTIFY with another person (whether it be your teen, your spouse, a friend or stranger) it opens the door to deeper connection and trust.

What do I mean by “identifying”?

I’ll explain with an illustration. Recently my daughter called home from college weighted down by various circumstances. As she was talking, I went into “fix it” mode and proceeded to tell her what she needed to do. Wrong thing in that moment.

By my ready answers, what she heard was how much better I would’ve handled it, which led her to feel shame for not having her act together. Is it any wonder she asked me to hand the phone over to my husband? No. What she needed was someone to listen and identify with her in her frustration and pain. Someone whose first stance was entering in with compassion.

Identification is hard for us as parents because our default mode includes lecturing and trying to take control. Identification is hard in general because self-righteousness prevents us from putting ourselves in another’s shoes. And because we don’t like to see/admit our own sin, we come across to others as unapproachable for them in their sin.

According to the teen survey I conducted and used in writing Face Time, teens don’t feel like they can talk to their parents openly for these exact reasons.  They think we won’t understand, we will get upset and also they don’t want us to worry. Therefore, it is not surprising they choose to shut us out over revealing what’s really going on in their hearts, at school, on the weekends, with their friends, etc.

So what if we started identifying with them instead? What if we started the conversation by letting them know our own struggles to be liked, to want affirmation, to look perfect? We may not seek these things in the way they do, but we know what it’s like. We too look to false gods to fill us and to give us worth, instead of turning to Christ.

Since this is true, we should understand what causes them to give in to peer pressure and do things they never thought they would. Yes, we will likely be upset – angry even – but what if like the father of the prodigal son we open are arms wide to meet them in it? What would it look like to show compassion and understanding? If they first heard our affirmation, and saw us come alongside them in their struggles, I think our relationships with our teenagers would be different.

As the interaction with my daughter shows, I don’t do this perfectly. But I have someone who was perfect for me. Jesus came to live the perfect life required by God because no one else could measure up to his righteous standard. And at the cross he took all of my failures and made a way for his perfection to be mine. God now sees me according to Christ’s righteousness for me! So when I fail, guess what? I can go to him admitting my need. And I can enter in with my teens in their need because I know my own.

FACE TIME: Your Identity in a Selfie World is now available. To order go here.

Before the Teen Years: Family First

This is the last in the Before the Teen Years mini blog series. Of course, the topics are endless and ones I frequently revisit so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already.  Under the umbrella, Family First, I have combined three bullet points from the article 8 Things Parents Can Do Now to Shape the Teen Years Ahead. They are:

  • Learn to say NO!
  • Slow down.
  • Prioritize family time.

I’ve heard it said: How you spend your money and time is a good indicator as to what you value. Or, in scripture it is said this way, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).”

Now I believe probably all of us would say family matters most. And I don’t doubt that is true. But amid our busy schedules and the culture we live in, we struggle to prioritize what we say is most important: family, faith, friendships.

If we were to take a honest look at how our time and money is spent, what functionally rules us (or appears to actually be most important) will likely surface. Has family time, church involvement and friendships suffered under the subjection of jobs? kids’ activities? our social life? Have our first loves taken a backseat to the pursuit of appearance? success? perfection? happiness? Just some heart questions to consider.

With one in college I’ve seen how truly fast the years go. In five more years my house will be empty. I will miss the games and  activity, but what I’ll miss even more is sitting down at the dinner table together, the evenings in the living room watching whatever series we were caught up in, the afternoons by the pool, and vacation time before the restrictions of their future jobs set in. I will miss worshipping together and discussing the sermon over Sunday lunch. I will miss the laughter and noise (maybe not always). But I’ll probably even miss not needing to go to the grocery store all.the.time!

When that is all gone, I will have more time than I want to focus on me. So right now sometimes we need to say “no” (even to things that are perfectly fine) in a concerted effort to slow us down to prioritize US. Otherwise, we will miss building the foundation upon which I want my kids to always cling: family and faith.

This is why I believe it is so important to proactively think through what prioritizing family time looks like for your family. By this I mean discussing a plan for how you are going to guard your time. What are you going to do early on to create an environment and instill in your kids the desire to be with family? To make worship a priority? What are you going to say no to? How are you going to help your kids buy into the why behind your values?

We didn’t do this perfectly, so there are things I would re-do. But we did have some non-negotiables in place. This did not mean my teenagers have always liked our every decision or “rule,” but I believe once the door is opened to bending convictions it is a slippery slope. So while it is never too late to redo, it is harder.

Therefore, I encourage you not to fall for the lie that your kid is going to get behind, miss out, not make the team, get into college or whatever it is, if you don’t do what everyone else is doing. Life does not have to be done on the hamster wheel! But, to jump off what never stops requires a long-range parenting perspective kept at the forefront.

The hope is someday your kids will appreciate you standing fast and fierce for family. We are already seeing this with our college daughter. When she comes home what she and her younger brothers look forward to most is going out for “sibling bonding time.” And what she is most thankful for from her first year away at college is her church and college ministry community.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).”

Previous posts in this series:
Before the Teen Years: Your Kids are Not Your Identity
Before the Teen Years: Getting to the Heart of Sin with Our Kids
Before the Teen Years: Living Redemptively in Our Homes
Before the Teen Years: Shepherd Hearts Rather Than Police Behavior
8 Things Parents Can Do Now to Shape The Teen Years Ahead