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Hard Conversations: Communicating With Your Teen

If you’re butting heads with your teenage child, their newfound desire for independence might remind you of the “Terrible Twos.” Around two years old, children start to develop different wants from their parents, but they don’t usually have the language abilities to explain what they want or why they want it. Cue the meltdown from the toddler and tears from both the child and the parents!

During the teenage years, much like toddlerhood, kids push boundaries to learn what is and is not allowed. This is important to their development, though it’s often frustrating to parents. This is how teenagers ultimately learn to act in the adult world. Unlike the Terrible Twos, however, teenagers are making decisions on a larger scale with real-life consequences, like driving, drugs, and sex. The stakes are higher, and teenagers can’t always see the true impact of their choices.

Parents can sometimes have the gut reaction of not wanting to have hard conversations with their teens. The landscape of the parent-child relationship is changing, and adolescents often struggle with regulating their emotions. Rather than trigger a fight, sometimes parents skip important conversations. But withdrawing is the worst possible response. In fact, parent-child relationships during these years are more important than ever. Here are a few tips for talking about hard topics with your teenager:

1. Learn to validate your child’s feelings.

Validation means you find the kernel of truth in their emotions. If your teenager is angry about something that seems inconsequential to you, try to empathize and understand why it means so much to them. Empathy must come first, before problem-solving or discipline. It lays the foundation for your child to trust you with really important information.

2. Be authoritative, not a dictator.

Your child needs rules, boundaries, and structure, but that doesn’t mean micromanagement. Empower your child to make reasonable and age-appropriate choices. This way, your child will have a healthy blend of freedom and responsibility.

3. Be observant and pay attention to your child’s mood, behavior, energy level and appetite.

Changes in any of these things can be signs of depression. If you notice a drastic change in your child’s behavior or daily habits, I encourage you to seek professional help.

4. Share meals, talk, and pray together.

A family that plays and prays together stays together! Dinner is a great time to put the

phones away and talk casually about what’s going on in each family member’s life.

5. Do things together.

Talking is not the only way to communicate. Your teenager might express himself more through pointing out landmarks on a hike or cooking together as a team. Even something as simple as seeing a movie together can create positive experiences and memories.

6. Learn to control your emotions.

When your child is being rude and unreasonable, it’s easy for our anger to flare. But that’s a missed opportunity to demonstrate to your child how to handle intense emotions. Take deep breaths and count to ten. Modeling this behavior for your teen can help him or her learn to control emotions in a mature way.

7. Give praise as often as you can.

Even if your child doesn’t say it, he or she still wants to know that you, as a parent, see their inherent worth. A self-esteem boost and positive encouragement can go a long way to make your child feel confident.

8. Listen.

You don’t have to solve every problem for your children. Sometimes, all you need to do is hear them out. Everyone learns hard lessons growing up, and by solving problems in their place, you rob your child of the learning experience. Share the ways that you have solved problems, but give your teenager the chance to prove that they’re the capable and thoughtful individual you know they can be.

If all else fails, make sure your teenager knows he or she can come to you as a sanctuary with their stresses and challenges. You might be surprised at how your child opens up when you demonstrate interest and empathy for their growing pains.


(Luke 22:55-62, 1 Cor. 15:5, John 21)

After Jesus’ arrest and during his questioning, Peter attempted to get close to the action without being recognized. He was scared that his association with Jesus would get him arrested as well. When a young girl recognized him as a follower of Jesus, Peter did what he had promised he would never do; he denies knowing Jesus at all. Peter ran away in shame and was absent when Jesus was beaten, crucified and buried.

When Jesus came alive again on the third day, the gospels account for multiple appearances. The first was to the women. The second appearance is much less discussed, and the details of the encounter are limited. What we do know is when the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth a couple decades later detailing Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection, he shares that the second appearance of Jesus was to “Cephas” or Peter. The Bible gives great detail of the third appearance in John 21.

Though content of the conversation in the second appearance is not disclosed, we find out all we need to know by seeing Peter and Jesus interact in the third appearance.

In John 21, Jesus appears on the shore while the disciples are fishing. When John recognizes that the person on the shore is Jesus, Peter throws his clothes back on and jumps in the water. Instead of swimming away from the one he had let down, denied and rejected, Peter goes toward Jesus as fast as he can. He is the first to shore and the first to Jesus. During this encounter, with the other disciples present, Jesus restores Peter to his important role in carrying out His ministry in the future.

The private encounter had to have been a hard conversation. It was the first time they had seen each other since the denial and abandonment. Peter’s response on the shore proves that hard conversations don’t have to include being hard on someone. Peter’s actions prove he knew he was loved by Jesus and that he belonged in His presence, even after great failure.

When our kids, or anyone we lead or influence, fail or let us down, hard conversations have to happen. However, hard conversations don’t have to include hard treatment. Truth spoken in love is the way Jesus did it. So instead of avoiding the confrontation, initiate it with truth and love. Hard conversations can bring restoration.


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