While battling cancer, Karen sobbed, crying out to the Lord. She thought she had the house to herself that morning, but her youngest, 13-year-old Emory, was still home.
Knocking on her bedroom door, Emory said, "Mom, please tell me that you're all right."
Karen dried her eyes. She acknowledged the awkwardness of the moment and talked to her daughter about God being her comfort. Parents struggle to get teens to talk to them, yet mothers and fathers often ignore moments that lend themselves to good communication.
Karen and her husband, Mike, let their teens know they were more valuable than whatever else was going on. Karen might say, "I know the phone is ringing, but what you're telling me is also important." She didn't hesitate to stop what she was doing to give her full attention. Eye contact and physical touch reinforced the connection.
Teens respond to genuine honesty. Since most of them already know their parents aren't perfect, showing imperfection is OK. Conversations that recognize a parent's humanness are important in the parent-teen relationship.
"How we say things is often more important than what we say," high school guidance counselor Kathleen Allen says. If parents work on how they deliver their words, teens may hear them better.
Finally, praying — alone and with your teen — is essential. As you pray, remember that effective communication means all topics are open for discussion, not just ones of your choosing. Pray that you won't become defensive, and ask God how to respond authentically — with grace and kindness.
Three Ways Families Found Communication Amid Conflict
Follow Through and Don't Get Angry
Seventeen-year-old Melissa grinned. “Do you notice anything different?” She pulled back her hair to display a metal ball protruding from her ear cartilage. Linda and her husband, Jaime, had told Melissa to wait until she turned 18, which was a month away, to have her ears pierced. Ignoring her tearful pleas, they told her to take it out. Melissa later said that she had performed the piercing herself to save money. That opened a conversation about the dangers of infection. Had they handled the situation with anger, the opportunity to discuss piercings would have been lost.
Pray for Insight
"I don't want to go," Karen's son declared as he stomped into his bedroom. He wanted to stay home and play a new video game instead of going to youth group. Karen prayed, "Lord, show me what I can say." She felt her son needed to be there. So she went to his room and told him that she wanted him to go because she felt God telling her to take him. He understood. The surprise on his face showed her that he hadn't realized God was in authority over her as well. Although nothing major happened at youth group, the experience helped Karen's son learn more about his mother's relationship with God.
Provide Opportunities for Experience
"Jessica, please empty the dryer and fold the clothes," Kathy asked. "It's not my turn," her daughter answered. This conversation was repeated countless times. Kathy found it difficult to connect her daughter's desire for clean clothes with the work required — until Jessica went with her to an orphanage in Haiti. Jessica volunteered to help the missions team do the orphanage's laundry. They washed the clothing in tubs of water with lye soap and hung them to dry.
Jessica never said much about her experience, but once they returned, she no longer complained about doing the laundry.