It takes a lot of time and effort to have the type of relationship with your children that they feel comfortable telling you anything and everything. Some of you may be wondering if it is really worth that much trouble. After all, won’t they come tell you anything that is really important?
Sadly, children and teens who aren’t comfortable sharing the every day things with their parents also often refuse to share the more important things – unless they have reached a state of panic. Even then, the news is filled with teens who committed suicide or ran away rather than deal with a parent’s reaction to troubling news.
So what are the types of conversations your children desperately want to have with you, but may be afraid to ask? It differs from child to child, but here are some common themes.
- When they fear they have made a major mistake. Your kids need to know that even if their choices make you angry, you are still there to love them and help them figure out what God wants them to do next. They will still be nervous, but are more likely to tell you rather than add more bad choices to the mix.
- That they don’t feel very lovable or likable. This can be particular bad during the teen years when popularity and dating become more important to many young people. Yes, they will probably respond that you have to say nice things because you are their parent, but hearing them can still help get them over a rough patch.
- They are really tempted by a particular sin. Be empathetic. Help them devise strategies. Avoid lecturing – they already know it is wrong, they just need your help with developing more self control.
- Someone they know is pressuring them to do something sinful and the pressure is becoming too intense to resist. Once again, empathy and brainstorming strategies is what they need most. Depending upon the situation, you may also want to discuss what types of people really make the best friends and how to find more of those people and fewer peers who pressure them to do something they know is wrong.
- That they have doubts about God, Christianity or something in the Bible. Studies have found that it is not the doubts that destroy the faith of a young person, but the unanswered doubts. If you don’t make it safe to share their doubts and questions with you, they will turn to other – quite probably less reliable sources – for answers. Sources that Satan will often make sure do undermine their developing faith.
- That they are worried about the future. This could be a worry about something coming up soon or a more distant concern about college, careers or marriage. Reassuring them that God has a plan and teaching them how to begin discerning what it is, can help ease their concerns.
- That something bad will happen and you will no longer be there to love and support them. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, but do remind them of other supportive family and friends, as well as their church family, and of course God. Reassure them that as much as you can control the situation, you will be there to be a loving, supportive parent.
- That you and your spouse will get a divorce. Some children are extremely sensitive about any tension in the house. It makes them great at ministry when they are older, because it usually means they are empathetic, but it can make them overly concerned when you and your spouse have a disagreement. If your marriage is healthy, and you and your spouse have agreed divorce is not an option for you, then reassure your child. If there are serious problems in your marriage, be honest in age appropriate ways and avoid making them take sides.
- That something you do regularly pushes their buttons and makes them angrier than they want to be. This is a tough one, but if it’s a favorite phrase you use when correcting them or some other minor adjustment – and they ask respectfully – then you may want to consider complying. Remember, the calmer they are when you are giving advice or correction, the more likely they may be to listen and even heed what you are saying.
No matter how badly your children may or may not want to tell you these things, pressing them to do so can backfire. Be available. Reassure them you want to listen to them when they have something they want you to know. Stay calm and listen actively, no matter how upset you may be internally – you can correct later, but overreacting will shut down communication quickly. You can even take the roundabout approach with some teens and read this list to them and ask them what other things they or their friends might wish their parents knew. Regardless, make it safe and convenient for your kids to talk to you. It can make parenting a whole lot easier.