Article by Pastor Craig
As the school year starts, the rhythm of your family changes. The time together is different and the reality of getting out the door, homework, projects, sports, work and church activities add pressure to the family dynamic. This is both wonderful and hard. We need to embrace this reality knowing in the grand scheme of life, this is a short-lived part of it. There are only a few years left before the blessings and hardships of this season go away. Having good communication is critical as your family develops new habits at the start of the new school year.
Here is some advice as we start the 2019-2020 school year:
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard from students, “My parents don’t listen to me.” Yes, there are two sides to this, but how much better would it be to make sure this is not a reality in your teenager’s life? If they think you won’t listen, they won’t open up. Why would they? It is also important to note you need to be ready to listen when they choose to talk. We can’t give them a small time slot in our day that only works for us and expect that to work. We need to lead and guide and part of leading is to listen. Think through the following situations:
- In social settings are they forced to speak up or do you do the talking for them?
- Are they only allowed to agree with you? Are they allowed to respectfully speak their minds?
- Are they treated like a client? Your conversations need to be more than transactional. They need to feel like you like them and want to understand them.
2. Timing, tact, and tone
There is not an exact science to this, but timing, tact, and tone make a big difference. As parents we need to proactively guide, discipline, set expectations, and be open about what we think about things. We also need to be ready to stop, sit, and focus on them when they ask or you sense the timing is right. Talking about important things while you’re angry and in a reaction mode is not a good recipe. Avoid sarcasm or downplaying the issue. If they love video games and you think they are a waste of time, find a time to address this when you’re not in the heat of an argument over how much time they are wasting.
3. Get past logistics
It is important to stay organized with all the things jockeying for the weekly calendar. But if logistics is all your family conversations are about, it will be tough to go deeper with your kids. This requires discipline to be proactive. For example, if the few family dinners at home are in front of the TV, you’re not creating an environment to talk about more personal and deeper things. Choose to make time at the table, to eat and talk, without devices. I often hear from students they wish they could slow down their families’ lives so they could sit and have dinner together more often. They typically won’t say this directly, but it is what they want.
We cannot manufacture special moments, but we can make the time for longer opportunities for conversation. It could be in the car, out for ice cream or before bed.
4. Get past the awkward
Some conversations are awkward and cause a lot of stress. However, it is necessary to talk about sex, drugs, and rock `n’ roll with your kids. Be bold to continue talking about important issues. Be proactive with issues and situations you know they will face. Ask them if they have heard about X. Tell them how to handle situations with godly wisdom. Keep talking about issues and topics. A one-time conversation about how awesome the Vikings are is NOT enough. You need to keep talking about it until they realize how great the purple and gold are; SKOL! Use this same principle for sexuality, sex, vaping, drugs, identity, gender issues, Biblical views about political issues, etc. Do your students know how to handle conversations when a friend shares about suicidal thoughts, being asked to send inappropriate photos of themselves, is faced with bullying, or serious issues like these.
5. Talking about or being proactive with issues does NOT add risk for experimentation
One thing I have heard from parents is something like this, “If I talk about these things and they don’t know about them, I am opening them up to curiosity or experimentation,” or, “My son or daughter doesn’t know about that and they aren’t ready for that conversation yet.” The reality is that talking about issues, whether or not they know about them or “are ready,” does NOT push them toward questionable behavior or damaging curiosity. This is simply not true. What it does is provide freedom in a safe environment to learn about and get ready for situations they may encounter. Plus, the reality is your kids know more than you think. The things we may have encountered at age 15 are now being encountered at younger and younger ages. Therefore, we must be proactive in talking about all issues.
5. Drip feed your vision and dreams for them
There is more than enough negativity in our world so it is important you keep drip feeding your kids your vision for them as disciples of Jesus. As you develop good listening skills and talk through issues, keep casting vision on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Your son and daughter need to know where they came from, why they are here, and where they are going. They need to know God created them, loves them, died for them, and made them for a purpose.
I hope this helps keep you focused on the important stuff as we embrace the challenges and blessings of another school year. As always, if you want to talk to someone or ask for ideas, please contact the student ministries staff. We are here to be with you in the process of raising your kids to be powerful disciples of Jesus.