Andy Peck believes there are some conversation approaches that can improve your chats with young people
A recent survey by Lloyds Bank has created the headline that ‘teenagers go online to avoid face to face interactions’. According to the answers of 1,000 children aged 10-17, one in three prefer seeking advice online to avoid the ‘awkwardness’ of asking someone face to face. The research was aiming to highlight where financial advice came from and suggested that parents were the first place teens go for financial advice with 10% feeling awkward or embarrassed talking about money.
Top 15 topics teens learn about online (in order):
- Video game tips/shortcuts
- Hair hacks
- Ways to revise
- Sport skills e.g., playing football
What should we make of this as Christian parents?
Firstly, despite the headlines, this logically means that two thirds of young people do still get information from people! Family life remains a key part of their development for most teens, especially when it comes to finance. There was no question about faith in the survey, but for Christian parents keen to help their children grow in faith, the survey is a reminder that creating conversation time must be a priority amidst all that we do.
Know your child
There are times of the day to bring things up that will be better than others and settings that will work better than others. A friend found that buying a dog had led to an improvement in his communication with his teenage daughter. They could chat as they walked in a way that hadn’t worked at home in armchairs. Parents of a child whose high level sport necessitated long car journeys to games found these times excellent talking times. Look at your schedule, their interests and work out when’s a good time to have unhurried chat. Maybe you would be a Saturday breakfast out family, or regular café chat?
Be age appropriate
The age range of the survey is wide (10-17) and so you would expect some changes in communication from a parent depending on age. At 10, you will typically still be in ‘command and control mode’, but by 17 will have hopefully moved to advise and guide. So you may need to accept a different mode of conversation even if, quite frankly, they are 17 and you think they need a command and control approach.
It’s not an ‘either or’ situation. In our home we may well search online together. The Internet is a powerful tool and for all its downsides, gives you some first-class information providing of course you look at reliable sources and find a consensus across sites.
Of course there will be times when your teen not speaking with you is part of growing up and there’s not much you can do except tough it out. But if there are barriers in the relationship your children will remain closed to conversation. This may mean discovering what incident, conversation or approach led to the problem and resolving it. You may not feel you need to apologise, but you can still be ‘sorry’ that things have unravelled as they have. You can express how you want things to be better and offer the chance for a ‘clean slate’ and better relations going forward.
Jesus was always asking questions (52 asked in Mark’s Gospel alone.) It wasn’t out of ignorance but a genuine desire to draw people out. Some teens don’t talk because they are fed up with constant lectures. As the saying goes, you have two ears and one mouth so listen twice as much as you speak. What would you like to know?
It’s not all down to you
As much as we would want to be the one who helps them to Christian maturity we will always be one of a team and though you may be jealous of the youth worker, or older friend who has their ear, don’t be dismayed. You have prepared them and God is using others along with you to do the necessary work that takes a raw insecure teenager and fashions them into a man or woman of God leading the next generation into great things for God. Relax, pray for them and see what God does!