Parent Cue Feb. 2016

Communicating with teenagers is hard. And it’s especially hard to know what to say and how to say it when it comes to sensitive topics like dating. Deep down, we know that the dating years are a time to lean in and keep the conversation going with our kids, but sometimes the awkwardness and potential explosions can make us want to do just the opposite.

In her article, “5 Tips For Communicating With Teens,” author and mom of three teenagers, Autumn Ward, explores how we can keep the lines of communication open on every topic, including dating.

Communication is a two-way street. Often, the reasons teenagers choose not to talk with their parents are because they feel like their parents don’t listen or will get mad at what they tell them. Parents, on the other hand, feel like their teens just won’t talk to them. Who’s right? In most cases, they both are. But don’t lose hope! Below are five ways we

as parents can help open the lines of communication with our teenagers.

1. Just listen.

We know being in listening mode isn’t possible 24/7, but we still need to show our teens that we’re open to listening when they need us. And we can pretty much guarantee it will happen when we’re on the phone, making dinner or headed to bed. When this happens, do whatever it takes to give your teenager your undivided attention. (This may require making coffee at 11:00 p.m.)

2. Encourage.

Be encouraging, supportive and positive. If your teenager has a fight with a friend, this is not the time to say, “I never liked that friend anyway!” That’s a door slammer. Try, “Are you okay?” Or, “Sometimes friends fight. Hopefully the two of you will be able to work it out. Do you want to talk about it?”

3. Say, “I don’t know.”

Know that it’s okay not to know the answer. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know,” but follow it with: “We can try and find out together.” And don’t miss out on this opportunity to point your teenager to God who does know all the answers and always has a listening ear.

4. Be kind.

Treat your teenager the way you’d want to be treated. We already know that, don’t we? We all want to treat our family well, but somehow it’s tempting to do things in conversations with our kids that we’d never do when talking to adults— things like bringing up past mistakes or embarrassing moments. Nothing creates distance in a relationship like shame. So at this critical phase, when it’s so important to keep

the conversation going, be careful to guard that relationship by being kind and encouraging—not critical and shaming.

5. Be patient.

Sometimes we just need to be quiet. There are two answers to the question, “Do you want to talk?” If the answer is “no,” you need to respect that. Even if it takes a huge piece of duct tape placed over your mouth, do your best not to push. You can keep the lines of communication open by saying, “Okay, but I’m here when you need me to listen.”

by Autumn Ward

For more from Autumn or to connect to a wider community of parents, check out

Try This

Sometimes it can be hard to know when and how to talk to our kids about dating. It’d be so nice if we just had a guide that told us what to say…

  • before they start dating.
  • while they’re in a relationship.
  • after a breakup.

    Well, good news…there is!

    In order to help get the conversation started at your house, we’ve included a Dating Conversation Guide for you and your teenager that helps each of you talk about dating in a real and helpful way before, during and after a relationship happens.

In fact, not only does it help you and your son or daughter come to an agreement about what dating should look like, but it also includes several guides to help your student think through what is important to them and what they are looking for in a relationship.

This week, take a look at the Dating Conversation Guide as well as the other documents included and plan a time to talk with your son or daughter about either the dating relationships they have now or the dates they plan to have in the future. It doesn’t have to be formal or super serious—just a coffee date or some time in the car will work. You’ll be glad you did and so will they…even if they don’t say so.

Dating Conversation Guide