As parents, we know connecting with our teenage children often feels like an uphill battle. With the rapid changes that occur during adolescence, communication can become difficult and confusing. But fear not, we’ve put together 10 tips on how to talk to your teenage son that will help improve your relationship and foster open, meaningful conversations.
1. Choose the Right Environment
Selecting an appropriate setting for your conversation is crucial. Find a comfortable and relaxed environment where your son feels at ease; whether it’s at home, a local park, or during a car ride. An atmosphere where your son feels safe encourages open and honest communication. You can also use shared interests or activities, such as playing video games or sports, as a way to initiate conversations.
Here are a few resources that can help start those conversations in a way that fosters deeper conversations: the Parent’s Guide to Video Games or the Parent’s Guide to Fitness.
2. Don’t Lecture Him
No one likes to be lectured, especially teenagers.During our teenage years, our brains are still in the process of growing and developing. A small part of the human brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for processing emotions, is incredibly vulnerable at this age. This vulnerability is thought to make teens prone to higher emotional responsiveness and less effective emotional regulation when presented with small disagreements or criticisms. It’s important that we as parents consider how our teens’ minds will handle information presented to them (especially if that information’s intent is correction).
Instead of delivering a monologue, engage your son in a two-way conversation. Encourage him to share his thoughts, opinions, and feelings. This approach fosters mutual understanding and respect. When discussing challenging topics, like school performance or risky behavior, try to ask open-ended questions that encourage your son to think critically and express his point of view. For more advice about handling tough conversations, check out Axis’s Parent’s Guide to Tough Conversations.
3. Actively Listen to What He Has to Say
Listening is a vital aspect of effective communication. Make sure you pay attention to your son’s words, tone, and body language. Be present in the moment, and avoid interrupting him when he’s speaking. This shows that you value his thoughts and opinions. Practice active listening techniques, such as summarizing what he said or asking clarifying questions, to demonstrate your understanding and interest in what he’s sharing. If you find yourself lost with some of the words your son might use, check out our Parent’s Guide to Teen Slang.
4. Validate His Feelings
It’s important to acknowledge your son’s feelings. Just because you might not understand why your son is reacting the way he is, his emotions are real and genuine and matter to him. Validation shows empathy and understanding, which can strengthen your relationship. Avoid dismissing his emotions or telling him how he “should” feel. Instead, use phrases like, “I can see how you would feel that way” or “It’s understandable that you’re upset about this” to show support and compassion. There are times when your son may be challenged with a difficult social situation like bullying or hurtful gossip. It’s crucial to listen, show empathy, and teach your son how to navigate these challenges with forgiveness and grace. Check out these Axis resources for more information on how to talk about and handle bullying: Axis’s Cultural Issues page, the Parent’s Guide to Bullying, the Bullying Video: Gossip, Revenge, Forgiveness, and The One Conversation Podcast about Bullying, Social Media and Why Words Matter all offer resources for how to better understand and address some of these challenges.
5. Show That You Trust Him
Trust is the foundation of any strong relationship. Demonstrate your trust in your son by giving him age-appropriate responsibilities and respecting his privacy. This will help him feel more comfortable opening up to you. As your son grows older, consider gradually granting him more autonomy, allowing him to make decisions, and supporting his choices. The world is full of complicated cultural influences that may challenge your son and the decisions he makes for himself.
6. Control Your Emotions and Don’t Take Anything Personally
Teenagers can be moody and say hurtful things. As a parent, it’s essential to remain calm and not take their words personally. Controlling your emotions will prevent heated arguments and create a more constructive environment for communication. When faced with a difficult conversation, take deep breaths, count to ten, or even take a break if necessary to ensure that your emotions don’t get the better of you.
7. Create an Open Communication Environment
Foster a home environment where your son feels safe to express his thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. Modeling behaviors like open communication with your spouse, extended family, and your other children in the home can help your teen to feel more comfortable with this concept. Consider asking questions like: “What was your favorite part of today?” or “What has made you feel frustrated lately? Is there anything I can do to help alleviate some of those feelings?”
Encouraging your teenage son to express his thoughts and feelings openly is crucial for maintaining a healthy relationship. Make sure to create a safe and non-judgmental space where he can talk about his emotions and experiences. This includes discussing topics that uniquely relate to him, like masculinity, which can be complex and challenging for young men to navigate. To better understand the nuances of masculinity and the potential impact of controversial figures like Andrew Tate on your son’s perception of it, you may want to read The Masculinity of Andrew Tate.
Make it clear to your teen that you’re always available to talk, and encourage him to share his concerns and ideas with you. One way to create this environment is by establishing regular family times, where everyone can openly discuss their thoughts and feelings. Additionally, you can use this time to create a safe space for discussing sensitive topics like sex and gender or Christianity.
8. Avoid Talking If You Are Both Not Calm
Trying to have a conversation when either of you is upset or angry can lead to more conflict. Wait until both of you are calm and in a better frame of mind before discussing important topics. If necessary, suggest taking a break and returning to the conversation later when emotions have settled. Practicing this approach not only minimizes misunderstandings but also models healthy conflict resolution skills for your teenage son to adopt in his own relationships.
Remember, this can be a really challenging step for even the most well adjusted person. It’s important to take your own ‘temperature’ when faced with a difficult conversation with your teen. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, even if your teen doesn’t seem to be, it’s okay to give yourself grace and take a moment to let your own thoughts and feelings settle — this models behaviors that your teen may find helpful later on in their lives.
9. Use a Real-Life Example to Illustrate Your Point
Sharing your own experiences or using real-life examples can help your son understand your perspective better. Relating your point to something he can connect with may make it more meaningful and easier for him to grasp. For example, if you’re discussing the importance of perseverance, share a story from your own life where you faced challenges and overcame them. This not only makes the concept more relatable but also helps build a more honest and vulnerable connection between you and your son.
10. Allow Time to Process and Follow Up
After discussing a topic, give your son some time to process the information. Don’t push for an immediate response or decision. Schedule a follow-up conversation to see how he’s feeling and whether he has any further questions or concerns. This approach allows him to digest the conversation and come back with a clearer perspective or new ideas.
Continuing to Grow Together
As we navigate the sometimes challenging task of talking with our teenage sons, it’s essential to remember the guidance provided by our faith. As stated in Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Even as parents, we are all God’s children and we are called to follow His teachings, especially in our interactions with our sons. Ephesians 4:29 reminds us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
To facilitate conversations that align with these principles, consider using open-ended questions or conversation starters, such as:
- What challenges did you face today, and how did you handle them?
- How do you feel about the expectations society has for young men?
- In what ways can we support each other in our faith journey?
By keeping these Bible verses and conversation starters in mind, we can foster a nurturing environment that encourages open, honest, and faith-centered communication with our teenage sons.
For a comprehensive list of resources to help you navigate conversations with your son, visit Axis’s Parent Guide and Conversation Kit pages.
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