Vol. 3 Issue 36 | September 8, 2017
Three Things This Week
What it is: An unprecedented storm is threatening the Florida panhandle as the U.S. braces for Hurricane Irma.
Why it’s theological: Scholars call it theodicy, the rest of us call it “the problem of evil” expressed in the ancient question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Conventional wisdom says bad things happen to even worse people, but God allows the rain to fall on the just and unjust. Yet every worldview must provide an answer for evil and suffering, not just Christianity. The closest we get to an answer is found in the book of Job where God doesn’t so much as give Job an answer as He gives Job Himself, and for the moment that is more than enough. What we do know is that we serve a God who understands our pain, and only the suffering God can save. Use this opportunity to ask your teens why they believe evil exists and then help them understand why they can trust God in the midst of suffering. Because God in Christ is right in the middle of all our suffering, not as the cause, but as the ultimate resolution.
2. Mental Illness & Faith
What it is: A thought-provoking article that breaks down the stigmas associated with mental illness.
Why it’s helpful: The first month of school often triggers anxiety in students who already struggle with mental health issues (new teachers, new schedule, new friends). For starters, help them understand that mental disorders aren’t synonymous with spiritual deficiency. Then read this article from Relevant Magazine and discuss the five “truths and myths” surrounding mental health. What did you agree with? What did you disagree on? Then ask your daughter if she follows Grace Vanderwaal on Snapchat and what she thinks of her #iHeartSelfCare advice.
3. Parenting Teens Summit
What it is: This coming Monday, September 11, Axis is launching our very own Parenting Teens Summit as we bring together an incredible line-up of Christian speakers to equip you to disciple your teens into lifelong faith.
Why it’s hopeful: All of us need wisdom when it comes to this whole parenting thing, especially in the digital age. Join experts like Dr. Paul Tripp, Jessie Minassian, Steve Arterburn, and Dr. James Dobson for this incredible, 3-week online conference that will equip you to start conversations with your kids about faith, technology, media, and sexuality. Get your FREE PASS TODAY!
The Best Gift You Can Give Your Teen
At Axis, we talk a lot about starting conversations with your teens, especially about the world in which they live. It’s one of the best ways to cultivate trust and bridge the chasm between the generations. As parents, we often know what is best for our kids, therefore the temptation is to talk at them instead of listening to them, especially when discussing volatile topics like dating, social media, or pornography. Conversations can quickly deteriorate into a competition to win, instead of a mutual dialogue. It’s difficult to truly listen when you are mentally crafting the perfect comeback. Maybe that’s why God gave us two ears and only one mouth. We are to listen twice as much as we talk.
One of the best tools for increasing the effectiveness of your conversations is active listening. Our ability to actively listen to our kids may be the biggest influence on your relationship with them. It will build trust, foster an environment of honesty, and build empathy with their situation, emotions, and feelings.
French philosopher Simone Weil once said, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” So here are seven practical ways to be “generous” in this way with your kids:
- Give them your full attention: Silence your smartphone, stop looking at your computer, and try to focus on what they are saying, instead of what you want to say next.
- Choose your body language intentionally: 93% of communication is nonverbal. Lean forward slightly, do not cross your arms, make eye contact with them, nod, remove physical barriers between the two of you, and make facial expressions that reflect the emotions of what they are sharing.
- Do not immediately judge or evaluate: Lecturing will almost certainly end the conversation. Attempting to understand what they are saying is not the same as agreeing. Your willingness to suspend your judgment will allow the conversation to continue. This is especially true if your teen is opening up to you about something like cutting or an addiction to pornography. Do your best to take a deep breath and remain calm. You want your child to see you as a safe. An extreme reaction will communicate the opposite.
- Cultivate Awareness: It might feel like just an ordinary conversation about ballet practice or the soccer game, but if you model listening to the mundane well, your teen will be more prone to come to you about deeper topics.
- Paraphrase back what you heard: Choose non-judgmental language to reassure them you heard exactly what they were trying to communicate, such as, “So what I hear you saying is that you feel frustrated about our boundaries with smartphones,” as opposed to, “So what I hear you saying is that you want no accountability with your smartphone.”
- Ask open-ended questions: Instead of asking closed-ended questions that require a mere yes-or-no answer, ask questions that demand a meaningful answer like, “What was the best part of your day?” or “How did you feel when she said that about your hair?”
- Define Expectations: Try to avoid immediately reassuring, explaining, suggesting, or sharing about your own experiences. Communicate respect by asking something like, “Would it be most helpful for me to just listen right now, or are you looking for help or advice?”
There will be times you need to set firm boundaries, provide correction, or even establish non-negotiable expectations. But as a general rule that’s not the best starting point. By practicing active listening, you will help your teen feel heard, validated, and respected, encouraging them into a deeper relationship with you.
Thank you for helping our team raise over $34,000 to keep The Culture Translator free in 2018. If you haven’t made your gift, you can do so today! Each dollar you give will allow us to give The Culture Translator to two new families this year. Thank you!
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