We’ve all heard the warning: never assume and the clever words found within the actual word “assume.” However with three teenagers around the house it is important for me to remember this truth over and over again.
After all, I know these kids walking around here. I’ve seen them grow from 21 inches to over six feet before my very eyes! I know what they like for breakfast or lunch, who to avoid before 8:00 AM, and what color to paint a bedroom. Why shouldn’t I assume I know what makes them happy? What makes them sad? After all, I already know them. Don’t I?
Unfortunately, my first assumption is more about my angst from my teenage years. I was insecure as a teen continued to run after the popular crowd with minimal success. Most of my sad days had more to do with friends. The trouble is when I assume their mood is because of turbulent relationships I project my issues on them. They don’t need this! They’re already dealing with all their own troubles. They don’t need to worry about mine.
The way out of assuming is asking. Think of open-ended questions that invite your teens to talk with you but get past one-word answers. “How was your day?” Usually, gets a short “fine” response without any emotion. Invite them to conversations. “Tell me about your day.” Bring up topics in current events or experiences from your day and ask their thoughts or opinions. Then listen. Listen and ask more questions as allowed.
Find times when your children may be more open to talk. For one of my kids, she is ready to share right when she walks in the door. She wants to tell all. If I miss that moment and she has slipped into her world of phone, friends, and homework, I may have missed my window. For another, it’s allowing him downtime when he walks in the door. Letting him be alone and come out of his room later ready to talk after he has had a chance to relax.
When parenting teens, it’s easy to assume they don’t want or need us as parents. This isn’t the case. Often the tough exterior teens put up is to protect them from hurt. As parents, it’s our job to love our teenagers and assure them they are safe with us, safe no matter what.
If possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.
By Heather Larson, M.A.
Wife to Peter
Mom of three
1 Corinthians 13 Team Member
Associate Director of 10 Great Dates
For more thoughts about parenting teens, check out She’s Almost a Teenager, Essential Conversations to Have Now