Parent Conversations With Teens
We need to tune in to teens
Life is busy, so how do we get the time to interact with teen-aged kids when everybody is literally on the run?
By the time teens are in high school, the time you may get to spend with each other may be less than an hour per day–including dinner.
Try to take that in. That’s an abysmally low amount of time to talk about the big stuff of life….that is if you ever get to it.
The constant pecks of life’s immediacies, like “When do you need to be picked up?” “When is that report due?” “Did you wash my uniform?” “What’s in the frig/freezer for dinner?” tend to take over any paltry time there is in a day.
It’s tempting to put off important conversations until there’s more time, but when does that time come?
In a very short time, they’ll be out of the house.
I remember when my oldest child was going off to college, the reality came crashing in on me when she came ambling down the steps, carrying an enormous amount of stuff and shifting her weight between the backpack and a duffel bag on her shoulder.
She was taking her stuff! She was really leaving—-and for the next four years, at the minimum, she’d have a home base somewhere else.
Questions and self-doubt came pouring in.
Did I use every opportunity to have meaningful conversations with her? Was she really equipped to be on her own? Had we instilled enough Jewish values so she’d have a strong foundation to draw upon in college? Would she select friends who would be equally concerned about values and ethics? Would she make the right decisions? Would she make those choice through a Jewish lens?
My questions couldn’t even begin to cover the doubts I had, or most parents might have, before sending their teen off to college.
So, how can you capture this very precious time before your teen bounds out of the house for good?
For us, the clock slowed its frenetic pace once a week, giving us an opportunity to capture special time that only Shabbat can allow. It was our time to take a breather, catch up and check in with each other…..on a far deeper level than the trivialities of the everyday permit.
It also taught us to make the most of every single conversation and interaction.
What does it mean to maximize conversation? Don’t let things go in favor of waiting for a ‘better time’. Most likely it won’t come.
The expression ‘don’t sweat the small stuff?’….mostly ignore it. Yes, for sure, don’t dwell on the little details of life that in the grand scheme, won’t amount to much one way or the other….but DO sweat about anything that has larger life implications—like things with moral/ethical underpinnings.
Regardless of your personal observances, having an island of time (as Heschel called it) is almost an essential approach in today’s frantically paced world. So, you might want to think about instituting something like it….and the period of time between Friday night and Saturday night is a convenient reminder.
First, when making that decision, you must ignore the eye rolls and shrugs. That’s part of the script that just is. You’ll need to get over it. Let the conversations begin.
Photo credit: wikipedia creative commons 2.0 license