Talking with teens

As some of you may have heard a teacher from Tullahoma High School was arrested last night.  Here are eight thoughts to help you talk with your teen.

  • Create space for your teen to talk by being a good listener. Good listeners do not force conversation.  Do not interrogate. Do ask clarifying questions: What did you hear?  How do you feel about…?  What are you thinking about…?   What are other people saying?  What worries you?   Who needs support right now?  What could we do to help?


  • They learn how to react from you. Confess your own emotions, anger, fears and worries while being careful to not work out your issues with your children!  Teens know when you are rattled so just own it. They may feel empowered by reassuring you. However, do not project your anxieties onto them!   If you get overly worked up, confess that too!


  • If you think your child may have been harmed by the authority figure, ask them.


  • Model compassion for all. Pray a simple prayer for everyone involved. A family prayer may open-up conversation and emotion.  A crisis is a difficult but effective time to model the Golden Rule. “Treat all people in the way we want to be treated.” (Matthew 7:12) Our culture veers towards absolute statements and quick judgments. Life is more complicated than villains and super-heroes.  One of my childhood coaches was arrested when I was in college. I hated seeing his name in the paper and knowing he made a huge mistake. I find myself remembering life-lessons I learned from that fallen coach: “lean in”, “give it all you got”, and “you can”. Teens need to know the good things that someone did for them remain good things even if that mentor veers off the right path.


  • Avoid taking the opportunity to teach an object lesson. Teenagers will connect the dots better when we do not preach to them. Allow them to explore their values in a safe and loving environment.


  • Do not gossip. Teach them to let the rumors end with them.


  • Be positive. Affirm your love for them.  Tell them you will always love them and try to help them. Help them imagine realistic scenarios of healing and hope.


  • Follow up. Do something nice for them.

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