31 Days of Praying Scripture Over Your Teens & College Students: Week 5

Well, friends, here are the last few prayers in our 31 Days of Praying Scripture series. (If you are just finding this, you can find the first post in the series here.) I hope this has been helpful for you as you pray for the teens and college students in your life. More than that, I am excited to think about all the unseen ways God is working in response to our prayers! Thank you for joining me on this journey.

If you have enjoyed this series or have found these prayers helpful, will you please let me know in the comments (here or on FB)? I’m also curious if you would be interested in having Scripture prayers focused on any other topics. I’d love if you would share your ideas!

Lastly, I am finishing up the printable version of these prayers, so stay tuned later this week for how you can access it!

Okay, enough chit-chat… Let’s get to praying!

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Day 29: Ephesians 4:14-15

Father, I pray _______________ will no longer be like an infant, unable to discern truth. May they not be tossed back and forth by the waves of false teaching or cunning people who create You in an image of their own choosing. Instead, may they be grounded in Truth and speak Your truth in love to others. May they grow to become the mature body of Jesus in every respect, fully devoted to living out Your instructions in a world desperate for truth and grace.

Day 30: Romans 8:35-39

Father, I pray that nothing will separate ________________ from the love of Christ! Though they may face trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or death, may they be more than conquerors through Jesus, who loves us and is already victorious. May they claim this truth in their darkest times: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Day 31: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Father, I pray You will provide _________________ with godly, encouraging friendships. May they surround themselves with people who help them have a good return for their work and who help each other up when they fall. May they strengthen and encourage one another, speaking the truth in love and encouraging faithfulness. May they fight off temptation together so they are not overpowered by sin. Since a cord of three strands is not quickly broken, may You be woven into the fabric of their closest relationships.

Lord, hear our prayer!

31 Days of Praying Scripture Over Our Teens & College Students: Week Four

Wow, friends, it has been a week! If you have been following along, you already know why I initially wrote this series. (And if you are just joining us, you may want to check out 31 Days of Praying Scripture Over our Teens and College Students: Week 1)

Our oldest daughter starts college this month (along with all our other kids navigating COVID-schooling in all its forms), and I needed a way to direct my prayers. I cover the basics daily- “Lord, please keep her safe, protect her from harm, keep her healthy,” etc.

However, while all those things are important, they really aren’t the most important thing.

I wanted to make sure I was not just covering her physically, but spiritually, emotionally, and mentally as well. Above all, my greatest prayer is for her relationship with Jesus. There are so many things that will influence her faith one way or another, and I needed to be sure I was praying about them instead of just talking about them.

When we pray the Word of God (in context), we can ask confidently because we know we are praying according to His will. Thus, this series was created for that purpose.

This past weekend, Jeff and I helped Sarah move into her dorm, then made the seven hour drive home without her. It was wonderful and hard, and our emotions are still pretty much all over the place. But we are confident she is where God wants her, and she is prepared to shine! And the best way I can help her do that is through prayer.

The same is true for all my kids. And for yours!

So, if you are still on this journey with me, thank you! Thank you for loving the teens and college students in your life enough to pray. Thank you for believing that a few words whispered with a little faith and an open heart will be heard by the Creator of the universe. Because they will!

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” -James 5:16b (NLT)

Now, there is nothing magic about these words themselves; no, the power lies not in the prayers, but in the One who hears them.

So let’s keep praying! Our teens and college students are counting on us!

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Day 22: 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

Father, it is so easy to think we are firm in our faith, but temptation lurks all around us. I pray _______________ will be careful and not fall! Remind them that no temptation is unique to them alone; Satan uses the same bag of tricks on all mankind. May they see through the enemy’s lies and claim this truth:  You are faithful; You will not let them be tempted beyond what they can bear. And when they are tempted, You will help them endure it and provide a way out. Thank You for Your faithfulness!

Day 23: Matthew 6:33-34

Father, may ________________ not worry about tomorrow- about what they will do, who they will marry, or how they will provide for their needs. May they not be distracted by pursuing those things, but instead bring those concerns to You. May they seek first Your kingdom and desire to love and serve You well, trusting You to take care all of their needs.

Day 24: Colossians 3:23-24

Father, may ________________ not be lazy or tempted to impress others. Instead, may they live out this command: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men… for it is the Lord Christ you are serving.” May they develop a habit of offering You their very best, even in things that seem unimportant.

Day 25: Proverbs 4:23-27

Father, may ______________ guard their heart above all else, for everything we do flows out of our hearts. May they hide your Word in their heart so that they might not sin against You. Please keep their mouth free from perversity and keep corrupt talk from their lips. When they speak to and about others, may they speak life and truth and encouragement. Help them avoid gossip and lies; help them confront boldly but gently, filtering their words through a kind and compassionate heart. Help them fix their eyes on You, giving careful thought to the paths of their feet, so they will remain steadfast in their relationship with You all their days, in all their ways. Do not let them turn to the right or left; keep them walking in Your truth.

Day 26: Philippians 4:8-9

Father, when _____________ is feeling anxious, may they focus on thoughts that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. In other words, may they think about You and find comfort in Your Word. May they put into practice the things they learned from those who love and follow You, and may You comfort them with Your peace.

Day 27: Colossians 3:12-16

Father, You have chosen _______________ as your own, and they are holy and dearly loved by You. Therefore, may they be intentional to clothe themselves daily with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. As they interact with those around them, may they bear with each other and forgive one another, just as You so graciously forgive them. May they be bound together in love, so that even when they disagree, they may seek peace and unity of spirit. May Your peace rule in their hearts and lead them to be thankful. May they actively grow together with You through the study and application of Your Word, in lifting their voices in praise and worship, and in the bonding together of grateful hearts.

Day 28: James 1:2-4

Father, may ________________ consider it joy when they face trials of many kinds, because the testing of their faith will strengthen them and produce perseverance. I pray their perseverance will finish it’s work, so they may grow up into maturity, not lacking anything they need, but loving you wholeheartedly.

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Well, that wraps up Week 4… but we still have a few days left! I will post Days 29-31 next week, along with a way for you to print this entire series out in case you would like to use it as a resource again next month. Several of you have asked for that; unfortunately, I am not very tech savvy and it’s taking me awhile to figure out how to make that happen. Thank you for your patience!

In the meantime, feel free to screenshot this week’s prayers for easier reference each day. And if this series might be helpful to someone you know, please share it with them.

As in previous weeks, if you want to put the names of the students you are praying for in the comments, I will add them to my list! Otherwise, check back next week for the final post in our journey of praying Scripture over our teens and college students!

31 Days of Praying Scripture Over Our Teens & College Students: Week Three

Well friends, we have been on this journey of praying Scripture over teens and college students for two weeks now. That’s nearly half of our 31 day goal.

How are you doing? Is it still exciting, or are you ready for it to be over? Has it impassioned you to be in God’s Word and to pray intentionally for the teenagers in your life? For those of you in the process of dropping kids off at college, are the promises of God bringing you peace? I hope so!

Selfishly, this series has reignited my prayer life in a way that has been dormant for awhile. While I wrote this series as a way to be intentional about praying for my own children, I have especially enjoyed praying for yours! So thank you to those of you who added names in the Facebook comments. I trust God to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine in each of their lives!

Okay, enough rambling… here is week three!

Day 15: Philippians 4:6-7

Father, I pray  __________________ will not be anxious about anything, but in every situation will turn to You in prayer with a heart of gratitude. As they present their requests to You, may Your peace, which transcends all understanding, guard their heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

Day 16: Romans 12:1-2

Father, in light of Your mercy, please help ________________ present their body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to You. Help them learn that true and proper worship means living wholeheartedly for You, not just checking a church box. May they not conform to the patterns and ways of the world around them, but be transformed as You daily renew their mind with Your Word. Through walking with You and surrendering their own desires, may they be able to discern Your good, pleasing, and perfect will.

Day 17: Proverbs 3:5-6

Father, I pray  ___________________ will learn what it means to trust in You with all their heart. When they face choices and decisions, may they not lean on their own understanding, but seek Your will and wisdom. May they bring their own plans and desires before You and willingly submit to Your plan, trusting that Your ways are best. As they walk with You daily, may You continue to make their paths straight, keeping them in the center of Your will. 

Day 18: Joshua 1:9

Father, may __________________ follow Your command to be strong and courageous, regardless of their feelings or circumstances. May they not be afraid or discouraged, remembering that You, the Lord our God, have promised to be with them wherever they go.

Day 19: Ephesians 2:10

Father, I pray ____________________ will claim this truth: That they are Your handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which You prepared in advance for them to do. Help them see themself through Your eyes and live into the fullness of all You’ve created them to do.

Day 20: 1 Peter 5:7

Father, I pray ____________________ will cast all their anxieties on You, trusting and believing that You care for them, as Your word proclaims.

Day 21: Ephesians 3:17-19

Father, I pray that _________________, being rooted and established in love, may have the power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is Your love for them. May they experience Your love even though it is beyond comprehension, so that they may be filled with the fullness of who You are and share Your love with others.

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So, that’s Week Three! If you’re growing weary, DON’T GIVE UP! Our students need prayer coverage now more than ever!

If you missed the first part of my series, 31 Days of Praying Scripture Over Your Teens & College Students, you can find Week One here and Week Two here. It’s never too late to start!

As always, thanks for reading and for joining me in this battle for the hearts of our young people. I’d love to pray for the teenagers in your life! If you want, add their names here or in the comments on Facebook and I will lift them up this week.

And don’t forget to come back next week for Week Four!

31 Days of Praying Scripture Over Your Teens & College Students: Week Two

Hey Friends!

Thank you so much to those of you who are joining me in 31 days of praying Scripture over our teens and college students! If you’re just finding this series, basically I wanted to be intentional about praying for our oldest daughter and her friends as they head off to college this Fall. While my intentions were good, I knew I wouldn’t actually do it unless I took the time to get organized. So, I chose 31 passages of Scripture and wrote prayers for each one, and then decided to share them so you can pray, too!

If you’re just starting out, you can check out Week One here. And feel free to screenshot or copy and paste the daily prayers and print them out for easier reference. I was hoping to make a printable version of all 31 days, but I’m technologically challenged, so that hasn’t happened yet. Sorry!

Also, I encourage you to take the time to look up each Bible reference before you pray. These are not perfect verses, but they are a good place to start! And there is nothing magical about these prayers- they are just an example of what it looks like to pray God’s Word. Feel free to pray as you are led.

Now, on to Week two!

(Note: I settled on plural pronouns for ease and flow while praying. Please don’t judge my grammar…)

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Day 8: Jeremiah 29:11-13

Father, sometimes life doesn’t look like we expect it to, and we face periods of suffering, trials, and uncertainty. During those times, I pray ________________ will trust that You have a plan for them, plans to prosper them and not to harm them, regardless of how their circumstances may appear. Help them believe that on the other side of this difficult time, there is hope for a future that looks very different. May they call on You and pray to You, and may You listen and hear their prayers. Thank you for your promise that we will find You when we seek You with all our heart.

Day 9: John 10:27

Father, I pray  __________________ will listen to Your voice as a sheep listens to its shepherd, trusting You for guidance, provision, and protection. You know them intimately, Lord- may they know You intimately as well, and follow You all their days.

Day 10: 1 Timothy 4:12

Father, I pray __________________ will not let anyone look down on them because they are young or use their age as an excuse to delay serving you. Instead, out of love and faithfulness to You, may they set an example for all believers in how they speak to others, how they conduct themselves in public and private, how they show compassion and love to all, how they trust Your Word, and how they keep their hearts and minds pure. May they make the most of the daily opportunities You bring for them to be a light for you right where they are.

Day 11: 1 Peter 5:8-9a

Father, Your Word tells us that our enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Please help  __________________ stay alert and keep their guard up. May they be able to quickly discern attacks from the enemy, in all their forms, and resist him, standing firm in their faith and the truth of Your Word.

Day 12: Philippians 2:3-4

Father, as ____________________ interacts with different people this week, may they do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Instead, in humility, may they think of others before themselves, not looking to their own interests and what they can get out of the situation or relationship, but to how they can serve others in love. And may you surround them with friends who honor them in the same way.

Day 13: Hebrews 12: 1-3

Father, please help ___________________ untangle themselves from any sin, thought, or behavior that may hinder their relationship with You. May they not just remove it, but tear it out by the roots and cast it away, running towards You. Give them perseverance to run the race marked out for them as they fix their eyes firmly on Jesus, the author and perfecter of their faith. When they begin to grow weary, may His suffering and victory be an example to them, so that they will not lose heart, but persevere for the joy set before them.

Day 14: Psalm 86:11

Father, please teach __________________ Your way, that they might rely on Your faithfulness. Give them an undivided heart, that they may fear Your name.

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If you are joining me in prayer, or if you have found this resource helpful, will you please do two things?

  • Will you leave me a comment (here or on Facebook) and let me know that you are joining us in prayer?
  • And will you consider sharing this series with your friends who have teens or college students in their lives?

There is so much going on in our world right now, and I can’t imagine a better way for us to invest in our young people than to cover them in prayer! Don’t forget to check in next week for Week 3!

Thanks, friends!

31 Days of Praying Scripture Over Your Teens & College Students: Week 1

Hey Friends,

I am SUPER excited about partnering with you this month as we pray Scripture over our college students and teens! As mentioned in my previous post, these are not “perfect verses” or perfect prayers. They are simply a place to start! (You can read more about how I got the idea for 31 Days of praying Scripture over teens here!)

I encourage you to read the daily Scripture before you pray. I have done my best to keep the meaning of the verses in their intended context (we never want to pray Scripture for our own benefit in a way it wasn’t intended). Feel free to use the prayers I have written or pray your own- there is nothing magic or special about these prayers! And if these don’t resonate for your child in their given circumstance, hopefully it will spur you on to find some verses that do.

(Note: I selected these verses and wrote these prayers for young adults who are already walking with Jesus. If you are praying for a teen or young adult who is struggling with their faith or salvation, please reach out and I can give you some different verses to pray over them!)

There is power in prayer, but there is even more power in the Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” As we pray the Word of God over the young adults and children in our lives, I believe that God will be working in ways we may not see here on earth, but that will impact His kingdom eternally. May it be so.

I also encourage you to pull out a photo of the college student or teen (or in my case, both!) who you are praying for and keep it with your Bible this month. As you pray, imagine the Lord placing a shield of faith around them, protecting them from the attacks of the enemy, so that these seeds of truth may be planted firmly in their hearts and minds without being stolen away.

Here’s a photo of our girls, just for fun:

I have several other students I will be praying for as well. Mamas, you know who you are- I’m covering your kids with you!

Now, onto the fun part…

Day 1:  Philippians 3:13b-14

Father, as ______________________ begins a new school year, please help them forget what is behind and press on toward what is ahead. Let them step into this new adventure unhindered by the past, filled with hope for the days to come. May they press on towards the goal of knowing You, for which You have called them heavenward; may their relationship with You, both now and forever, be the prize they seek to gain. 

Day 2: Hebrews 10:35-11:1

Father, I pray you will fill ___________________ with confidence in Your Truth. Help them persevere when they face trials, trusting that You will honor their faithfulness as they do Your will. Help them not shrink back when they face doubts or opposition, but give them faith to believe in You. May they be sure of the hope they find in You and certainthat You are present and working, even when they can’t see or feel You. Open the eyes of their heart to know You are there.

Day 3: Psalm 1:1-3

Father, may ____________________ be blessed as they walk daily with You. May they not keep company with those who delight in doing bad things or who would draw them away from You. Instead, may they delight in meditating on Your Word and in keeping Your ways. May they be like a tree planted near streams of water, so that their faith will not wither under pressure, but instead will yield fruit over time. Lord, as they drink deeply from Your Word, may they prosper in whatever they do for Your glory.

Day 4: Proverbs 3:3-4

Father, I pray You will write Your love and faithfulness on the tablet of _____________’s heart. May they allow these virtues to flow in and through them to the people they encounter each day. As they seek to live out their love for You, may they win good favor in the eyes of those around them and, most importantly, with You.

Day 5: Joshua 1:7-8

Father, please help _____________________ be strong and courageous. As they face new situations and a new environment, may they be careful to obey Your instructions and listen to the Holy Spirit, not turning away from You even a little bit, so that they may be successful as they follow Your path. May they keep Your Word always on their lips; may they meditate on it day and night, so that it will influence their thoughts, choices, and actions. May they prosper and find success through their faithfulness to You.

Day 6: James 1:5

Father, when ___________________ lacks wisdom and is searching for answers, may they not be deceived by the abundance of information and opinions around them. Instead, may they seek the truth from You and from Your Word, knowing that You give generously to all who ask without finding fault. And when they do seek wisdom from You, Lord, may it be given to them along with a heart to apply it.

Day 7: Matthew 5:14-16

Father, help ____________ remember that they are the Light of the world, a reflection of You in a world of darkness. When they are tempted to hide their faith or their true self, give them courage and strength to let You shine through them. May others be drawn to You by the light they see in them.

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And that’s it for week one! Check back in next week for 31 Days of Praying Scripture Over Your Teen & College Student: Week 2!

Also, if you know of someone who might find these verses helpful, would you mind sharing it with them? And I would love to know if you are joining me in this prayer challenge. If so, would you mind giving a shout out in the comments (here or on FB)? Just type, “I’m praying” or the names of those you’re praying for. Thanks!

The Best Way to Prepare for Something New

School starts for us next week.

In two weeks, we will take Sarah and drop her off at college.

As you can imagine, there is a lot of preparation going on in our home right now!

What is the best way to prepare for something new? Do you make lists or make piles? Do you wing it until the last minute? 

I would imagine we all get ready in different ways.

I am a planner, and I have found that if I don’t prepare in advance, I miss things that are important. I might miss buying a Math book or forget to pack underwear. You know, important things.

We all know this school year is a bit different, what with the uncertainty of COVID and all. However, it was going to be different for our family anyway, with our oldest heading off to college! So a few weeks ago, amidst the growing piles of dorm stuff, I decided I needed to prepare.

I learned a long time ago that while my lists are helpful, the best thing I can do to prepare for something big is…

PRAY.

Yep, it’s true! When I forget to pack underwear, I just run to the store and buy more. It might be inconvenient, but it’s not exactly life changing. But when I forget to pray, I feel it. It changes everything.

Prayer makes all the difference.

I knew I wanted to cover Sarah (and her friends) with prayer as she steps out into her new college adventure (whatever that ends up looking like!), so I selected 31 Bible passages to pray over her, one for each day of the month. They are not the “perfect college verses” or even necessarily the most applicable; they are simply a good place to start. And I knew if I didn’t plan for it in advance, I would find myself scrambling to find something every day, or worse- forget altogether.

So I chose some verses, and then went ahead and wrote out some prayers.

If you are anything like me, I tend to pray either very generally for my kids (Lord, let them love You!) or very selfishly (Lord, keep them safe. Lord, don’t let me kill them if they sass me again!). While there is nothing wrong with these prayers- I am a firm believer that God loves for us to come to Him with whatever is on our hearts- I have found that praying God’s Word releases an entirely different kind of power.

Some of these passages are verses I already pray over my kids on a regular basis. Some of them were shared with me by sweet friends (thank you!), and some of them came from my time with the Lord this past month. While I wrote the prayers with college students in mind, they easily apply to all teenagers, and many can be adapted for younger children as well.

I have decided to share them on my blog, thinking they might be helpful for some of you who are walking this life stage along with me. I will post a week’s worth at a time, and it is my prayer that God will use our collective prayers to empower young adults everywhere to claim His truths. May they shine brightly with the love of Christ in a world so desperately in need of Light!  

Please feel free to share these Scriptures with anyone who might find them helpful. And start making a list of verses yourself… then share it with me! It takes a village, friends! 

Check back here tomorrow for the Week One of 31 Days of Praying Scripture over Your Teen & College Student! I am super excited about what the Lord is going to do!

Lord, hear our prayer!

Parenting Teens in a Virtual World (Part 3): Crafting Your Teen Technology Contract

CONGRATULATIONS!! If you’ve made it this far, you deserve a milkshake or something! The posts in this series have been quite a bit longer than I usually write, but the information on this topic is just so important, I couldn’t figure out how to shorten it. So thanks for sticking with me! Hopefully, you have found it helpful.

If you are just joining us, this is the last in a three part series on Parenting Teens in a Virtual World. Click HERE to read Part 1 and HERE to read Part 2. This post will make a lot more sense once you have all that information!

Today we’re going to talk about what to include in a teen technology contract. But first, I want to give you three reasons WHY creating and signing a technology contract with your teen is so important. 

  1. First, it makes your family expectations clear up front. It’s hard to argue with something you signed.
  • Second, it makes the consequences clear so they don’t have to be negotiated in the heat of the battle. 
  • And third, it gives you and your teen some accountability to help you both stick to your guidelines.

So now that we all agree on why we want a technology contract, where do we start? 

If you have used the first two parts of this series as conversation starters with your teens, you should have a pretty good idea by now of which boundaries are important to you and what guidelines you want to set in place. 

Just to recap, here are a few things for you to consider:

  • Time limits
  • Privacy settings
  • Approval before making new accounts
  • Parent phone checks and sharing passwords
  • A family charging station
  •  “Turn in/Off-line” times
  • What they may not view or post (bullying, profanity, porn, pics of others without permission)
  • What they may view and post (“Anything your mom, nana, and pastor would approve of”)
  • Social Media breaks (both scheduled and spontaneous)
  • Technology-free zones (ie. No tech in bedrooms, Face-time only in family rooms, etc)
  • What to do when you receive unkind, unwanted, or inappropriate messages
  • Video game restrictions- ratings, content, private chats, time limits
  • Deleting texts, screenshots, etc.

CONSIDER YOUR FAMILY VALUES

Your guidelines should be based on your family values. For instance, our girls are not allowed to post a photo of themselves in a swimsuit unless they clear it with us first. Obviously, this is not a rule most families have, but we feel very strongly about teaching our girls to see themselves as more than just the sum of their “parts,” and this is one of the ways we enforce that value. They also agree to only Face-time with boys in family spaces and not in their bedrooms, which we hope will help them learn to set boundaries in their relationships. You certainly don’t need to copy our guidelines! But I encourage you to create a contract that enforces the values you have spent so many years investing in your kids.

KNOW YOUR TEEN

Know which areas will pose the greatest temptation to your teen and which dangers put them most at risk. Use your contract to provide some accountability and protection for them. Take your responsibilities as their parent to heart; set your boundaries and guidelines accordingly and commit to enforcing them so they know they can count on you. 

DISCUSS APPROPRIATE CONSEQUENCES

No matter how awesome your teen is, there is a good possibility they will break the contract at some point. Don’t freak out- just expect it… and then if they don’t, you’ll be pleasantly surprised! In the meantime, discuss appropriate consequences for various guidelines and include them in your contract. That way, when it comes up, the consequence is easier (okay, less difficult) to enforce because they already agreed to it.

REEVALUATE THE CONTRACT OVER TIME

As your kids get older, they will have either proven themselves trustworthy or untrustworthy. Either case will likely require some adapting of your contract. If they consistently represent themselves well, treat others kindly, and maintain healthy time (and place) restrictions, you may want to honor them by changing or being more flexible with some of your guidelines. Likewise, if they are continually disregarding time limits or other boundaries, you may need to revise the contract with clearer expectations or more effective consequences.  Whatever you do, don’t be like us… we have gradually relaxed our boundaries without ever revisiting our contract and are now finding it difficult to enforce anything because we don’t remember what the contract says!

***ADDRESS PORNOGRAPHY

If you have not talked with your teen (guy or girl) about pornography, do not put a device in their hands until you do. I cannot emphasize this enough!! Your kids WILL see things, hear things, stumble across things, and likely even search for things at some point. It is not a question of IF but WHEN. And once they see it, it will call to them- forbidden things usually do. 

Once you’ve covered the basics and opened the door to conversation, here’s the bottom line you want to communicate: Don’t view it and tell someone if you do. This is super important!!  Bad things grow in the dark… your teen needs to feel safe bringing it into the light. They need to know they will NOT get in trouble if they tell you, it is normal to be curious (even about same gender), and they will likely be tempted to do it again. They will need an accountability partner and you want it to be you, or someone you trust.

I love how Scarymommy.com addresses it in her teen contract: 

“I agree not to view pornography. I understand that sex is a wonderful and healthy part of an adult life, but that pornography is a different thing than sex, and not healthy for a young person (NOTE: I would delete the phrase ‘for a young person’). I understand that I cannot control the images I see once I start looking at a pornography page or video, and those images will never leave my brain, and that can be harmful to my emotional and spiritual health. I agree that if I accidentally stumble across pornography or a friend shows it to me, I will stop watching (NOTE: I would add ‘and tell one of my parents’). I understand that pornography is a complicated reality and that many of the young women and men in the videos that pop up online are hurting and being treated badly. It’s natural to be curious” (but I agree to do what I know is right instead of what I feel like doing.)

Just FYI, I stopped there because she goes on to say that they can make their own choice about viewing pornography when they are a young adult, and I strongly advise against including that. After more than 25 years in ministry of various kinds, Jeff and I have seen way too many lives and marriages damaged and destroyed by pornography addictions. I do not believe it is healthy, respectful, or beneficial to anyone, male or female, young or old. It is harmful to those who are involved in making it, those who watch it, and those in relationships with them.

Moving on, here are some sample contracts to give you ideas:

SAMPLE CONTRACTS:

A Cell Phone Agreement for the Christian Teen

This one by yourmomhasablog.com really focuses on the teen’s heart and relationship with Christ. I love how she includes Scripture to go along with each of the guidelines, and that she calls it an “agreement” versus a contract. Whatever you decide, it is wise to have each point start with “I agree…”

My Teen’s Social Media Contract

The pornography quote from above comes from this contract by scary mommy.com ; it covers a lot of important areas, but has a less spiritual perspective.

A Social Media Contract for Teens and Parents

This contract by Jennifer O’Donnell with verywellfamily.com includes a portion of the contract for parents to agree to and sign, which is fantastic!

Family Media Agreement

This contract by commonsensemedia.org is more generic, but also covers some areas that aren’t mentioned in the others.

Hopefully, this will help you develop your own contract or agreement with your teen and enable you to better navigate this journey into the digital world with them. There is some scary stuff out there, but we don’t have to be afraid! As I mentioned in part two, our best weapon against the enemy is prayer. 

Social media and technology offer a great opportunity for our teens to grow in the areas of kindness, respect, purity, character, integrity, forgiveness, and boldness, among other things. Let’s agree to walk this journey with them- prayerfully, consistently, and with wisdom- and trust the Lord to direct their paths. 

**If this series has been helpful to you or created good conversations in your family, will you please share that with me, either in the comments or in a private message? I’d love to hear about it! Thanks for stopping by!

Parenting Teens in a Virtual World (Part 2): Guidelines for Staying Safe, Steady, and Sane On-line

(Note: This is the second post in a three-part series on parenting teens in a virtual world. Click here for the first post on 8 things you can do before giving your teen access to social media. The next post will be about developing a Technology Contract with your teens.)

Do you remember what it was like when you were having your first baby? If you were anything like me, you read all the books and talked to all the people and bought all the stuff, because that’s what good parents did. But the reality was, we had no clue what we were doing! 

I will never forget the first night we brought Sarah home from the hospital. She was screaming her little head off and then doing this weird gagging thing, like a cat with a hairball. As her face turned purple, we panicked and called the nurse line, and all I could think was, “How in the world am I supposed to keep this little person alive?!” 

Parenting teens in the technology age can feel a lot like that.

It’s scary and dangerous and there are so many unknowns. It can be hard to know where to start and even harder to control. We want to protect our children and give them independence at the same time, all without causing World War III in our homes. Is that even possible?

In Part 1 of this series, we covered some things you can do before your teens enter the digital world (you can read about that here). Today I want to share some things we have learned as we’ve navigated this challenge with our teen girls over the past few years. Much of this wisdom was passed down to us from people much wiser than we are. Some of it we have figured out on our own, and some of it we are still trying to implement. 

Notice the phone in her hand!!

Please do not think we have mastered any of this! On any given day (including today), you will find us either confronting or ignoring any number of these suggestions in our own home. We have loosened our boundaries in certain areas where our girls have proven themselves trustworthy (and also, let’s be honest, where we have gotten lazy), but many of these things really are essential for the well-being of our teens. 

So I encourage you to read through this and discuss these suggestions with your teen. Hopefully this conversation will help you as you develop boundaries and expectations for your family and put together your Technology Contract (more on that in Part 3!).

The following bullet points are written as though addressing your teen; there are some additional details in the talking points section directed towards parents. This is obviously not exhaustive- feel free to add any additional suggestions in the comments!

SAFE: (Safety/Privacy)

Keep all maps & locations turned off. Always keep your privacy settings as private as possible.

Never give out (or post anything which will give out) private information, such as your full name, age, address, phone #’s, school or activity locations, etc.

Only “friend” and “follow” people you know personally very well.  Ask permission before following famous people, etc. Be careful about who you are allowing to influence you!

Never block your parents from seeing any of your posts.  If you feel the need to block them (other than for a surprise party!), chances are you shouldn’t be doing it.

NEVER agree to meet someone in person without your parents knowledge, even people you think you know well. Online traffickers are sneaky and manipulative; it just isn’t worth the risk. 

STEADY: (Integrity/Accountability)

Always ask people’s permission before you post a photo of them or tag them in a photo.

Before you post anything, stop and THINK: Is it true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind?  If not, don’t post it! And don’t post anything your parents, grandparents, siblings, and youth pastor would not approve of. This includes profanity, bullying, humor at someone else’s expense, naked or “sexy” pics, etc.

If you see something inappropriate, tell your parents immediately, and DO NOT DELETE/UNFOLLOW/ETC it until your parents have seen it.  This includes negative comments, images, bullying, and more.  Please care more about doing the right thing than protecting your friends. (NOTE: Most teens don’t know you can be held legally responsible for images you receive that are not reported, not just what you send.)

Keep an updated list of all your accounts and passwords where your parents can access it. Understand that having your parents “follow” you and occasionally check your phone provides some accountability to keep you safe and help you make wise choices. 

Stay away from temptation. Don’t use the “Search” and “For You” features unless you are looking for someone specific. Don’t Facetime from your bedroom. The Bible cautions us again and again to flee temptation for good reason; just stay away.  And if (or when) you do accidentally see something you shouldn’t, tell a parent or trusted adult. It may seem like it’s no big deal, but trust me- bad things grow in the dark. Bringing it into the light will help you process your feelings and provide some accountability. 

Remember Social Media can be used for “good or evil”… be the one who uses it for good! Make the most of your opportunity to be a Light in a world that needs hope.

Sane: (Stress/Emotional Health)

Have a central charging station (not in bedrooms) where all family members, including parents, charge their phones overnight. Set a time (9pm?) for all phones and devices to be put away each night.

Limit your platforms. The temptation is to do all the things, but no one can really manage more than one or two platforms well anyway.  Choose one or two which are most useful to you and keep it at that. 

Limit your technology time. It is so easy to get sucked into the digital vortex, where 20 minutes somehow turns into 2 hours! We need time and space to rest, to be creative, and to connect with physical people. Decide now how much of your time you are willing to give away to your phone or video games, and set restrictions to hold yourself accountable.

Don’t confuse important with urgent. You don’t have to immediately answer every text/snap/DM, join every game request, or reply to every comment (even if it shows that you read it). Nor should you expect others to be at your beckon call. Respect yourself and your friends enough to give each other space without constantly taking things personally.

It’s okay to stay silent. You don’t have to tell the whole world how mad you are or how much that person hurt you. You don’t have to confront every lie or engage in every argument. Learning when to speak and when to stay silent is an important life skill- social media offers a great opportunity to develop discernment.

Know when to step away. Social media and technology affect everyone differently; if you feel stressed, angry, or sad and you don’t really know why, try getting offline for a few days. The constant comparison and desire for “likes,” “followers,” “wins,” or “kills” can create pressure without you even realizing it. Stepping away for awhile gives you a chance to breathe and reset yourself. Do this occasionally, even when you don’t feel like it is necessary, just to make sure you are mastering it instead of letting it master you. 

********************

Here are some additional talking points for parents, explaining some of these guidelines in  more detail. If all of this is new to you, take a few minutes and read through the rest of this.

Talking Points for Parents

  • Our girls started with Facebook. Since it is a platform used mostly by adults, it helped them learn not to post anything they wouldn’t want their parents, their friends’ parents, youth pastor, etc. reading. It also gave them a safe place to get their feet wet without embarrassing themselves with nerdy posts, etc. This is especially true if they are gaining access during their middle school years. My girls look back at some of the things they posted when they were 14 and are mortified (and grateful it was on FB and not Instagram where all their friends would have seen it! Ha!)
  • Encourage them to use their platform for good. There are so many ways they can be a LIGHT: texting friends who are struggling, sharing verses or encouraging posts about what the Lord is teaching them, making sure their words are kind and uplifting, confronting false ideology in love with Truth, etc. Make sure you notice when you see them doing this and encourage them!
  • Keep an eye on their followers and the people they follow. If you take the time to show them how easy it is to gather information on people with a public account, they should not argue too much on this point. But teens often feel like a friend of a friend isn’t really a stranger, and neither is that guy or girl they talked to for 3 minutes at their theater competition or baseball tournament. The people they follow have a voice in their life (this includes the “famous” people they follow). This is a great opportunity to talk about choosing wisely who we allow to influence us.
  • Hold them accountable. Just knowing their parents are going to see what they post (and what their friends comment) will provide a level accountability which helps keep them out of trouble. Require them to give you all their passwords; “like” their posts and talk to them about what they’re doing so they know you’re paying attention. 
  • Our kids know that we will both follow them on social media AND monitor their social media and texting activity from their phones. THIS IS ESSENTIAL. I don’t care how great your kid is or how much they love Jesus, follow rules, etc. It is imperative that you check on them occasionally. There is no such thing as a perfect kid, and there are all kinds of things that happen that are difficult for them to talk to us about. They need us to walk alongside them in this journey.
  • ***NOTEThis is not an opportunity for you to spy on your kid or learn all their secrets. It is more about scanning to make sure you’re not missing anything… are there signs that they are depressed or anxious, lying to their friends or you, being bullied or bullying others, etc.? And if you find something, try not to freak out! We have had to have multiple conversations with our daughters about things that we have found, and it has rarely been as bad as it seemed. Take time to pray about it before your confront anything. Often you can approach it in a way that doesn’t relate back to their phone; just bringing up the topic creates an opportunity for them to share what is going on. We need to choose our battles wisely. If we are constantly confronting them with things they post and text, it is likely they will eventually shut us out and hide their online activity from us. That is definitely not what we’re going for.
  • Limit their platforms. Seriously, as an adult I have a difficult time monitoring how much time I spend on social media. This is an even greater challenge for teens! They don’t need access to everything. Help them determine which one or two apps will best serve their purpose and limit it to that. Snapchat is extremely difficult for parents to monitor, so I don’t suggest starting with it. We showed our girls an article interviewing the creators of Snapchat in which they share how they created the app for the sole purpose of “sexting.” This was eye-opening to our girls and helped them understand why it was not something we wanted them to use. Our oldest daughter does have it now, but that came after several years of earning our trust in how she handles herself online and in real life. She shares her snaps with us… mostly they just send each other pics of half their face or with the camera looking up their nose. Not sure why that’s fun, but apparently it is…
  • Help them recognize when their connectivity is stressing them out and let them know it’s okay to step back for awhile (or for good). Some people cannot handle the constant comparison to other people’s lives or the pressure that comes with waiting for “likes.” They might find themselves feeling anxious or left out or angry; they may start being tempted to do things they don’t want to do or become someone they are not in order to fit in. If so, they need to step back. One of our girls would bring us her phone on her own every few weeks and ask us to keep it for a few days so she could have a break. She knew she needed a break, but she also knew she wasn’t strong enough to step back on her own. 
  • Beware of the Search Feature: the “Search” feature is one of the most dangerous parts of Social Media. A friend told me this was the reason her boys wouldn’t ever have Instagram, so we checked it out… within the first five minutes we saw a man expose himself, as well as a college-age girl “vlogging” in her car, who then ended up masturbating on camera! WHAT???? So we basically just explained to our girls the kinds of things they would see, that they couldn’t “un-see” those things, and that our expectation was for them to not use the Search feature (or videos/people you might like, etc) unless they were searching for a specific friend. Protective software (like Covenant Eyes) does not monitor inside apps, btw, so we basically just had to trust them. Again, we know them well enough to know that they would not really be interested in that, just like they are not interested in viewing the trash on Tik-Tok. But we still monitor and try to keep on top of whatever they ARE watching.
  • Parents, we must follow through! If we say we are going to follow their accounts or check their devices, we must actively do so. If they agree to set time limits, we must enforce them. Our teens have enough friends; they need us to be the parents!

Above all, pray. Pray for your teens- for their protection, their safety, their purity, their influence, their relationship with you, their friends, and their relationship with God. Ask the Lord to reveal anything hidden that needs to be brought into the light, and to prompt your heart when something isn’t right. Every single time I have found something in our girls’ digital life that needed addressing has been a direct result of a prompting from the Holy Spirit. Of all the things we do, prayer is the most effective tool we have in navigating these digital waters with our teens.

Do you have anything to add (to this very long post!!)? Feel free to comment! And click HERE for Part 3 on developing a Technology Contract with your teens…

Parenting Teens in a Virtual World (Part One): 8 Things to Do Before You Give Your Teen Access to Social Media

A sweet friend recently asked me for some advice about how to introduce her 16 year old daughter to the world of social media. Yes, you read that right- her daughter is 16 and does not have social media. Obviously, I should be asking my friend for parenting advice!

But it got me thinking about things we’ve done both right and wrong when it comes to technology use in our family. I am going to break this topic into three different blog posts since there is so much information to cover. In this first one, I will share eight things we did before we ever gave our teens access to social media. Consider this the foundation that everything else is built on. The second post will cover how to navigate the various issues that come along with social media (click here to read Part 2), and the last post will be about things to include in your social media contract (click here for Part 3).

Jeff and I spent countless hours reading articles and talking to friends with older children before our teens ever entered the virtual world. We took our responsibility as parents seriously- and that is where I think we need to start when discussing this topic.

YOU are the parent.

You ARE the parent.

You are the PARENT!

Whichever word you want to emphasize, the fact remains that you are the parent and it is your responsibility to guide and protect your teen through the virtual world. Surely you would not drop them off in a strip joint or at a club with a bunch of strange adults and assume they could handle themselves. (If you would, you can stop reading now because you are not going to like anything I have to say!

That sounds ludicrous to most of us, and yet those are some of dangers- among many- that await our teens in the virtual world. If we pretend they don’t exist, we are putting our head in the sand and our teenagers in danger. This is not an area in which we can afford to shirk responsibility. If your teen wants social media, please, PLEASE commit to being involved, setting limits, watching things you don’t want to watch, keeping communication open, and saying no when necessary. Your teen needs you, even if they won’t admit it. Your role is so important!

Also, I should be honest with you. If it were up to me, our kids would never have gotten phones or texting or social media. Ever. Between the danger and drama and addiction, I would have been happy to pick us all up and move to the Amish country. Fortunately for our kids, Jeff is way cooler than I am, and he was able to convince me that technology- and social media- are likely going to be a part of their lives forever. 

“We have a choice,” he told me. “We can deny them access now and risk them sneaking it behind our backs or having to figure it out on their own in a college atmosphere, or we can choose to navigate this road alongside them, allowing them to make their mistakes with us by their side to guide them, and if necessary, protect them.”

Yeah, I married a good man. I think I’ll keep him.

So anyway, here are eight things we recommend you do BEFORE you give your teen access to social media:

1. WAIT until they are 13… and then wait a little longer.

This is by far the number one suggestion experienced parents give, and many older teens actually agree- delay it as long as you can! Almost all social media platforms require users to be at least thirteen to set up an account, and there are reasons for this. The virtual world has the potential to expose your child to physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual challenges that require great maturity, integrity, and self-control. The older they are when they face these challenges, the less at risk they will be and the more likely they will be to avoid them altogether. 

One friend shared that, of her three children, “the one who waited the longest (before getting social media) is the one with the least amount of social anxiety.” This, by far, is the best thing you can do to protect your teen.  Care about them enough to say NO and wait until they are really ready for what they are getting into.

2. Look at their TIME.  

Since our girls were among the last of their friends to get access to social media, one of the best things we did was talk about how they saw it impacting those around them. Social media seems so glamorous from the outside, and it is easy to feel excluded, like they are the only one who doesn’t have it (validate those feelings; they are very real!). However, if your teen looks a little closer, they will notice how much TIME their friends spend on their phones and how quickly they stop actually talking to one another. Staring at a screen together is not the same as experiencing LIFE together. Use this time before your teen is on social media to help them notice what others are missing out on.

One of my 12th grade small group girls gave up social media over six months ago as part of a challenge by our student pastor. She shared with me that it was surprisingly freeing to let it go- she was less stressed, happier, and suddenly found herself with a lot of free time. The hardest part was actually being around her friends because even when they were all together, she often had no one to talk to since they were all on their phones. It’s ironic that the thing they desperately want in order to connect with friends often keeps them from doing just that.

This probably is not going to stop your teen from becoming attached to his screen, but it might delay it and make it easier for you to step in and reestablish boundaries when he gets out of control. After all, it is always easier to see things in other people than it is to recognize them in ourselves. Having this conversation now will give you something to refer back to down the road.

3. Find out their WHY. 

Talk with them about why they want social media. What are they hoping to get out of it? How do they see themselves using it? What are their expectations and fears? What boundaries do they think are reasonable and important and why? Having this conversation will help you both better understand what areas may create temptations and where to set boundaries. 

As a parent, pay careful attention to their why. The biggest lie of social media is that our worth is connected to what other people think of us. We must constantly, continually, lovingly remind our kids that they are more than the sum of their parts or the sum of their “likes.” Their worth lies in their identity as a child of God and nowhere else. Our teens WILL get sucked into this trap without even realizing it. It is up to us to stand guard, watching for the enemy’s lies, whispering (and sometimes shouting) Truth to our kids. Their “why” helps us know where their insecurities are so we can help guard against them.

4. Show them the Dangers. 

One of the most impactful things we did was to spend 15-20 minutes on several different occasions showing them how easy it is for strangers (and future employers, etc) to gain information about us through social media.                   

  • I started with a “friend” who had private settings, and we scrolled through her posts, pointing out information she was unknowingly giving- where she works, where her kids go to school (based on a sign in the background or a logo on their shirt), what time she picked them up (from the time stamp on a carpool post), what restaurants she liked to eat at (from “locations” or a photo), what her hobbies are, etc. I made a list of what we had learned in 5 minutes and we talked about how easy it is to accidentally give away information we are trying intentionally not to post. 
  • Next, I clicked on a “friend of a friend” (who I didn’t know) and showed them how different privacy settings either allowed or restricted me, as a stranger, access to their information. I chose someone with public settings and we made a list of how much information I was able to gather in 5 minutes just from what they were posting. It was pretty eye opening for all of us! 
  • We also used this as a tool to show how what you post can lead to certain impressions of yourself and why it’s important to be careful. I pulled up profiles of different people they don’t know and asked them to tell me how they perceived them based on the photos they posted. I intentionally picked some of my friends who post selfies of workout pics or suggestive poses so they could see what it really looks like when they don’t actually know the person (I found this didn’t work as well with their friends- they were quick to defend them and see it as attractive and trendy rather than desperate). We looked at photos of married friends who post as though they are single and talked about what impression they are giving off. We looked at teens who shared “emotional” or “rebellious” posts and discussed how that made them a target for predators. 
  • We looked at posts from some of our high school and college-age friends who were using profanity, complaining about a job or teacher, or sharing “funny” (but offensive) memes. We discussed how that might hurt someone’s feelings or affect them being offered a scholarship or a job one day when someone checks their social media to help determine their character. Sure, they were just posting for their “friends,” but what were their posts really conveying? A picture paints a thousand words…
  • If you have Snapchat, it’s great to show them how you can take a screenshot of a “snap” before it disappears, making it no longer “temporary.” If they already have a phone, select an embarrassing photo or scroll through their private texts and screenshot something “personal” they sent (or use yourself as an example), and show them how nothing they send is ever really private or personal. This is a great way to help them see why it is so important not to post or send anything they don’t want the whole world to see. They will forget this lesson (don’t we all?), but it still lays a good foundation.
  • It is also important to address the issue of porn, which unfortunately is prevalent and easily accessible through social media. It will only take you about five minutes using the “Search” tool on Instagram to get an eyeful of things you can’t un-see (and it’s likely some of their friends will post inappropriate things as well). We’ll address this more in the next post, but it must be included here, especially if you have a boy. I don’t recommend actually showing them images, as that just invites temptation. But don’t avoid the topic, either. They need to know they likely WILL encounter it and what to do when that happens, as well as specific ways they can limit their exposure.
  • As I mentioned, we did this on a few different occasions and it definitely made a greater impact than any lectures we gave them about being safe and cautious online. 

5. Talk about HOW.  

What will social media look like in your family? How do they want to represent themselves? How can they use their “voice” for good? How can they avoid attracting unwanted attention? How should they handle it if they receive an inappropriate message or a friend posts something that makes them concerned? How can they keep themselves from growing attached to their phone or drawing their worth from their followers? How can they know when they need to step back?

6. Work on Communication. 

Actually, all of these ideas lay the foundation for great communication! Doing this before they get social media will help you be able to better guide and protect them as they navigate this new virtual world. Be intentional about keeping this communication open- which may mean watching a bunch of stupid videos or making a fool of yourself doing tik-tok videos with them- but it is well worth it! Whatever it takes to keep the lines of communication open, just do it! This is your most valuable tool.

7. Discuss Guidelines and Boundaries. 

Be specific. It is important for your teen to understand that the guidelines and boundaries you put in place are for their good and because you love them. Hopefully you have some of these same boundaries in place for yourself- that will make it a little less painful! In any case, it is extremely important to have boundaries set in place before they begin using social media.  You will use these guidelines to form the basis of your social media/technology contract. We will cover this and suggestions for the contract in the third part of this blog series.

8. Sign a contract. 

Have them sign a contract and be part of choosing the consequences (in advance) if they break their word. There should also be expectations for you- what you agree to do to keep them safe, how you agree to not overreact if they come to you for help, etc. The contract is not an attempt to control them or punish them; it is created for their protection and benefit. It should be signed by both of you and kept somewhere where you both can see it (we put it in a file, and I find myself not enforcing things because I can’t remember what the contract said!).

Hopefully this gives you some things to start thinking about. Feel free to share any other ideas in the comments!

Ready for the next step? Click here for Part 2: Guidelines for Staying Safe, Steady, and Sane On-line!

Investing in Teens, Part 3: Ready to Listen

It never fails.

It’s 3:30 in the afternoon and I realize I have about 30 minutes to myself before I start making dinner. Just as I settle in with my book, my teen plops down on the couch next to me. “Whatcha reading, Mom? Oh, that sounds cool. Hey, did I show you this video I found…”

It’s 11:27 pm and my bed is calling. I finish brushing my teeth and walk into my bedroom, and then hear footsteps in the hallway. “Hey Momma, do you have a minute?” she says…

Why is it my teens never want to talk when I’m ready to listen? It seems like, without fail, they always approach me at the most inconvenient times! 

Oh, that happens to you, too? 

It’s crazy, right?

Last night I listened to a video interview with Craig Groeschel, the pastor of Life.church, on “Raising Biblically Based World Changers.” I already had this blog topic planned, so I perked up when he mentioned how important it is for us to listen to our teens. 

He said, “While young children need our physical presence, teenagers need our emotional presence, but they are not always emotionally available to us. So when they are, we need to drop everything and listen.

He couldn’t be more right.

In the last blog post about listening so teens will talk, I shared some things we can do to ensure that we are actively listening to and communicating with our teens instead of just trying to tell them how much we know. 

Today I want to share a few ways we can make the most of opportunities to get our kids talking, so we’ll be ready to listen when the time comes.

1.  Learn WHEN your teens are most emotionally available so you can listen. 

This may seem silly, but I have found this one thing helps my listening attitude more than anything else. Believe it or not, my patience level at 11:27 p.m. is not super high- I am physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted by that time in the day. The LAST thing I want to do is spend an hour reminding myself of all the things I need to do to be a good parent while my teen pours out her heart- or at least, that’s the last thing I FEEL like doing.

But the truth is, underneath the feeling, there is actually nothing in the world I would rather do more than listen to my teen’s heart. So learning their rhythms has helped me a lot in preparing my own heart to be ready.  

The best way to do this is simply to pay attention. Make a note of when your teen approaches you for conversation, even seemingly insignificant conversation, like sharing a TikTok video or rehashing some terrible call in last week’s game. Before long, you will likely begin to notice a pattern or a rhythm to when they tend to make themselves available to you. For some it’s after school, or right before dinner, but for many- especially older teens- it’s after 11:00 p.m.  Maybe their defenses come down when they’re tired? That’s my theory. Whatever the reason, it’s pretty much universal, so watch for it!

The important thing, though, is to discern your teen’s rhythms so you can prepare and be emotionally available to them.

2. Learn HOW your teens make themselves emotionally available for you to listen.

Some kids spout their innermost thoughts like a gushing fire hydrant, while others wait for you to pry every single word out of their zippered lips. Some kids process externally, while others process internally. Some are comfortable sharing their feelings, and others, not so much. None of these things are right or wrong; they are simply how your teen tends to communicate. Learning these tendencies is kind of like learning to speak our teen’s language, because they show us the best ways to approach conversations with them. 

Does your teen have a hard time expressing their emotions verbally but like to write? Keeping a shared journal is one way you can help them open up to you. One of our daughters tends to hold her feelings inside. She had an especially difficult time expressing anger and frustration towards us or sharing things that she thought we just wouldn’t understand. Using a journal gave her a chance to open up without feeling disrespectful, as she was able to write down things she never would have had the courage to say in person. It also helped her process her thoughts so she had a better grasp of what she was really feeling, and it gave me time to think and process as well so I could respond with grace and truth. Now it is a beautiful record of our relationship over the years, and she can read those pages to be reminded of how very much her dad and I love her! As she has gotten older, we have made an effort to coach her in expressing herself verbally, but the journal was very helpful for a season.

Our other daughter expresses her feelings almost too easily and hates to write, so the journal idea wouldn’t work for her. Instead, we’ve learned (and are still learning!) that when she gets worked up about something, she is not ready for conversation until she releases all her emotions. Since my husband has thick skin and a higher tolerance for confrontation than me, he likes to poke and prod and help her get it all out, so they can deal with whatever is really going on. I, on the other hand, gently tell her I can tell she’s upset, so she needs to go into another room until she feels better and then I’ll be ready to listen. Okay, so my words often sound gentler in my head than they do out loud, and they are rarely received calmly by her- but we are working on it! Once she calms down, we usually have a great conversation about whatever is going on in her world. 

Some teens find it very difficult to express themselves at all! But that doesn’t mean they don’t need to share. It just means they need someone to invest the time in helping them figure out how to open up. Maybe they like to text, or make videos. Maybe watching a TV show or playing a video game together will allow them (or you) opportunities to bring up topics they would otherwise not talk about.

The important thing is to invest time in learning HOW your teens communicate so you can look for opportunities and be ready to listen.

3. Learn WHERE your teens are most emotionally available so you can listen.

Does your teen love Starbucks? Then buy them a latte and sit down for a chat. Does your teen love baseball? Head to the field. Does your kid avoid one on one conversations? Then wait until you have them trapped! 

Actually, I’m not kidding. Some of the best conversations with teens take place in the car. I have found that teen boys, especially, seem to open up better while riding side by side in a vehicle as opposed to sitting down face to face. I don’t suggest this avenue (ha, get it?!) for bringing up super volatile issues, but many awkward or embarrassing topics (which for boys can mean anything slightly emotional) are much more productive if discussed with some sort of distraction. It could be riding in a car or working on a project together or playing golf- anything that works for you, as long as it gives your teen an opportunity to open up without feeling like they are the center of attention.

Remember, it is still important for them to have your full attention, but just in a way that doesn’t make them feel so self-conscious. 

During his interview, Groeschel mentioned that he has found his teen’s friends often open up to him easier than his own kids. Therefore, he has learned to engage his teen’s friends in conversations, and they eventually join in. If your teen doesn’t always respond well when you initiate conversation, try bringing their friends into it and see what happens! Perhaps they will open up more in a group of friends.

4.  Show your kids you’re ready to listen by keeping communication open.

This is probably the most important thing we can do as parents. No matter what your kids tell you, don’t act surprised, shocked, or disappointed. Don’t be overly antagonistic or judgemental towards their friends. There will be time for those insights, but the best thing we can do when our teens are emotionally available is keep them talking. Ask questions, make connections to their feelings, find out what they think about things, anything. As Groeschel said, “the goal is just to keep them talking. We should shoot for 90% listening and 10% talking.” The more we know, the better we are able to express our love to them, to pray for them, and to offer help or advice when they seek it.

Again, just because I know the importance of being ready to listen to my teens, doesn’t mean I always am. The past few days have been filled with failures on my part in this exact area, so I am definitely preaching to the choir! 

But I won’t stop trying. 

As exhausting as parenting can be some days, our time to speak into our teens lives is limited, and we cannot waste it. But before we can speak, we must be intentional about listening, so they know how much we care. 

When our teens are ready to talk, will we be ready to listen?