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It happens more often than we would like to admit. In the flurry of life, while you go about your business and your children go about their business - going to school, being involved in activities, developing relationships - one day, you look across the dinner table and realize you don't really know that young person you call your son or daughter. You know their name. You know some of their habits. You know their idiosyncrasies. But you do not know what is going on in their heart, nor in their mind. You don't know the challenges and struggles they face.

So you try to start a conversation by asking them what is going on in their life at school and with their friends. Their reaction is, "What do you want to know my business for? Why are you so nosy?" You realize that there is not just a gap, but a wall keeping you from getting into your teen's world.

The sad thing is most parents do not discover the wall in that way. Most of the time, parents discover there is a wall when their teenage son or daughter does something that is almost unthinkable. It's not until their teen gets pregnant, gets someone else pregnant, gets caught with drugs at a party, or gets arrested that they realize their young person is in a whole other world that they had no idea about.

The following are some quotes from young people giving their perspectives on communication with their parents.

"I feel like there is a wall between me and my parents. They just don't understand how I feel. We have talked about it, and we get along a little better, but things aren't the way I wish they would be."

"I wish they just would have said they will love and accept me no matter what I choose to do or what friends I have."

"My mom has always chosen what her boyfriends wanted over what her kids needed. I have been sent to family member after family member to take part in raising me. I just wish she would once in a while stop telling me how much of a nuisance I am and pat me on the back."

As you can see, situations like this not only cause a lot of hurt, but build a huge wall. When parents finally discover there is a wall and an entirely different life on the other side, they find it seemingly impossible to break through. Once we discover there is a problem and a barrier in our communication, we want to fix it right away. "C'mon, let's stop having a wall there and let's get to know each other." But that is not so easily and quickly done by a young person. They have taken years to build that wall out of brick and stone and do not want to tear it down quickly.

Most walls begin to go up when someone is hurt. Something has been said or done, either one time or a number of occasions, that has caused hurt and no effort has been made to deal with that hurt. As a result, that hurt turns into anger, which basically says, "Forget it then. I'm not going to say anything. I'm going to live my own life, do my own thing, and live in my own world."

It is impossible to live in this world without getting hurt by someone. Relationships are made out of two or more emotionally complex individuals. The goal is not to avoid getting hurt, but knowing how to deal with an offense when there is one.

Think back to a situation that may have caused hurt or turmoil to your young person. It may be divorce, words exchanged in the heat of an argument, something done or repeatedly said to them... anything that may have caused hurt. Is this to say that it is all your fault? Of course not, but as parents we must take responsibility to find these barriers and tear them down. One teen said, "I wish my parents would admit that sometimes they are at fault too."

Once you've identified those areas of possible hurt, go to your young person and ask them to forgive specific things you said or did that may have caused them any kind of hurt. Don't make a blanket statement and say, "For anything I have done..." because that sounds wimpy and insincere. Back up your apology by changing how you express yourself to them or your actions in a certain area to show you mean it. When you ask for forgiveness, their hearts will begin to soften.

Source: Rescue Manual For Parents by Ron Luce
Excerpt permission granted by Albury Publishing

Author Biography

Ron Luce
Web site: Ron Luce
 
Ron Luce was the co-founder's and president of Teen Mania Ministries from 1986-2015. Ron and his wife Katie dreamed to raise up young people who would change the world.
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