How well do you know your teen? It was easier when they were little, wasn’t it? You knew that he wanted the crust cut off his sandwich and she couldn’t sleep well without that certain stuffed animal. You could easily rattle off the name of his favorite Ninja Turtle or her favorite princess. You knew she wanted to be a doctor when she grew up and that he couldn’t stand it if his socks were on crooked.
But now he’s a quiet teen who nods and grunts and shrugs. She has many connections and a lot of other people to talk to besides you. Schedules are full and you and your teen aren’t home together nearly as much as you used to be. You may find yourself looking up one day and thinking, “Who is this person and what did he do with my son?”
It may be more difficult, but it is no less important that we take the time and make the effort to really get to know and understand our teens . While understanding the complexity of another human being is a wide field of knowledge and a life-long pursuit, focusing on these five areas will help you get started.
- PERSONALITY: Understanding your own personality bent as well as your teen’s can be the key that unlocks the door to enriched interactions, greater intimacy, and more effective communication. Different personalities, if not identified and studied, can lead to misunderstood messages and misinterpreted motives. And it can be downright frustrating to live with someone who acts in ways that make no sense to you. There are many different models for describing various personalities in order to understand why we do what we do. Though helpful, no system can completely categorize any human being. Nobody belongs in a box with a label. That said, studying and understanding this information and how it applies to us specifically has had a huge impact on our family dynamics and the way we communicate with and appreciate one another. I could write an entire book just on this one topic alone, but for now, if you are interested, I recommend 16personalities.com to get started. Through studying this information with our teens we have all learned to appreciate the different ways people interpret and react to the same situation.
- TALENTS: Look for hints of God-given abilities in your teen. God has created each of us for unique and specific purposes. Your teen’s talents often provide valuable clues about the plans God has for her life. Seek ways to enable your teen to develop skills and experiences that support and enhance what’s already blooming. The flexibility of homeschool is ideal for this. Pray about how God wants to grow and stretch your teen and then let him guide your imagination and open the right doors. One of my daughters is extremely creative. Homeschooling is such an efficient method of learning that she has extra hours each day to spend honing her talents in music and art. She is largely a self-taught artist, but what she can do amazes us.
- PASSIONS: What is your teen most passionate about? What drives and motivates him? What moves his heart and fires up her soul? God often uses the intersection of our talents and passions to meet the needs of those he puts in our path. Passion may tell us what and talent may teach us how. God will show us who and when. The knowledge of what drives us and how we can contribute make us ready to serve. We can help our teens prepare to be people of influence by calling out and naming the flames we see within them.
- INSECURITIES: We often respond to situations and other people out of our own insecurities. Insecurity often motivates our wonky behaviors and skewed thinking; and most of the time, we aren’t even aware of it. In some cases, you may think the last thing your teen needs is more confidence. However, I have found that often the people with the most bravado are the very ones who are the most insecure about themselves. The over-confidence is their attempt to compensate for and distract others from their perceived weaknesses. By identifying insecurities and pointing our teens to the completeness of Christ, we can instill in them the concept of “Godfidence”. My husband coined this term to describe a confidence and trust in God rather than ourselves.
- TEMPTATIONS: What are your teen’s trouble spots and sticking points? Where are the traps and pitfalls hiding? Don’t be fooled. Our enemy has specific schemes on how to trip us up and pull us away from God and each other. We are warned not to be ignorant about this or else he will outwit us (2 Corinthians 2:11). Satan probably knows what tempts your teen. Do you? Be deliberate about teaching your teen specific strategies for identifying, admitting, confronting, and overcoming temptation. Show her how to apply the scripture she’s read and memorized. Let him know It’s okay to reach out for help. Explain the necessity of accountability, the importance of community, and the dangers of isolation. Ask God to reveal any hidden sins.
While some aspects of what makes a person tick stay fairly consistent over time, there are probably also areas where your teen has changed and developed since they were younger. Be sure to update your database and stay current with their preferences and dreams. If you don’t know your teen’s talents, passions, insecurities, temptations, or personality, don’t be discouraged. Pray for discernment and ask your teen what he thinks about these topics. You may be surprised or it may just confirm what you already knew, but either way your relationship will be enriched by discussing it. Have a chat with your teen and let us know in the comments what you learned!