Category Archives: Teens

Teens Grossly Unprepared for Life Beyond the Home by Gregory Bland

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Today many children/teens will be returning home from school with report cards. Some will proudly present them to their parents. Others may be tempted to stuff them in a drawer and reluctantly pull them out in a weeks time when Mom or Dad ask, “Did you not get a report card last week?”

Parenting is no easy task, that’s true. There is so much for our children/teens to learn before they leave home. But they need much more than head knowledge. Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic are good, however they need much more than this to thrive outside of our homes.

They need a solid foundation that will support and enable them to navigate the challenges of life beyond the shelter of our homes. This includes a life perspective that flows from their understanding of who God is and how He impacts their lives, solid character, and strong personal disciplines, the ability to develop and foster healthy relationships, creating boundaries around their lives and time, financial management, and more.

It can seem overwhelming at times when we consider this. There can also be a temptation to believe that the schools are caring for these things. But the reality is many schools are focused on the core subjects that satisfy college admission as opposed to teaching basic life skills for thriving in the ‘real world.’

That’s where our role as parents shine. We have an incredible opportunity to invest within our children and teens and prepare them for life beyond the home. What better place to begin experimenting with decisions, making mistakes, evaluating their experiences, and applying that learning to life than a loving home environment?

As report cards are carried home and you begin to review them with your children, could I encourage you to look at another report card. A Life Skills Report Card*. (Some of you have used this in the past, so this may serve as a simple reminder to continue assessing areas of growth for your children/teens.)

Linked in this email is a practical tool that will help turn your and your child/teens mind toward personal life skills development. It can be an incredible catalyst for conversation and determining growth goals for your child/teen as they look beyond the report card to life on their own.

LIFE SKILLS REPORT CARD

Together we can create a legacy of relational health for generations to follow and prepare our children for life beyond the home.

Blessings today,
Your friend and pro-active parent coach
Gregory Bland

*Life Skills Report card based upon the work of Marlaine Paulsen Cover of Parenting 2.0

**photo credit dollarphotoclub.com 81314986

Want to Connect with Your Child/Teen? Part 4 by Gregory Bland

adversary-ally-gregory-bland-the-legacy-centreBefore we can interact openly with our teens we need to understand the answer to this question: Does my teen see me as an adversary or an ally?

Consider the metaphor of a door that guards the heart. This door leads to the pathway of your teen’s inner thoughts. When they feel trust, they readily open that door, leading to an exchange of thoughts, feelings, and desires. On the other hand if they do not trust you, the door is quickly slammed shut and sealed in an effort to defend themselves from hurt and/or rejection.

In light of this, how does your teen perceive you as their parent: an adversary or ally?

Their perception will greatly influence their openness to you as a parent.

I have witnessed the relational influence parents have on teens, they influence trust or distrust which greatly impacts their teens openness in conversation. Despite what many have been conditioned to believe, teens do desire to open up and share their thoughts, dreams, fears, and desires. They simply need to feel safe in doing so.

Listen as Sarah (15) shares her experience.

“I remember the first time I felt like I was truly being listened to. It was shocking for me because I expected to be cut off and given a lecture, but I wasn’t. They simply listened as I talked. It was like they truly wanted to know and understand who I really was and what made me tick. It made me happy and I felt like an adult not a little child. I found myself wanting to talk to this person more and more, especially when I was facing difficult times. I now have someone I can count on, knowing they will be there for me no matter what. That is why I never speak to my parents, because I never get that kind of response, and yet, they still wonder why I won’t open up to them.”

The reality is, if we do not make a practice of listening to our teens. They will find someone else who will.

listening-to-teens-gregory-blandMany parents think listening means solving their kids problems or coming up with answers. If that is your belief you will effectively shut the door to your teens heart. They are not necessarily looking for answers as much as they are support for what they are walking through. As a listener you put your own agenda on hold allowing them to share without interference.

Listening Tips

  1. When your teen begins opening up give them space to fully articulate what they are thinking, feeling, and desiring. Keep your impulse to interrupt or talk over them in check.
  2. Invite them to share their thoughts by asking for more, without defending or disagreeing.
  3. Clarify what you are hearing to ensure that you understand what they are intending to communicate.   This gives opportunity to correct understanding if necessary.
  4. Reserve your own response until later. On important or contentious issues, take some time to collect your emotions and thoughts and ask to reengage in conversation at a later time.

Listening in this way not only gives you more information about what your teen is thinking, feeling, and desiring, it serves to affirm their value and worth. Each of us longs to be known and understood. Listening honours our teens on a deeper level, opening up and giving opportunity to nurture their God-given gifts and talents.

Until next time, remember distrust is a road to no where.  Let’s seek to regain our teens trust by authentically listening.

Your friend and pro-active parent coach
Gregory Bland
Pro-Active Parent Coaching &
The Legacy Centre

 

Want to connect with your child/teen? Part 3 by Gregory Bland

not-talking-are-listening-gregory-blandListening connects with one of our children/teen’s greatest felt needs; to be known and understood. Consider for a moment the people that you regularly interact with. Who among them stand out as people who truly understand you, your heart, thoughts, feelings, and desires?

These are truly unique individuals and wonderful gifts to us. Now that you’ve identified them, what characteristics set these unique people apart from others you interact with?

Of all the characteristics you might describe; accepting, non-judgmental, they value me, they are ‘safe’ to speak with, there is a sense of unconditional love. The fact that these people have connected so deeply with you would indicate that they most likely offer you the gift of listening.

Being listened to is a profound experience today, maybe because being listened to is so rare in our hyper busy society. When another person is totally with you – engaged, curious, interested in every word, eager to empathize – you feel known and understood. Deeper still is that sense of feeling loved.

David Augsburger said, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”

Our children and teens are more eager to open up to us than we often give them credit for. They often do not open up because they fear being judged, rejected, fixed, devalued, or having their thoughts minimized.

The act of listening affirms and empowers our children/teens to express themselves with confidence.  When you listen consistently and intently, the message you are sending is,
“You are important!”
“What you are saying is important.”
“I value you and what you desire to say.”

Listening well means suspending our own needs, including the need to feel like we are doing something – solving problems, saying the right thing, or diagnosing what is truly going on. Listening is a gift we give to our children/teens.

Just because you are not talking does not necessarily mean you are listening. You know as well as I that we can appear as though we are listening yet at the same time be entertaining 101 other things within our minds. You may hear what your teen is saying, in part, but are you really connecting to and understanding their heart? Probably not.

When your child/teen approaches you in conversation it is an opportunity for them to process life and consider the deeper matters of their hearts. What they need is an engaged and listening mom or dad. During these moments they are not looking for a response or judgment, an opinion or solution, or your fix for their dilemma gleaned from your multiple years of experiential wisdom. So take time to fully engage in listening.
The following are some tips to keep you on the listeners edge.

  1. Eliminate distractions. Don’t try to multitask when your child/teen comes to speak with you. This simply communicates that you do not value them as much as what is in front of you right now.
  2. Look at your teen when they are speaking with you. This will help you focus upon them.
  3. Watch their body language, what are their non-verbal clues, gestures, and facial expressions indicating you should ask for more clarification on?
  4. Ask curious questions that allow your child/teen to open up and share.
  5. Don’t interrupt, talk over, or correct. Just listen.
  6. Ask clarification questions to ensure you are truly understanding what they are intending.
  7. Thank them for sharing openly with you, while resisting the strong temptation to fix.

    Remember, we cannot make our children/teens open up to us, but we can create an environment where it is more likely that they will. The way you listen to your child/teen goes a long way in determining their willingness to open up and share their deepest thoughts with you.

Taking it home:

The next time your child/teen has something to say, give him/her your undivided full attention for 5 minutes.

Afterward consider:
How long did those 5 minutes seem? How difficult was it for you to stay focused on them? How hard did you have to work to not jump in and say what you wanted to say? What benefits did listening in this way have for you, your teen, and your relationship together?

Until next time, Listen to connect. Sometimes what our children desire most is not our words but our listening.

Your friend and pro-active parent coach
Gregory Bland
Pro-Active Parent Coaching &
The Legacy Centre

Want to Connect with your Child/Teen? Pt. 2 by Gregory Bland

Each-Teen-Unique-gregory-bland-the-legacy-centreIt’s not simply a matter of spending time together on a consistent basis; it’s how we spend time together that makes the difference. Connecting with our children and teens always requires energy. If you want to connect with them but are hoping you can do so without being intentional, forget about it.

Anyone who has more than one child will appreciate and understand this fact; each child is unique. I continue to be amazed as I look at our three children, although there are similarities, there are very distinct differences.

One is very tidy, organized, and plans well in advance. Another believes organization cramps her style. One is dramatic in communication, the other is quiet and unassuming, the third, is a blend of both, dramatic when comfortable and very quiet with unfamiliar people.

Beyond easily identified characteristics reside more subtle nuances. Different interests, passions, gifts, abilities, skills, and distinct calling to make a mark in this world characterize each.

To truly connect with our children requires an awareness of the uniqueness of each child. This knowledge allows us to naturally connect with each one in a meaningful way. When I engage each of my children from the perspective of their uniqueness I am communicating, “I value you and affirm your uniqueness amongst our family.” This helps me to connect with them at their greatest point of interest, emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually.

For instance, if my daughter doesn’t enjoy sports, it is unlikely we will connect well through a game of catch. However, if she loves baseball that same game of catch can become a very significant moment of connection for us.   God seems to be actively drawing one of our teens toward music/worship, while He appears to be drawing the other toward practical hands on work with teens.  I cannot expect to engage with them both in the same manner as they discern what God is currently doing within them.

What do you know and understand about your children? Take some time and consider the following in relation to each of your children.

What temperament/personality has God given my child and how does this affect . . .

  1. how they interact with others?
  2. their learning styles?
  3. how they interact within the family?
  4. their friendships?
  5. their schooling?
  6. their social interactions?

What is my child passionate about? (Remember out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.)

  1. What is it that they talk about the most?
  2. What keeps surfacing in conversation?
  3. What is it that pre-occupies their mind?

What strengths and abilities does my child have?
1.  What natural abilities and strengths can you identify?
2.  In what ways could these be encouraged to benefit others? 

What do I recognize God actively doing within their lives?
a. What does He seem to be working on/developing within them as individuals?

  1. What recurring themes or areas do I see God at work within their life?
  2. How can I practically encourage growth and maturity in these areas?

What are they struggling or wrestling with right now?

  1. What are their concerns, fears, or points of stress?
  2. If I don’t know, how could I find out?
  3. What does my child/teen need most from me right now during this struggle?  (This is a good opportunity to ask them what they need most from you, because it may be very different than you expect/think.)

I trust that as you consider the above questions (and maybe others that will come to your mind) you will gain a greater appreciation for the wonderful complexity and uniqueness of your child(ren). But further, you will begin to recognize ways you can connect with each of your children in a way that resonates with who they are.  Who knows, maybe in the process you may discover that you have captured their hearts and they are letting you in just a little bit more.

Until next time,
Enjoy discovering and celebrating the unique characteristics of your child(ren)/teen(s).

Your friend and Pro-Active Parent Coach
Gregory Bland
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Pro-Active Parent Coaching &
The Legacy Centre

 

 

Want to Connect with Your Child/Teen? pt.1 by Gregory Bland

connect-with-child-teen-gregory-bland

Want to connect with your child/teen?  Spend regular time in casual conversation.

Common sense?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

The busyness of our lives often dictates a need to be quick and efficient.  If we approach conversation with our children/teens in this way we can miss moments of true heart to heart connection and even subtly push our children away.

In this desperate hope for efficiency we focus too quickly on what needs to be different, what needs to change, or the improvements we perceive will benefit our child/teen in the long run.  Often at the expense of relationship.

Spending regular time in casual conversation maintains an openness with our children/teens.  It also prevents the feeling that we only speak with our children/teens when there is an ‘issue’ to be solved.

If every conversation we have with our child/teen is driven by an agenda or focused on solving a problem or issue, it will eventually create resentment, leading them to close down and/or shut us out.

Further, we’ll miss the opportunity to discover what is truly important to our child/teen; what they are passionate about, what they love, and even what they fear or hate.   All topics that often crop up in moments of seemingly casual conversation.

Look for and create opportunities to just listen and dialogue with no agenda. You’re child/teen will appreciate it, and you will discover a wealth of hidden treasure contained within them.

Until next time, make the most of every conversation to gain a greater understanding of your child/teen’s heart.

Your friend and Pro-Active Parent Coach

Gregory Bland
Pro-Active Parent Coaching &
The Legacy Centre

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The Purpose of Conversation with Teens

 

purpose-of-conversation-gregory-blandConversation with our teens can be an incredibly rich and rewarding experience as a parent. Listening as they begin to ‘put into words’ their passions, hopes, dreams, and even their fears warms the heart.  These are the moments we long for as parents and want to hold them with tenderness and grace.

There are other times when our conversations take a turn and feel anything but rich and rewarding.  In these moments it is important to pause for a moment, regain our composure, breathe, and build perspective.  If possible, before it goes from bad to worse.

In these moments, when conversation becomes heated, the words of Solomon ring very true and clear, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

gentle-answer-gregory-blandThis gives me hope.  Although I know that I cannot control how my teen will respond to me, I also know that I have an incredible influence how they might respond.  I need to take responsibility for myself, my actions, and reactions.

In light of this, the first place to look when a conversation begins ‘going south’ is within ourselves.

For me, I take a moment and ask myself, “What am I doing right now that is contributing to the negative direction of this conversation?”

Consider for a moment  . . .

  • What am I communicating to my child/teen right now with my words, tone of voice, and body language?
  • Have I stopped authentically listening to their story and slipped into ‘telling mode?’
  • Might they perceive that I am passing judgement upon them and/or  trying to ‘fix them?’

If we recognize that we have slipped in any of these areas and are communicating negatively with our teen, it’s time to take action and respond in a mature manner.  Apologize and ask to begin again.

Apologize to my teen?  If necessary, absolutely! Humbling ourselves in moments when we are clearly at fault communicates maturity, responsibility, incredible value and respect to our teens.

  • We model humility and maturity in conversation.  When we are wrong, admit it, and ask for forgiveness.  This provides a living model for them to emulate within their relationships.
  • We value our relationship together and are willing to take responsibility for how we communicate with them.
  • We are giving them the ‘benefit of the doubt’ and desire to truly understand what they are thinking, feeling, desiring.
  • We are building self awareness by engaging our own thoughts/feelings and understanding how we are impacting other’s around us.

The next time you begin to experience a conversation ‘going south’ with your teen, take a moment to pause and reflect, and reengage in that conversation in a healthy manner.  I’d be interested in hearing what happens as a result both with yourself and your teen.

Until next time, let’s use conversation to build a deeper connection with our kids not show them how wise we are and in what ways they need to change.  Remember, you can have a rich rewarding conversation with your teen.

Your friend and Pro-Active Parent Coach
Gregory Bland
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