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February 2, 2012

Ever wonder what is really going on in the life of your teenager? Especially when it comes to a young adult on the verge of being labeled a troubled teen? While it is advised to go and ask your teen about what’s going on in their life, we have a little sneak peek before you approach them to get a better idea for what life looks like for a young person. It will give you an opportunity to approach them as authentically as possible.

The truth is: there’s a lot going on. Their list of life stressors and events may look very different from yours, but the significance is no less dramatic and important. You may have bills looming or vacations to plan, whereas a troubled teen might have football games looming or parties to attend. You might be thinking, “Gee, life would be great if all I had to worry about were games and parties,” but the truth is, life isn’t always great when there are games and parties coming up—especially when you’re a young person.

School Work and Teenagers

While there are various ways schools are run, most likely your troubled teenager has a rigid schedule of four to seven classes, 5 days each week. That’s a lot for anyone to handle. When they’ve returned from school, however tempting it is, do not ask, “How was school?” because you already know the answer: “Good.” Or the ever-popular: “Fine.” “Okay.” are probably responses you’ve heard. On the flip side, they’ve probably heard, “How was school?” a few too many times themselves. Everyone needs some new material to keep the academic conversation interesting.

  • Find out and keep track of their schedule—knowing it will mean you can ask specific questions like: How’s the paper coming for Romeo & Juliet? or What day is the geometry test?
  • Ask what teachers they like and what teachers bother them and why.

Extracurricular Activities and Teenagers

You’ll likely already know what extra activities your teen is in since you’re paying for them. So while it is easy to say, “How is lacrosse practice?” you’ll end up with the ever-easy answer of “Fine.” Find out about the players on their teams or the actors in the play or the students on the committee. Start the conversation from a place of some basic information that allows your teen room to fill in the blanks.

Teen Culture

What interests and inspires your teenager? Discover who their favorite musician is, the music they listen to, the books they like to read, the movies they enjoy, where they spend their time online. All of that interest shows deep knowing and caring.  Reach out to try and make honest connections with your young person. It will likely not be reciprocated as in: they may not be that interested in the books you read or the movies you watch, but the effort to know will be what makes a caring impression on your young adult.

Socialites

Who do your kids spend the most time with (besides you, of course). Peers can be the bigger influences in a young adult’s life. Get to know their friends. Do not ask attack-like questions such as, “Does Austin do drugs?” or “Are you having sex with Jessie?” Instead, do the inviting your teen may not do. Invite their friends for family events: BBQs, movies, and outings. And when you’re with your teen and their friends, show real respect and do lots of listening when you ask questions about their lives.

Your teen is in a unique place in life, the stage they’ll be in for the shortest part of their life: the teenager years. They have a limited time to work through all that is going on in their minds, in their communities, in their families. You may know they need to connect, but they may not know that, yet. You’ll need to do more reaching out as they search for meaning and belonging.

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