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Connecting with Your Introverted Teen

At a recent conference I was urging fathers to press in and communicate with their children. One father asked, “How do I communicate with my 16-year-old who is very introverted and doesn’t seem willing to talk?”

Here are a few of the things to consider.

1. Start by considering the environment. I would ask if this is a personality issue or has the lack of communication come about because of something that has happened. Is there an open communication dynamic in our home? Have I sinfully allowed him to turn in on himself because I was too busy or afraid to press in?

2. Prepare him for increased conversation. I would say something like, “Hey Alex, I have noticed that we struggle communicating. But we really need to connect. Especially as we are thinking about college. I know that sin affects our communication. Some people overtalk and some people undertalk. I think we are on the undertalk scale. But personality is not destiny. We can change in this way. In a week, we are going to go out and talk about college and what you are thinking. Specifically I would like you to think about: Question 1, Question 2. Etc.” In other words, warn him that the communication status quo is going to change.

3. I might give him another reminder the day before. “Hey I’m looking forward to going out tomorrow morning. Have you thought anymore about what I asked you?”

4. Prepare for the time to communicate. Too often we are haphazard in our communication. Set aside a time and place to talk. Come with prepared questions.There are different levels of communication: information, opinions, feelings, and heart-level transparency. If there has not been open communication, you want to keep it as the top levels of information. Coming with a prepared list of questions is often vital to a successful conversation. Put some time in and prepare!

5. As you go out, make sure you are communicating Christ-like affection. Pray for Christ-like love AND affection. You want him to feel your affection and support. If he feels those things, don’t be afraid to press in that he needs to communicate more. Yes, undertalking has personality components. But it also has sinful components. Sometimes the thought is – “I just don’t want to be bothered communicating with you.” We want to press against that.

6. To increase communication, seek to learn about things he is interested in. One well-known teacher relayed how his single mother had three bookshelves with books on psychology, engineering, and medicine. Why? Because those were the professions of her sons and she wanted to be able to talk with them. What is your child interested in? Ask for him to teach you. When I asked my college-age son to teach me about art, he told his professor. With tears in his eyes, the professor replied to my son, “My father has never asked me to explain art to him.”

7. Finally, realize that this is a dance. If you have not been communicating for a while then you cannot expect all things at once. You press a little and establish a new normal. Then wait for a time. And press in again. Trust, change, and communication will take time. Perhaps both of you will need to repent of sin in this area.

Community and communion only happen with communication. Keep pressing in!