Psst. Lean in, I have a secret.
A few nights ago my teen came to my bedside to tell me something. She was only about three sentences in when I asked if she wanted to sit down. (She was standing on one leg with the other bent knee on the edge of my bed.)
“No, it’s okay I’m going into the den to watch TV.”
About an hour later, she was still with me but now she was lying across my bed wrapped up with the bottom corner of my duvet, curled up like a burrito next to me.
We easily talked and laughed for another hour and ultimately she never left. She went from my bed to her own—we talked until bedtime.
Looking back, I have no idea what we talked about. The topics weaved in and out between school, swim, school friends, swim friends, funny things, stressful things, wonderments, and worries.
We made the loop at least twice.
I don’t remember the topics but I remember the experience. I remember the laughter from both of us. I remember watching her body language shift from "I’m only here for a minute," to "I’m not leaving this spot until you force me out."
I remember thinking these are the moments that matter. This is how we build unshakable foundations.
I don’t remember what we talked about but I remember how it felt. I hope she does, too.
We do this more and more these days and as I’ve said before, here’s further proof that the teen years really are awesome.
So what’s the secret?
That’s it. Questions.
No advice, no redirections. No solutions, no guidance.
So what happened then?
Do you know what he said to her?
That sounds so awkward! Was that really awkward?
How did you feel about that?
Well, what are y’all going to do?
Oh my goodness, that really happened?
So what is she going to do about it?
Well, if she likes him, do you think he likes her back?
Do you see what I did there? Each question is one small step to more openness, more connection, and more understanding. I’m telling her that I care; that I’m interested in her and what she has to say.
Of course, there is a time and place for everything. Yes, there are times when we need to offer advice and direction. Yes, there is a time for counsel.
But not now.
Now is time to build connection and understanding. Resist the urge to tell them what to do. I know it’s hard. I know it’s reeaaally hard. But that’s not going to get you where you want to be. When they come to you with even the tiniest little story, listen . . . laugh . . . encourage. Ask questions.
Questions are the key.
Hang in there, y’all.