For Girls

Communicating with Adults: How Hard Can It Be?

Communication. Ugh! Let me tell you, when I was younger, communication was not my strongest attribute. Why? Because I felt like I didn’t have anything important to say. I was afraid to speak in front of a group of people and one on one with certain individuals other than my friends. I didn’t want them to think I was stupid or find out I had flaws.

Talking with adults was the hardest. Adults are just that—adults. How are they going to help me with anything? They don’t know anything about me. They’re not interested in anything I have to say. They’re only interested in adult stuff. They don’t understand anything I’m going through.

As the mother of two girls and wife of a youth pastor turned senior pastor, I can honestly say, adults do care. We are interested. We want the best for you. We want to know more about you and help you with anything. Because, I know it’s hard to imagine but, we, at one time, were teenagers and we know being a teenager is hard. It may have been a different time with different things going on in the world, but it was still hard.

Just like teenagers, it can be difficult for adults to communicate. Sometimes it’s not the best scenario when adults and teenagers communicate, but why is that?

Have you ever talked to someone about something important and they looked uninterested or yawned while you were talking? Or they rolled their eyes when they disagreed? Or they seemed to ignore you by looking at their phone or looking away instead of looking at you like they were interested while you spoke? How did that make you feel? Body language and facial expressions can be a HUGE form of communication. We use our bodies to communicate when we don’t even know. How we stand, our facial expressions, and even our eyes communicate to others how we feel.  A lot of times watching someone’s body language isn’t the most inviting and it makes you want to run away from the entire conversation.

As teenagers, it seems so easy to talk with friends about anything—clothes, hair, make-up, boys, school, music, social media, movies, Netflix. There’s so much out there to discuss. But when it comes to communicating with adults, well, that’s a whole new ballgame. Or is it? We like some of those things too.

One of the big things to know about adults is that we are just like you, but with more experience. That’s why it’s nice to know you can talk with an adult because, more than likely, they’ve had an experience just like you or they know of someone who has. Adults can give great advice; just give them a chance.

When you have a problem and you look to an adult for the answer, it lets them know you trust them. When you communicate with a person for the first time, it may be hard to let go of some things that are personal. But as you continue to communicate and start getting to know that person, it becomes easier to let go and just talk.

The greatest man that walked on this earth, who became a teenager, an adult, and experienced so much should be the first person to go to with your successes, failures, needs, wants, and so much more. He is with you all the time and He knows you. His name is Jesus and He is the greatest communicator and listener of all time. But you know what? He has prepared someone to be there for you when you need it. It could be Mom, Dad, Sunday School teacher, Youth Pastor, or even the Youth Pastor’s spouse. If you don’t know who it is, pray and ask God to reveal that person to you. Pray for courage to talk to them. Who knows, the person God has prepared, that adult you thought you would never talk to, might turn out to be your greatest encourager and blessing.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

 

 

 

For Adults

Creating an Atmosphere of Communication

Part 1:  Prepare to communicate
Part 2:  Take steps to real communication

A frustrated teenager and a defeated parent lean against opposite sides of a door after a series of verbal volleys ranging from sharp sarcasm to angry insults. Perhaps it’s not even an argument but rather the absence of communication altogether. Devices, friends, or lack of things in common conspire to drive wedges between parents and teens until one looks at the other and feels like she doesn’t even know her anymore.

Communication shouldn’t be that difficult, right? We’ve all been talking for nearly as long as we’ve been alive. Unfortunately, real communication is about much more than saying a few words that are heard by another person. True communication requires intentional effort from everyone involved. It is a willingness to hear and understand as much as to be heard.

Multiple studies confirm that healthy parent/child communication reduces risky behavior in teenagers, also enhancing self-esteem and academic performance. Pair this with Scriptures instruction to “talk” with our children (Deuteronomy 6) and to “instruct” them (Proverbs 1:8) in the way they should go. It seems obvious we need a renewed commitment to communicate in a healthy way.  One that values each other and moves us into a more fruitful relationship where both parent and child feel heard and understood.

Prepare to Communicate

  1. Study her culture.
  2. Learn her language.
  3. Make time a priority.

There are some steps both parent and child can take to prepare for more effective communication. Too often when it comes to important conversations, making difficult decisions, or sharing personal feelings, we take the approach that says, “I’ll just let it happen. This communication stuff should just be allowed to come organically anyway, right?” Wrong. Unfortunately, if we don’t take time to prepare, it’s possible (if not likely) that real and meaningful communication will never happen.

So how do we go about preparing to communicate with someone a generation removed who knows and has witnessed most of our weaknesses and has recently determined parents know very little of consequence to her life? First, study her culture.

We often don’t realize the barriers created between us and our fellow man when there is a cultural divide. We all have a tendency to see things only from our own point of view.

This is also true between generations. There are references, concepts, and even commonly accepted truths from our youth that are now dated, questioned, or downright confusing. To prepare ourselves for communication with our children, we should know the world in which they live. Do you know the musicians she likes to listen to? Do you know about the latest app and why they use it? If not, take some time to learn about your child’s world. It can go along way when your child sees you make an effort to understand and not expect all communication to be done on your terms.

Second, learn the language. This is similar to the first point, but it is important enough to mention on its own. Sometimes communication breaks down because two parties simply don’t know how to translate. Be willing to put in the time to learn what your child is saying and not just how she is saying it. Of course she will say it differently. I’m sure you said things differently than your parents did too. The important thing is to listen and when you don’t understand, ask questions. Not only will this help you respond appropriately, but it will build trust.

Third, make time a priority. It’s easy to let everything outside of your family take precedence. Be sure to create opportunities to talk with one another. Schedule time on your calendar. Be intentional. Nothing will derail communication in a family more than family members who seemingly don’t have time for one another.

Once you’ve decided to invest in studying the culture, learning the language, and making time a priority, it’s time to implement a few strategies to get the words flowing and hopefully lead to some breakthroughs in your home.

 

Creating an Atmosphere of Communication: Part 2

Taking Steps to Real Communication

  1. Be honest and be yourself.
  2. Ask a lot of questions.
  3. Avoid majoring on minor issues.
  4. Say “yes” more.
  5. Take communication offline.

There are any number of relationship and parenting books available that will undoubtedly have great advice for how parents can better communicate with their children. The following list is not intended to be exhaustive, but it is intended to provide a few simple action steps toward better communication at home.

  1. Be Honest and Be Yourself. This may seem like a “no-brainer” but adult authority figures (parents included) often think they need to “have it all together” and “show no weakness” in front of their younger counterparts when, in fact, teenagers are especially drawn to people who tell them the truth and are honest with them. If you are reading this blog it is because you want to communicate more effectively with a teenager in your life. Tell them so. Let them know that you want to be better. Let them know they matter enough to you that you are going to put forth the effort to learn and evolve. This honesty can help establish the trust necessary for more open communication.
  2. Ask a Lot of Questions. Perhaps the best advice I can give to anyone who wants to get better at communication is to learn how to ask questions. Be genuinely interested in the lives of others and ask them about their opinions, feelings, and aspirations. Then you will have a lot more social capital in the future. Asking “What do you think?” invites your child into a conversation as a peer and demonstrates that you value them and their contribution to your home on a much deeper level. 
  1. Avoid Majoring on Minor Issues. This is perhaps the toughest of all the strategies on the list. We all have our preferences and as parents, it’s easy to think our children should fall into line with our desires and expectations. While this is true to some extent, we often take it too far and give a personal preference the same creedence as a biblical conviction. There is a reason Paul distinguished the behavior of the Gentiles and the Jews. Both were followers of Jesus, but there was room for diversity even within the body of Christ. If that was true for the early church, it should also be true in our families. Determine your core family values and convictions and do not waiver. But in all other things, be willing to show grace to your maturing child as he or she navigates the confusing waters of adolescence.
  1. Say ‘Yes’ More. Some of us have a tendency to default to respond “No” whenever our children ask to do something, go somewhere, ask someone to come over, etc. I am in no way advocating we become overly permissive and say “Yes” to every request, but I am suggesting we reflect on why we default to “No” so often and consider that perhaps we say “No” more than necessary or even helpful. If we’re honest, our default “No” often comes from our own impatience. Perhaps we’re tired, busy, or distracted (yes, parents deal with technology addiction too), and “No” is simply easier. If that’s the case, consider saying “Yes” more and you might just find more opportunities to engage your child in meaningful conversation.
  2. Take Communication Offline. There was a time as recently as 15-20 years ago where this suggestion would not have made the list. As consumption of media and the use of personal electronic devices has grown exponentially in recent years, it may be more important now than ever that we strategically and intentionally find ways to interact with our families offline. Technology in general and the Internet specifically has provided a number of real benefits and has even enhanced communication in many ways, but there are also ways in which it has made us far more distracted, less able to focus, and less invested in the lives of those closest to us. These tools provide the means for us to retreat into our own fortress of solitude where we click and swipe and interact with a world outside the four walls of our home and neglect the real people who we share our lives with every day.

My prayer is these suggestions for creating an atmosphere of communcication are helpful to you. Remember communication truly is more art than science. Even the best prepared and most empathetic parents will experience conflict and problems brought on by poor communication. When this happens, it is crucial we display a humble spirit.  Ask God for His favor in reconciling relationships and opening lines of communication.  Thus creating the types of relationships where both parent and child feel truly heard and understood.

 

 

For Adults

Identity in God, from A to Z

Here’s a fun list to help your daughters or students (and perhaps yourself!) realize how God defines His most valuable creations. Arranged by the alphabet, it will be easy to memorize these traits. Each attribute comes with scripture—TRUTH—to back it up.

So many messages we receive these days are based on celebrity opinions, social media’s whims, and emotions manipulated by TV and movies. God’s Word doesn’t change no matter how culture’s norms change and evolve.

This list can be printed as a PDF here, or you can download the image below to your phone or tablet. Work on memorizing the list together, send a letter and quality in a text message each day, talk about one each week—you’ll come up with creative ways to share these with girls under your influence, and perhaps find ways to encourage yourself at the same time!

A_to_Z_Identity_List

 

 

For Adults

Making Peace with Bullies

By Seth Reid

I’ll never forget the first time I actually had to deal with a bully. I was in the third grade, and every morning I meticulously combed my hair and put on enough hair spray to keep it in place all day long. One morning as I was getting on the school bus, a fourth grade bully said to me in a mocking tone, “Got enough hair spray?” My face reddened, and I did the only thing I knew how to do in the face of such derision: put my head down and stayed silent. Fortunately for me, the bully simply laughed at me with his friends and moved on with his life, apparently deciding that I was not worth his effort. I have never worn hair spray since then.

I wish I had known back then what I now know, after 13 years as a public school teacher, about dealing with bullies. Most bullies back down when faced with opposition. As a teacher, I try to teach my students that you have to stand up to bullies or you’ll be bullied forever.

Not everyone is bullied, though. The majority of students are on the sidelines, quietly rooting for the bullies to get their comeuppance, yet they don’t do anything about it. They need to be encouraged to stand up for those who are being bullied. A group of “anti-bullies,” or peacemakers, has the power to put a stop to bullying. Our duty is to be peacemakers, which means we need to get up and play an active part in making peace and ending injustice. As Christians, it is our responsibility and our access to blessing to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). A muddy spring or a polluted fountain—that’s the comparison Proverbs 25:26 makes to the righteous man who concedes to the wicked. Bullies, once they’ve gained power over their victims, will not stop bullying unless met with a greater force than their own. Teaching our children to not be bullies isn’t enough. We need to teach them to actively say no to bullies and to try to influence their peers to do likewise.

So, what does this look like in the classroom? One of the most essential parts of my job as an educator is establishing a classroom environment of trust and security. Without either of those elements, learning cannot take place. My students quickly come to learn that I am someone they can trust and will provide them with a sense of security. When a student of mine is being bullied, he or she does not hesitate to tell me about it. Students know that I will do something to put a stop to it. When a clear-cut case of bullying is brought to me, I publicly stand up to the bully, call him or her out for the behavior, and empower the rest of the class to become peacemakers by including them in the conversation about right and wrong behavior. The class then becomes a cohesive force standing up against the bully, and they feel emboldened to do so because of the way I model intolerance of bullying behavior. Before long, the bullying stops. My students feel safe and secure. And most importantly, they have been given an example of how to deal with bullies themselves.

As parents we need to teach our children that good will triumph over evil, but in order for that to happen we must take action. We are given a command in Scripture to let our lights shine before others, so that our good works will glorify our Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16). When we teach our children that it is a part of their Christian duty to stand up for the oppressed, then we are empowering them to actively participate in the kingdom of God. When they stand up against a bully, things may not go well for them the first time. But they will feel good about themselves knowing that they did the right thing. And others will see their act of love and courage and think to themselves, “I can do that, too!” Then the next time bullying happens, instead of just one good person standing up in opposition, there will be two or three. Before long, the opposition makes the bully’s task too difficult. It isn’t worth it. And if they’re lucky, the bully will feel the need to become one of the good guys. I’ve seen entire classroom dynamics shift as the balance of power gets transferred from the bully to the teacher to the empowered group of good kids.

What does this look like in the real world? If the school bus scenario were to play out today, it would probably look a lot different. A picture of my hair-spray-plastered hair would have instantaneously appeared on any number of social media websites, and by the time the school bus arrived at school, dozens of other students would have seen it and added their own mocking comments. I would have been completely embarrassed and humiliated. Can you imagine how much deeper the hurt would have been if, instead an isolated school bus situation, the incident had gone viral?

This is exactly what our children are facing today. The threat of bullying has gone viral in ways that we never experienced growing up. Physical and verbal bullying haven’t changed much over the past thirty years, but now the Internet adds a new dimension of bullying abuse in cyber bullying. Boys are exposed to online content that values physical and verbal aggression (cell phone videos of bathroom fights at school, “roasting” other boys by insulting them, etc.), while girls are subjected to body shaming comments that stem from unrealistic beauty standards they are exposed to on social media platforms. Because of this exposure, behaviors are changing. If you don’t want to participate in a bathroom fight or a roasting session, you are verbally bullied until you do or until another victim has been found. And if you do participate, the loser is then mocked online, which only leads to further social anxiety. If you don’t have the newest shoe style or look a certain way, then you are excluded from friend groups and become the victim of online chats that spill over into verbal bullying at school the next day.

Cyber bullying can be ended the same way as physical and verbal bullying, by the uninvolved bystanders choosing to take the side of the peacemakers. When more people are actively opposing the wicked behavior than are promoting it, the behavior will eventually stop. It’s not easy to be the one brave soul to stand up in the face of wickedness. But as we teach our children to let their lights shine, we must also pray that others will come to see their good works and join them in standing up for what is right.

 

This article originally appeared in an issue of FUSION.

For Adults

Kind Is the New Classy

Candace Cameron Bure recently sat down with our friends at D6 to talk about her new book, Kind Is the New Classy. Candace’s feeling of sometimes being the only one with her unique viewpoint is an experience many girls will relate to. But “we can still be kind and respectful,” Candace says, even when others disagree with us or don’t like what we have to say.

Shine-recommended author Dannah Gresh also joins the podcast to talk about questions moms should be asking themselves and to discuss common phrases moms may unintentionally say that have an impact on their daughters.

Listen to Candace and Dannah in the podcast here.

 

 

 

For Adults, For Girls

The Lies Girls Believe

In an anti-moralistic world, the lies our girls hear and believe are abundant. Our friends at D6 recently invited Shine-recommended author Dannah Gresh to join a podcast and share about some of the lies girls believe.

Many of the lies girls believe about their self-worth and confidence are shaped by social media, which girls can spend up to 9 hours a day looking at. Dannah encourages moms to “take the mask off of social media” and remind girls that social media isn’t always real life.

Listen to the rest of the podcast with Dannah here.

For Adults

Fearfully Made

by Jen Thomsen

Do you have a daughter who struggles with her self-image? Are you at a loss on how to help her? You may have told her she is beautiful until you are blue in the face, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. This generation is no different than yours and mine. The teen years are still difficult.

It’s not a new phenomenon for girls to compare themselves to thin and beautiful models and actresses, or to measure themselves against peers who they believe are prettier or more athletic.

With competing voices from media and peers, how do we as parents and youth workers help our girls understand that their worth does not spring from how they view themselves or how others view them? How do we help them recognize and tune out the subtle thoughts that the devil plants in their minds?

The simple truth is that God made everyone. Every person is beautifully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:13-16 is straightforward: For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (ESV)

God made each person exactly who they are. Before anyone saw or even knew about us, God put thought into who we would become. No one is made by accident—this is an amazing truth. We are created exactly the way that God wants us.

Your teen might not jump for joy when you share these verses with them. If your child is longing to be a bit taller or shorter, to have straighter or curlier hair, to have clearer skin or a different nose, reading that they are made that way on purpose might not sound ideal. Social media and TV are so full of seemingly perfect people that it can be easy to wish for something unattainable.

How do we help our girls see themselves as beautifully and wonderfully made? It’s our job to continually remind them they are beautifully and wonderfully made.

This is not a conversation that only needs to happen once. You will need to reiterate this over and over and over again. Teens aren’t always the kindest to each other and Satan’s lies can easily become ingrained, so we must continually remind them they don’t have to compare themselves to other people. They don’t have to look like everyone else at their school.

They need to be reminded that when they look at their reflection in the mirror that they are beautifully and wonderfully made. You can leave post-it notes on a mirror or other visible place that will remind them of this fact. In my house we have a wall decal proclaiming that we are beautifully and wonderfully made. Simple reminders in everyday life can help reinforce this truth.

Because we are beautifully and wonderfully made, we also must take care of our human bodies. 1 Corinthians 3: 16-17 says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” As we remind our girls that God created them beautifully, we must also teach them to honor the body God created by eating well, exercising, and going to the doctor regularly.

It’s worth noting that for some girls, a simple decoration or reminder that they are beautiful will not be enough. Some girls who struggle with self-image may need additional support or professional help. If you suspect depression, anxiety, or another form of emotional or mental illness, please seek medical advice. There is no shame in seeking medical help.

Finally, we must remember to practice what we preach. As we teach girls they do not need to compare themselves to others, remind them they are beautiful, and teach them to honor their bodies, ask yourself if you are doing the same. Are you comparing yourself to the women you see in magazines or on TV, or even your peers? Do you celebrate the way God created you, or does your daughter hear you complain about the way you look? Our children are watching and listening, even when we don’t think we are teaching. Let us teach them in actions and in words that they are wonderfully and fearfully made.

Talking to a girl in your life about her self-worth? Share this blog with her!

For Girls

You Are Fearfully Made

by Jen Thomsen

My life is far perfect. I’m shorter than anyone else and my eyes are bad. My sister is extremely intelligent, and compared to her I’m “the dumb one.” At school, I get free lunch because my family is poor, and everyone knows it. I dress differently than everyone else because of my parent’s religious beliefs. My family has moved so much, I don’t have any friends. Plus, since we moved from the north to the south and then back again, my accent sounds really strange. No one understands me.

Any of that sound familiar? That was my life when I was a teenager… until someone told me something that rocked my world.

Now I have something to tell you that will affect the rest of your life and how you view yourself, if you let it. This may not be the first time that you have heard this, but maybe you are in the place in your life where you can soak it up.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16 ESV)

You may be thinking, “Those are some really nice words, but so what?” Or you might even be thinking, “Well that’s nice, but you haven’t seen me. You have no clue what I look like.” Or maybe you are thinking I am writing to your gorgeous friends or classmates. No! I am talking to you.

It doesn’t matter what others have told you or even what you see in the mirror. God put in a lot of work to make you exactly who you are today. Before anyone saw or even knew about you, God put much thought into who you would become. You are not who you are by accident. You are who God wants you to be. This is an amazing truth. You were created exactly the way God wants you.

Teen girls can be so mean. They sometimes say things that are not true but have just enough truth that you start to believe them. Satan knows we struggle with our self-image, and he also plants thoughts and ideas into our heads that are false and untrue. We need to ignore these thoughts—no matter where they come from—and concentrate on how God feels about us.

We also must be careful not to use this beautiful truth as an excuse to do whatever we want to our bodies or to neglect them. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 3: 16-17: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” We need to take care of our bodies. We do this through healthy eating, exercise, and going to the doctor regularly. God has trusted us with our bodies, and we need to take care of them.

I hope you grasp this concept earlier in your life than I did. I heard this truth for the first time when I was 18. It took a lady headed to China to be a missionary to share this truth with me in a way that it took root in my life. But even though this is a truth I know deep down, I still need to be reminded that I am fearfully and wonderfully made every day.

Do I still have bad hair days? Absolutely. Do I sometimes make poor fashion choices? Um…guilty on that one too! Do I still dislike some things about myself? Sure. But I know God thinks I’m beautiful, and that is all that matters.

For Girls

A Girl’s Guide to Gratitude

Thanksgiving was just last week, but another holiday happened even more recently: Black Friday! Although Black Friday may on the surface be “the official start of holiday shopping,” let’s be honest—how many of those deal were we really trying to score for ourselves?

Maybe you didn’t participate in the Black Friday frenzy. But even if you didn’t go shopping, you might have been thinking about your Christmas wish list. Does Thanksgiving even matter? If we rush into a season of wish lists and shopping the day after, it sure doesn’t seem like it.

The truth is, even though Thanksgiving is just one day, being thankful is important all the time. It shapes the way we see people and things in our lives—having a grateful attitude can actually make us happier. (Check out Harvard Health and Psychology Today.) But our own happiness isn’t the only thing on the line. God also tells us to be thankful.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Sometimes it can be hard to feel thankful. One of the best ways to have a thankful attitude is to take the focus off yourself and look around you.

What people around you might be in need? Serving your community is a great way to see how other people around you live. A couple at my church started a ministry called Bright Spot, which takes meals to a local park on weekends to serve families that are tight on money. Bright Spot also regularly collects clothing and other items to hand out at the park. Ask your pastor or a leader at your church if there are any similar ministries connected to your church and find out if they have a way you can volunteer.

When you see how other people are in need, you begin to realize just how much you have! When you realize just how much you have, you can begin to think about how you can use what you have to bless others.

Being grateful helps you serve those around you and also makes the things in your life more special because you have a greater appreciation for them.

Another great way to feel thankful is to go through your room or your closet and see how much you can give away. Most of us own far more than we need, but we don’t even think about it. As you spend time deciding what to give away, you end up thinking about each individual item you own. Why do you have some of the things you have? Is that necklace special because someone gave it to you? Or maybe you have a souvenir you got on a special trip? Be thankful for the experiences and people those items represent! As you realize which things are actually important and special to you, you can remove the stuff that gets in the way. Not only can you give things away to people in need, but the things you choose to keep have meaning.

Of course, stuff you own shouldn’t be the only thing you are thankful for. That’s the focus of this blog today, but as you learn to be more grateful for the things you have, also start to think about how you can be grateful for less tangible areas of your life. Think about the ways your parents, other family members, friends, teachers, and others in your life support you every day. Appreciating the ways people bless you with their time or kindness is another way to boost your sense of gratitude.

Being thankful helps us appreciate what we have, makes us kinder and more empathetic to those around us, and ultimately, makes us feel more joy because we are living with what God wants for us: a thankful heart.