Teens are a different animal. It’s often the age, in raising a child, that the kid you used to know is transitioning to the adult you will get to know later. Unfortunately, it is also a time when you need to know them the most! Getting a teen to talk with a parent is like hunting deer. If you chase the deer, they will run away from you. It’s best if you let them come to you. And with patience, they will come. But like a deer approaching a tree stand, when a teen comes to talk to you, you must be prepared for the occasion.
Here are a few tactics used by deer hunters (and I admit to not being expert at this) that you as a father can use to get to know or help your son or daughter.
- Camouflage: “Come here, I want to talk to you” doesn’t usually work well. If your teen is cornered, you won’t get anywhere. Set up non-threatening situations but don’t give away your true intention, that being to understand them. Be casual, friendly, open, but don’t make much noise (let them talk).
- Scent: Deer hunters like to be downwind from their prey so the deer are not aware of the hunter. Don’t give yourself away by jumping in too quickly when they are nearby for they may smell trouble! For instance, if you are together on a long trip, don’t ask leading personal questions right away. Let them get comfortable and relaxed. You can ask non-threatening questions, but talking must be their idea.
- Binoculars: Be on the lookout! Be proactive in stalking your prey. In other words, to get inside the head of your teen for purposes of helping or protecting them, you first have to be aware that something may be bothering them. Looking ahead allows you to not be caught off guard, seeing trouble in time to have a plan of action.
- Weapon: No! Don’t shoot them! But be ready. Your weapon is not only non-lethal, it is healing. Your weapon is your love, understanding, and advice. Be armed with advice that makes sense to them. If you run out of ammunition, stop talking.
Teens, like deer, are skittish. Especially with parents. They want their space and most of them will graduate successfully to adulthood. However, too often we hear of troubled teens that, without help, can fall into depression, drug use, contemplate or attempt suicide. Suspecting any of these issues, a parent must do what they can to help. But you can only help if you know what the problem is, and know how to handle it. Although much more important than deer hunting, many dads know how to bag a deer but don’t know how to mentor their child.
I don’t have any trophies on my wall adorned with antlers. But my wall is decorated with photos of independent and thriving children and grandchildren. My wife couldn’t be happier about that (including the antlers), and I couldn’t ask for much more in life.