Graduate 2022/Derek Carter

I hate the dead space. To me, dead space is that time in the car with one of your kids, when you just can’t seem to get more than two words from them. With my younger sons (eight-year-old twins), it is nonstop talking but not so with my older kids.

I have to prod my older kids to get them to open up. Do you know what I mean? As kids get older and move into their teen years, they become more guarded and less open. Conversations become harder. Just at the time when we need to know what our kids are thinking, they clam up.

It is just frustrating. I realized it was easier to get past my discomfort if I had prepared for those moments of silence. I have found that using a set of open-ended non-threatening questions works to engage the kids. These questions can focus on the positive. For instance, I might ask, “What was the most exciting thing you learned in Sunday school today.” Even if your child does not like the class, the child might be focused on finding something positive to say and, thus, be more open to conversation.

Your questions should be broad enough not to cause arguments or cause them to feel manipulated. If your teen senses you have an ulterior motive, they will not open up to you. You can also ask your child to think about questions they might ask you.

Here are some examples:
What are five things that you like about yourself and five things you hate?
What is the weirdest and craziest thing you have ever done?
If you were granted a wish to become a superhero, which one would it be?
Do you have a role model?
Do you look up to any celebrity or personality?
What is the one thing that you feel most passionately about?
Do you try to live by any life motto or Bible verse?
Has there been any incident in your life that you think has impacted the way you think or live your life?
If you won a lottery of one million dollars, what would you do with it?

These questions have helped me communicate with my older children. I hope they will do the same for you.

Derek Carter is a practical teacher. When he isn’t running an errand for his wife, which requires a lot of car time with his kids, he is engaged in marriage ministry in his church and fathering ministry at home. At work, he is the director of Strong Fathers, a nonprofit in the greater NYC area. Derek and his wife, Cheryl, are featured speakers at the 2022 Thrive! Conference.