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/ 23 April 2020

Engaging with nocturnal teenagers

James Fawcett explores ways of connecting with teenagers, when they keep a very different daily schedule from others in your household. 

There is a link between sloths and teenagers – it’s not as you might imagine about their ability to affectively communicate, or their slowness to respond but rather another fact that you as parents may be acutely aware.

I’ve been asking youth workers throughout the Diocese over the last couple of weeks, where are the young people? One answer – regardless of background or context – appears to be; they are around at 02:30am most mornings, with all the other Sloths of the world, gathering their food and being social toward other sloths they come across.

One of the people I spoke to about this was a parent of a 17 and 19-year-old, who said she was having the most amazing chats with her children in the middle of the night. She said ‘I’ve turned into a teenager – I go to bed at 03:00 and get up at 10:00’. She is the volunteer youth worker at her church. She says she has had the best conversations ever at these times.

Another youth worker in the Diocese had set up a 02:30 Prayer meeting via WhatsApp – what a great idea! Now this kind of response takes a certain individual to carry out. I’m not that kind of individual. I live with a 4-year-old that will be awake and jumping on me at 06:15 each morning. So, what might be an alternative? Here are some ideas:

  1. Set some questions that they might be able to ask/answer overnight and you could chat them through at a more reasonable time the next day? Some potential questions below.
  2. Set them a group challenge. A survey with their friends asking them a question of your choice. Get them to do it on Houseparty and have a chat. Some potential questions below.
  3. Set them a personal challenge. On their phone notes, to note one thing each night they can pray for and why. Then the next day they can choose to share or not.
  4. Do something together just at different times and discuss it. Read a book together or watch a film. It doesn’t really matter what it is, just do it together! They can read/watch at 03:00 am you can discuss it over dinner, or whenever.

Potential questions: What does Easter mean? What does Prayer mean? How do you pray? How does God speak? What is your favourite bible verse, and why? What are you fearful of? Best bible related YouTube video you can find? What are you thankful for now? What are you looking forward to doing when all this is over? How can you nurture hope in bad situations? If you could ask God to change one thing at this present time what would it be? Has anything strange happened to you recently? Might this be God?

Tips for the conversation:

  1. Be honest – young people smell the BS fast.
  2. Can you reflect on it in light of your faith? What’s your experience that you can share and draw on.
  3. Do twice as much listening as speaking – the classic! As my mum said to me ‘you have 2 ears and 1 mouth’. As parents we tend to offer advice and jump in – try your hardest to draw out of your teenager – allow for extra time for awkward silence!

About James Fawcett

James Fawcett is part of CONCRETE and works with the Diocese of London, helping parishes with our youth work.

Read more from James Fawcett

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