You should be a student of your student. You have to really know them if you are to truly engage them.
Do you sense the work of Holy Spirit in their life? How you address certain issues may depend on their relationship with God. For instance, beginning sentences with “Honey, as Christians we must...” may not be the best idea if doubt exists as to where they stand with God. You see how it could create false assurance in their mind. It also may make you appear ignorant if they know full well they don’t believe. This is the first and by far the most important step in communication with your child.
You may consider having conversations like the following.
Dad: I was reading in Romans today and it says that all “fall short of the glory of God”. It really got me thinking. I’ve fallen short in some ways and it’s probably affected you. Share with me your understanding of that verse.
Daughter: I don’t know.
Dad: Can I explain to you what I’ve uncovered in my study?
Daughter: Sure, I guess.
Dad: Well, we’ve all messed up. Not just toward each other, but we’ve missed the mark God has set for us - perfection. I can’t be perfect. But Paul, in Romans, goes on to explain that my imperfections can be replaced by the perfections of Jesus. He lived the life I couldn’t and died the death I deserve, so I can have a right standing before God. I trust Him fully for that. I don’t understand all of it, but I want learn to live better by trusting the Spirit to change me piece by piece.
Dad: And I want you to do that with me. I want us to grow more in this knowledge together. I’ve messed up and I’ll make more mistakes, but would you do that with me?
Would you help encourage me and allow me to do the same for you?
Daughter: Dad, you’re weird.
Dad: So, yes?
Daughter: Sure, weirdo.
Dad: That’s rad. Let me pray for us. Father, thank You that You want a relationship with us, even thought we’re not perfect. Thank You that You are in the business of changing us...all of us...making us new. Help me to be a better earthly husband and father. By Your Spirit, make our relationship strong. We ask it in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Daughter: (puts earphones back in and feels elated and secure)
For the above conversation to happen, removing distractions is key. That means you too. No phone, computer, TV...are you getting that it seems to be things with screens that come between you and your teen? Consider creating a technological time-out. Maybe your kids could help you decide the time of day and length of time it should be. Start small, and make sure you can fill the time with something besides awkward silence and deep sighs. I would suggest 30 minutes as a beginning.
Play a game as a family. There are some really fun and fast paced card games online. Find one you like and make it the family game. Farkle is a fun dice game as well. If your kids like words, consider Bananagrams.
Find a way to serve from your living room. Write letters to missionaries, pastors, mentors, friends and family. Do some research and come with several ideas of how your family could make an impact in you neighborhood or in the world at large. Consider saving and planning for a monetary donation to an organization. Or maybe spend time as a family deciding on a mission trip and making arrangements for it (Spring Break, Summer, Christmas break, etc).
Find YouTube video worship and sing together as a family. Give the little kids something to bang on. It won’t be studio quality, but Father will smile.
Read scripture. It doesn’t have to be boring. Collect several variations of the Bible and everyone read a section from their version. Compare and contrast. Read from The Jesus Storybook Bible or The Action Bible.
Act out scripture. This is great for younger kids. Film it. Share it. Parables are a good starting point.
Pray together. Your kids need to hear you talk to God. Put a chair in the center of the room and pretend Jesus is sitting in it (He sort of is). What would you say? Set up a prayer station. Everyone hold an ice cube tightly in his or her own hand while someone reads the crucifixion narrative. The pain of the ice cube doesn’t compare to the nails. Give everyone a LifeSaver and search scripture for verses about Jesus’ offer of salvation. Sit in front of a mirror and read the passage from James about God’s word being a mirror for us to see our own sin. Discuss.
Family time can be planned and strategic or spontaneous. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself or your family to “perform”. It’s a time for relationship building. Keep relationships center.
After you’ve established a solid foundation of mutual enjoyment as a family via game nights, prayer time, family worship, etc. it’s time to build upward. These previously listed interactions shouldn’t cease, but built upon. For further ideas on family worship check out the following: