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Mom tries an "airing out"

Damaris Scalzi
A reader of Miracles & Moments of Grace: Inspiring Stories from Moms recently wrote to me with some encouraging words for parents of teens.

Damaris Scalzi was missing the communication she had with her son when he was younger. Now, as a teen, he was less willing to talk about his day. While Damaris knew this wasn't unusual for a teen boy, she wanted to restore some of the closeness they once had. Here's the approach she took, which she calls an "Airing Out."

"When our eldest son was in the 6th grade I noticed that his usual openness about his daily experiences in school started to disappear. I was aware that kids' communication practices, especially boys', tend to lessen during that age so I tried not to worry. I prayed for God to give me peace of mind, to know whether I was worrying needlessly, and for insight if there was something I needed to do.

One morning an opportunity to speak to my son about my concern arose. He missed the bus to school, so I ended up driving him in. On the way to the school, we began a conversation and this is how it went:

Mom: Son, I'm noticing you don't share as much about your day as you used to in the beginning of the school year. Are you doing OK in school?

Son: Nothing's wrong mom, I'm OK.

Mom: That's good, then I won't worry. However, if you ever did have trouble you can tell me anything and I will do my best to listen and not freak out.

Son: Yeah, I know. I'm OK though.

Mom: OK.

Son: I have detention today. I forgot to tell you about it yesterday, but it's today after school.

Mom: You forgot? Or you were afraid to tell me?

Son: I was afraid you would be angry and upset.

Mom: Well, I'm disappointed you didn't tell me yesterday, and I'm concerned about the reason for the detention. This is the first time ever.

Son: I know. I'm sorry I didn't tell you.

Mom: Here's what I will do. I will give you a "No Consequences Airing Out" right now in the school parking lot.

Son: What's an Airing Out?

Mom: You can tell me the reason you're getting detention, and I will sign your slip. You will not get a consequence, because you confessed the truth.

Son: Really? I'm not going to lose anything this weekend?

Mom: No, not this time. I will give you this in exchange for the truth and your repentance and assurance you will not do it again.

Son: OK!

My son spoke freely and openly about the event that landed him in detention and I listened. He seemed relieved and I was at peace knowing the infraction wasn't as serious as I imagined. I asked him how he felt in the last few days while he was keeping his secret. He told me he felt guilty and restless, but that telling me what happened made it better. I explained to him that's what confession does. My son looked at me with relief in his eyes, and I knew the Lord had done that for him through me, and I was extremely grateful for it.

That experience changed something in my son that gave him a peace of mind that he didn't have before he confessed. The guilt of what he kept from me was gone, and the fear that caused unrest was replaced with a much needed peace.

I realized that God had given me insight into my son as he allowed my son to feel safe sharing with me. Since that day my son and I have talked about a lot of things. God brought me into a good healthy communicative relationship with my son that he responds to and needed desperately.

Although my son doesn't always get an airing out, he seems to not need it as much, because he realizes I can stay calm when listening to less than pleasing news from him. As a parent of three children, two of which are boys, I see my sons' need for assurance in a different light. Although boys will be boys in some obvious areas of development, they desire a listening ear just as girls do. They want to be heard and validated in a loving and safe environment. Let's be wise in our approach and loving in nature, God's nature."
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