The tween years bring new developments in your child’s understanding of herself and others. This is the stage when kids are likely to begin asking tough questions about life, faith, and the world around them. The wise parent may not know all the answers, but she will welcome the questions. Here are some tips for navigating tough conversations with your tween.

Be available. Tweens might not be eager to talk when you are. But most will talk when they’re ready. So when they do open up, make sure you’re there to listen and respond. These conversations may not come at the most convenient hour or when you’re in the best mood. But try to look beyond the circumstances and embrace the opportunity to talk when it’s offered.

Don’t freak out. Instead, try to remain calm and welcome tough questions and answers, even when they’re hard to hear. When our kids ask what a certain unsavory word means, for example, we have an opportunity to explain the truth with accuracy and delicacy. When they reveal a difficult social situation or harm done at school, let them know you are a safe place. And remember that when our kids express doubt about faith, it means they are a step closer to making that faith their own. Don’t assume questions equal beliefs or wrongdoing. They are simply an open door to help your tween understand truth vs. fiction.

Hold fast to truth. Speaking of fiction, the world will spew lies at our kids at every turn. Media, other kids, even their classroom textbooks will challenge what the Bible says is right and good. Be a beacon of truth for your children, sharing it with firm faith and gentle encouragement. Don’t be afraid to stand for the unpopular opinion. Use tough conversations as an opportunity to reinforce to your tween that following God may sometimes be lonely—but it’s always the better choice.

If you don’t know, say so. Don’t pretend to have all the answers when you don’t. Being vulnerable enough to say “I don’t know” can help build trust and show your tween that even adults need wisdom from God. Then follow up that “I don’t know” response with “let’s find the answer together.”

Catch more flies with honey. In the Bible, grace prevails. Let the same be true of tough conversations with your tween. Don’t use them as a chance to beat your child with admonishments or criticism. Instead, always speak the truth in love. Remember, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (Proverbs 15:1, NLT).

Role model. Our tweens pay more attention to our actions than our words. So do your best to live out your convictions with kindness. By showing our children the right and faithful way to live, they will learn by example how to make good choices and apply their faith to their circumstances.

Revisit. Check in from time to time on tough topics to let your tween know you care and you’re available to listen. Some conversations are ongoing and can’t be resolved in one heart-to-heart. Make open communication a priority in your household, and your relationship with your tween will grow.

Pray. When words fail us, God will not. Pray for wisdom and understanding, and for God to speak directly to your child’s heart. Then let this verse be the plea of your loving parent’s heart:

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)