If you're the parent of a teenager, you've probably noticed some major behavioural changes over the past few years. Although these behaviours are normal for teens, and even pre-teens, it's important to keep communication flowing between the two of you.
As kids enter their teens, they start spending more time alone in their rooms or out with friends. Maybe your teen also seems less interested in hanging out with you and more interested in listening to music or interacting on social media. Obviously, they want to communicate, but they're just not always excited to do it with you.
Sometimes, what works with one teen might not work as well with another. To keep conversations flowing with your teen, try some of the methods listed below to see which ones help you the most.
Rather than doing the talking, focus on listening. Many teens report feeling like their parents talk "at" them and rarely listen to what their kids have to say. Sometimes as parents, we are so disappointed about our child’s withdrawal we can tend towards doing all the talking or even become a little "preachy" in our communication. It is difficult to shift our focus from what we want to say and focus instead of listening. If we can manage to do this, teenagers might be more willing to communicate with us.
Even though sometimes their choice in music or books is similar to our choice it helps if we show an interest. Our teen's passions are ways to catch a glimpse into what's going on with him or her. When she's talking about songs, her favorite performers, books, or magazines, use the discussion as a springboard to keep her communicating with you. You'll be surprised with what you learn when you demonstrate that you want to know more about what she loves.
I used to love travelling in the car with my teenage daughter as the conversation just seemed to open up. Clocking up all those hours for her driver logbook did wonders for our connection. We always seemed to have the most meaningful conversations while travelling. Take advantage of time spent in the car with your teen, it’s a great opportunity to listen.
Sometimes we glean information during these conversations that lead us to wanting to dish out consequences to our teenager. This is a tough one, but I would recommend trying to avoid this where possible. After all, if your child is punished every time they open up to you, they'll avoid talking with you in the future.
Keep teens involved by allowing them choices. Developmentally they are at an age where they will be craving more choice, this doesn’t mean open slather for them, but allowing choice within reason gives them the responsibility they are craving.
Have fun together. Remember to joke and laugh with your teen, but not at them. With the intense emotions and transformation they are going through some light relief and understanding goes a long way to maintaining great communication. Use your adolescent experience as fodder for funny stories and bonding with your teen. They are likely to appreciate hearing your own stories about growing up if they're told in the spirit of openness, fun, sharing, and love.
I work with teens and parents around the issues of stress, family dynamics, school and friendship issues, anxiety, depression and anger. If you would like to have a chat about how I might work with yourself or your teenager please get in touch.