Talking to your teenager can feel like playing conductor to the New York Philharmonic Symphony, with ZERO musical talent or skill. Being afraid to say the wrong thing, ask the wrong questions or unable to ignore the eye rolls or one syllable responses.
You wonder what happened to your sweet talkative little boy, or your little girl who couldn’t wait to tell you all about her day after school. They’re still there, even though it may feel like they aren’t.
What we parents don’t typically understand is how much things have changed for them. Especially, all of the things they think about or are worried about. It’s hard for parents to see this because we view them and our relationship from a parental perspective, oftentimes, neglecting to see how things may look in their world.
To continue developing your relationship with your son or daughter will just require you to learn and utilize some new skill sets. You held their hand when they crossed the street as toddlers. You put on sunscreen for them when they played in the wading pool. But these, and many others, are skills you can retire as they can do these things on their own.
It is time to replace them with new skills needed for this next phase of parenting.
Tactics on talking to your teenager to add to your parenting playbook:
Don’t take it personally
It can be difficult to not feel offended or slighted when trying to talk to your teenager.
Don’t take their expressions, tone, lack of words – any of it- personally. Most of the time, it isn’t about us. If you remember that, it will be easier to practice the next tactics with a clear and open mind.
Try to be understanding, even if you don’t understand
Speaking of an open mind, work on having one- you’ll need it. Try to really understand what your son or daughter may be going through. Many times, we have no idea what their day has been like and all of the struggles they may have faced. Try to understand where they may be coming from. Is their grouchiness a sign of poor sleeping habits? Do they need to go to bed earlier or lay off the caffeine? Sleeping, especially for developing minds is important. Having a teenager who sleeps 12 plus hours isn’t a sign of laziness. In fact, most teenagers aren’t getting enough sleep. (More information on sleep needs of adolescents)
One of the ways you can be understanding is by supporting a healthy sleep routine for your son or daughter.
Maintaining open lines of communication will require you to actually listen to them when they do speak. That means put down your phone, your work, computer, chores, whatever it is that you are doing and listen. Actively. They will notice. If they feel like you aren’t really listening to them when they do come to you, they will be less likely to share with you. This may take some practice. You may think that you really don’t care about some of the trivial benign details of their day or whatever it is they are sharing with you. Keep that to yourself. Creating a level of comfort for your child to talk to you starts here with the little things. If they aren’t comfortable doing that, how are they going to come to you with the big things?
Ask questions in an inquisitive manner, not as the Grand Inquisitor
Asking questions is a good thing, if you do it the right way. First, don’t bombard them the moment they come home or jump in the car. Also, steer clear from questions that will only require a yes or no response. Ask open ended questions, to encourage more dialogue.
“Did you have a good day”
“What was the best part of your day”
It’s a good idea to try and remember their friend’s names. This is a way to show them you are genuinely interested and care about their world.
Even if you have to do things like associate funny or strange hints to recall. (Abby the girl that talks A LOT or Justin the kid who talks about Fortnight constantly.) Whatever you have to do to make some of the details stick, do it.
There is a difference in being chatty with your son or daughter and being an interrogator. If you start to see resentment or irritation in talk, let it go. Perhaps their day was rough, they forgot about a quiz or didn’t get invited to a party. You never know. (That is why we start with “Don’t take it personally!)
You don’t want your son or daughter to feel like talking to you is a grand inquisition.
All this “chatting” and you eventually will hear something that may cause alarm or panic.
Do your best to stay calm. Also, if you are ever angry or feeling upset, wait until those feelings have subsided before trying to talk to your son or daughter. The adolescent era can be challenging, and it will at some point or another, require you to bring your “A Game”. You can’t be on your “A game” and be angry or upset at the same time.
Give yourself the space and time you need to calm down before either engaging or addressing an issue with your son or daughter.
The important thing is to keep talking and keep trying. You may be met with resentment or suspicion if you have managed to let the silence linger with your son or daughter in the past.
Don’t take it personally, stay calm, and keep trying. Your children really do need you in this part of their life, even if they act otherwise.
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To learn more, visit us at Pace Counseling Group or call (210) 481-3727.