A common complaint among parents is how silent their kids go whenever they enter the teen years. While there are some that stay well connected to mom and dad, it’s not uncommon for the teen years to be a time for kids to talk more to friends than to parents.
LEARN TO ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Do you find that asking questions like “how was your day?” elicits nothing more than a one word response?
Some questions sound robotic, almost like the speaker is following a script. If you want your teen to talk to you, the first step is…
-ask something other than the standard “how are you doing?” type of question
-steer clear of yes or no questions
-ask questions that will open up real conversation i.e. talk involving a topic your teen wants to engage in
TALK LESS, LISTEN MORE
Teens usually have interests and thoughts on all sorts of things. And if you ask them about these topics and are genuinely interested in hearing what your teen has to say, chance are they’ll tell you. THE KEY IS TO TALK LESS THAN YOUR TEEN. Even if your teen has an opposing opinion than your own, learn to listen. If teens feel heard by parents, they will usually be more likely to engage in conversation.
Note that avoiding judgement does not mean accepting a view that differs in value or belief. For example, your teen may feel attending church is no longer important, but religion is one of your values. How then can you avoid judgement whenever your teen tells you he or she doesn’t believe church should be mandatory?
–LISTEN: allowing teens to express how they feel on an issue gives you insight into their thought process.
–ACKNOWLEDGE: “I can understand how going to church might not feel important to you right now in your life” is a good example of acknowledging a teen’s position. This doesn’t mean YOU don’t feel church is important, you’re simply saying you can see how your teen might feel how she does.
–BE AUTHENTIC: If you don’t understand your teen’s view, you don’t have to act like you do. Teens are pretty smart at sniffing out adult BS. So even if you don’t understand, you can still acknowledge. Saying something like, “I never felt that way about church, but I imagine this is a common feeling among teens” is a good response. This way, teens feel their opinions are important to parents.
–AVOID POWER STRUGGLES: Once we acknowledge a teen’s position on a topic, we can disagree without getting into a power struggle, which makes communication on difficult topics easier and more comfortable to have. “I understand you don’t want to go to church right now. Dad and I have the rule that you go to church while you’re still at home, but we understand that when you get older you might make a different decision for yourself. We might not agree with that choice, but we will respect it.”
Music, social media, TV shows…teens are usually on the cutting edge of what’s hot and what’s not. Ask your teen to show you how to use filters on Snapchat, play the latest Harry Styles’s song, or ask about the plot to a popular Netflix series. Teens are used to being told things…let THEM be the experts on something. You might find you learn something new and bond with your teen all at the same time.
Communicating with our teens is an important component to a healthy, peaceful family life. Teens who feel that they can communicate with parents are more likely to share the good—and the bad.
Need help learning more skills or have a challenging relationship with your teen that could use some work? Contact me @281-900-6918 for a free consultation to see if counseling can help move your family toward a more peaceful home life!