Connecting with our tweens and teens can be a confusing business.
Just as their lives start getting more complex and the challenges and problems they face get bigger, they start to pull away from us.
We want them to talk to us and to feel like they can tell us anything, but most of the time our attempts are met with eye rolls, sighs and closed doors.
Part of the reason is because most of us don’t fully understand what a conversation looks like to our tween or teen. Sometimes we can confuse a lecture for actually talking with our kids. It’s not the same thing.
If we want our tweens and teens to really be open with us and to not hide things from us, we’ve got to nurture a new type of communication with them.
Here are some keys to creating a successful dialogue with our tweens and teens that might just get them to open up more often.
How To Have An Actual Conversation With Your Teen
Talk less, listen more
There is so much going on in our kids lives these days and so many changes. Often what they need most from us is just someone who is willing to let them unload all the crazy going on in their head. They don’t want our commentary, just our ears.
Ask open ended questions, don’t make accusations
Our teens are going to make a whole lot of mistakes. If we jump all over them every time they make a bad choice, we run the risk of permanently shutting them down.
Making statements like “You were clearly too busy playing video games to study for that test you failed!” aren’t helpful. Their behavior may be upsetting, but what we really need to know is what is behind it so we can help. Questions like “Why do you think you got this grade on your test?” are far less confrontational and are more likely to engage your teen in a positive direction.
Keep your tone neutral
Adolescence is an incredibly emotional time. Our tweens and teens are going to feel incredibly out of control, which is why it is so important we keep our cool. No, it isn’t easy, but we only add fuel to the fire when we use negative or angry tones with them in a conversation.
By staying calm we help them to bring things down a few notches so that whatever is going on can be dealt with in a more productive way.
Don’t diminish their point of view, try to understand it
Yes teens are dramatic, and often many of their problems seem silly to us. But we were all teenagers once and we know how everything can feel like the end of the world during this stage of life.
Instead of dismissing their struggles, have them explain what is going on with them and why, so you can better see things from their teenage point of view.
Validate their feelings;you can empathize without agreeing with them
Our teens are going to form some pretty passionate opinions about things during these years, many that we may not share. While we aren’t always going to be on the same page with them, it doesn’t always have to be about someone being right and someone being wrong.
Most of the time they just want to be heard and acknowledged, but that doesn’t mean we have to change our position.
Seek to solve problems with them, not for them
Too often, especially in our helicopter parenting world, when we see our teens struggling we want to fix things for them. What we should be doing instead is equipping them with the tools to cope and find solutions on their own.
Ask questions and suggest resources that might be useful and then stand back and let them try to figure things out. Our role should be more as a guide during these year, not as a leader.
No subject should be taboo
Yep, there are definitely some squirm worthy topics that we have to tackle as parents of teens. But not matter how uncomfortable it might make us, we need to help our teens feel comfortable coming to us with anything. Sticking to the facts, not over explaining and only offering advice when asked is the best way to ensure they’ll be willing to keep talking to us in the future, even about the hard stuff.
By following these guidelines (to the best of our ability), we create an environment where our children feel safe, valued and respected. This doesn’t mean that they will tell us everything, but it makes it far more likely that they’ll close doors less and open up more.
Parenting teens and tweens is no easy task, but we’ve got more helpful posts to help you: