Remember when your teenagers were young children who actually wanted to spend time with you? Now, it seems that in the blink of an eye, they morphed into surly kids who are more interested in their friends and the Internet than talking to you. Although frustrating for parents, this is a normal stage. So what do you do? How do you talk to teens so they don’t tune you out? And how do you get them to talk to you?
Ask as few questions as possible. Questioning teens tends to close them down. Instead, make statements that don’t demand a response, such as, “I’ve been wondering what you think about your new coach.” If you get an exceptionally brief response, that’s OK, because you were just wondering aloud. Now that they know you are interested, they may tell you more later.
When teaching, be brief. Keep “lectures” down to three sentences. Your teens are smart and they’ll get it. Going on and on will not increase their understanding; it will just tempt them to tune you out faster.
When disciplining, respect your teen. Let your teen know they are a good kid; it was just their behavior that was a bad choice.
Listen for windows of opportunity. These are brief statements from your teen which appear to be random. For example, while driving to music practice, your teen may say out of the blue, “Mrs. Connor (the homeroom teacher) is way too intense.” All you have to say in response is “Oh, really?” This lets them know you want to hear more.
Listen (be silent) even when you disagree. Your teen is exploring their independence by saying their thoughts aloud. Hear what they have to say. You can state your opinion at a later time. If it’s a health or safety issue, though, you should tell your teen your opinion as soon as they’re done talking.
Talking and listening in this way will help your teen see you as less invasive and more mellow. In turn, it will increase their connection to you. Your teen wants and needs to be able to talk to you. Following these guidelines for talking with teens can help create the right environment for him or her to open up.
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