Communicating with your teen involves much more than just talking. At the heart of any communication is the opportunity for you to connect and to learn what’s going on in his life. This provides your teen with a reinforced sense of home and safety during a transitional and exciting time of life.
Step 1: Reach out to your teen on a consistent basis
Look for opportunities to connect with your teen throughout each day. Rather than trying to schedule one big Sunday afternoon sit-down to catch up on what happened over the past week before another one begins, look for consistent opportunities to chat with your teenager. Don’t despair if 90 percent of your attempts are ignored. Rather than forcing conversations, try often and enjoy the pleasant surprise when an attempt is accepted. What’s important is that your teen knows you are available to talk (and listen) when she is ready.
Step 2: Focus
Put the newspaper down, the laptop away and the phone on silent. Offer your undivided attention, even if the favor is not returned. This is an opportunity to lead by example, and it is good to show that there are times when it’s best not to multi-task.
Step 3: Pay attention to the timing
Try and be respectful of your teen’s schedule and interests. If you’re free but your teen is just sitting down to watch a favorite show, then it may be better to watch the show alongside him and try and catch up during commercials, instead of talking at that exact moment. Choose a time to initiate communication that is right for your teen, rather than a time that fits into your schedule.
Step 4: Don’t talk so much
Make an effort to listen more than you talk. This is one of the best ways to communicate with and talk to your teen because it helps you avoid talking at her. Listening allows you to learn what’s going on with your child and it encourages her to communicate more, as she can tell you how she is feeling and what’s going on without feeling judged or worry about being corrected.
Step 5: Utilize technology
Teenagers text more than any other age group out there. Busy schedules may make it difficult to log a lot of face time, but don’t let that stop you from reaching out and maintaining a consistent presence in your teen’s life. Send texts to check in and offer support. Shoot your teen an email to see how his day is going. “Like” one of his posts on Facebook — without leaving an embarrassing comment or wall post, of course!
Step 6: Go for a change of scenery
Every conversation you have with your teen does not need to take place at the dinner table. After all, variety is the spice of life, so seek out changes of scenery. Go out for a latte together, take a walk or go to the mall. Choose settings that will appeal to both of you and help you enjoy a little time together.
For more tips on parenting teens, check out:
Communicating with your teen