Communication is the lifeblood of relationship.
Including the relationship with your teenager.
The more your teenager feels understood and accepted, the better your relationship will be.
The trick is to figure out how to get your teen to open up to you.
Up to now, your preadolescent may have been open and shared all sorts of things with you, but once kids reach the teen years getting them to talk can be challenging.
Because teenagers are just like everyone else – they want to be heard, understood and accepted, and if they are not getting that from you, their parents, then they will be getting it from somewhere else.
In her book, Why I Didn’t Rebel, Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach shares 3 secrets to getting your teenage kids to talk to you:
Respect the fact that your teen won’t always want to talk to you.
“Respecting privacy has two parts: allowing a child to disclose what he or she decides to disclose, and then encouraging disclosure to make it more likely to happen again.” [i]
Your child needs to know they can trust you when they open up and tell you stuff. They need to know they will not be judged by you and that you won’t blab what they tell you to everyone else.
“…with kids who didn’t rebel… the kids felt they could talk to their parents about everything and anything. Among kids who did rebel, though, not one said that they could talk to their parents about what they were honestly feeling.”[ii]
Since your kids want to be heard and understood, it’s important to listen well.
How do you do that?
Be present in the conversation. Your mind should be solely focused on your child, even if you are washing dishes or driving.
Ask questions that require more than yes or no answers: “What do you think of (current news)? How do you like (subject at school, new job, new app on their phone)?
Really listen to your child.
Don’t listen to reply, listen to understand.
Active listening sends a message to your teen that you like them and find them interesting. They are important to you.
And if they feel this, they will want to talk to you.
This is about creating a place and time where talking can happen naturally. For Rebecca’s
For other families it was grocery shopping, or in the afternoon after school sitting in the living room.
For our family it was meal times and very often evenings, sitting on the couch.
As our kids got older our talking time happened at night when they boys were eating supper (our daughter was married by then). Over time this became a favourite time for talking about life, our day, sharing funny stories, discussing politics and current events.
When our boys are home they still invite us to join them in the kitchen while they eat supper. Richard feeds the cats and dog and I tidy the kitchen while the boys eat. We joke, tease, laugh at the dog’s antics, or talk about serious stuff.
This pleasant, social time connects us.
The beauty of this ritualised communication time is that it provides a space and time to talk about bigger issues when they come up. It also provides a sense of certainty for kids because they know they will get a chance to talk to Mom and Dad about stuff going on in their lives.
If your communication with your teen has broken down or is non-existent, it’s not too late to begin restoring it.
Apologise if you have not respected their privacy. Let them know you would like to know how they are feeling and what they are thinking, but you won’t force them.
Start actively listening when they do talk – not to reply, but to understand. And don’t judge them or freak out at what they tell you.
Find a way to put ritualised communication into your schedule so you can provide opportunity for conversation to happen naturally.
If your child is not yet a teen then start implementing these things now so that when they hit the teen years your communication will continue uninterrupted.
The ultimate goal of communication with your teen is not to get information out of them, but to get to know them. To understand them.
This is magnetic.
you have healthy communication with your teen? What do you do to make it happen?
[i] Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach, Why I Didn’t Rebel, 66
[ii] Ibid., 62