Do you sometimes find your teens difficult to reach? Teens are often reticent to talk about their day at school or about their lives in general. Your questions may be met with ‘I don’t know’ or monosyllabic answers that make conversation a chore. However, it is essential that you ask questions and remain interested to keep those lines of communication open. There are ways you can encourage sharing and help facilitate conversation.
Listen more than you talk
Your natural instinct is always to offer advice, to comment or to criticize in order to help your teens make the best choices. Their lack of desire to converse may be because they don’t want your advice right now. One of the best ways to encourage communication is simply to listen, without offering any kind of judgment or advice unless these are specifically solicited.
Clear the path
Another good way to encourage communication is by making time for the two of you. Offer to go shopping, watch a movie, have brunch, play a sport or participate in any activity that your teen loves without other family members. Just making time for the two of you will help your teen feel like you are really interested in them and that you are taking an interest in their lives.
Timing is everything
Bombarding your teen with questions after a long school day is probably not going to end well. Teens are tired when they get home and may need some time to recharge before they are ready to talk. If they seem uncommunicative, let them unwind a little at home before you fire away.
Ask the right questions
If general questions like: “How was your day?” render only superficial answers, try asking more specific questions.
You can ask about specific friends and classmates and how they are doing. Ask about teachers, assignments or classes. Show that you really do listen by bringing up previous conversations for example: “I know you were worried about how Mr. Smith would react to your science fair idea. Did he like it?”
If school topics are fraught with tension, talk about other subjects and things that are of interest to your child.
Most teens have a tendency to be self-centered or perhaps they are just a little too touchy or emotional for you. But you must remember that their feelings are very real and valid. Whether you agree with their opinions or reactions, always be respectful. Dismissing their feelings will only serve to alienate them and make them feel like you can’t relate. As with all situations and people, teenagers will respond best to patience, kindness and love.