Top 10 Talking to Teenagers Tips
One of the most difficult times for any parent is when their child turns into a teenager. For a parent this is likely to be the most painful part of the growing up process aside from the big day when a child leaves home. Children who were previously happy, cheerful and willing to share their world with you suddenly start to exclude you from their life and can cut down dramatically on communication.
It is very easy to take this personally. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I certainly have experience of the situation! There are a number of actions I have taken that have helped a great deal.
These are my top ten tips for talking to teenagers.
1. Accept that life has changed
Accept there will be times when your child becomes withdrawn and doesn't want to communicate. This is only a problem if it is happening on a very regular basis. Teenagers are just like the rest of us. They have bad days and are not always in the best of moods.
2. Keep including your teen in the family
A teenager may turn their back on all the things you have ever done together or as a family. Try not to make a big deal of this. If you are going out as a family always let them know that you would like them to come without nagging at them. When they do go along, always tell them afterwards that you really enjoyed their company.
3. Find new activities to do together
Teenagers see themselves as adults, so it is not surprising they have grown out of some of the activities you used to enjoy together or would rather do them with friends. If you search hard enough there are still activities that can help maintain the bonds you have. For me this has included going to gigs and playing tennis.
As you can see from the activities I have mentioned they can be done in a group, but you are likely to derive maximum benefit if it is just you and your teen. Getting out the house and spending time together not only helps maintain the bond, but also gives your teenager a better chance to talk about their world then if the rest of the family is around.
4. Look out for how you talk
Try to ask questions that need more than a one word answer. "What did you enjoy doing there?" is more likely to start a conversation than simply asking if they had a good time.
5. Be a good listener
Usually when anybody wants to talk they just want to get something off their chest or air their views. Unless your teenager is clearly asking for advice don't jump in giving them the benefit of your knowledge and experience. Being able to work problems out for themselves helps boost their self esteem. Everyone needs a guiding hand from time to time, but nobody wants unsolicited advice that suggests they have everything wrong.
6. A little praise goes a long, long way
There is a lot going on in any teenager's head at anyone time. It is a big help if you can remain positive and upbeat. Even if it doesn't seem like it they still value you your support. Putting them down or deriding their ideas will only lead to trouble. Teenagers are likely to be very uncertain if they are trying out a new look or expressing their views. Criticism is likely to damage their possibly already fragile confidence and help to turn them against you. Even if they do not appear to they still value your opinion and they are likely to be very sensitive to your criticisms.
7. Learn to negotiate
If your teenager is not at least a little bit rebellious then there could be something wrong with them or you really are the perfect parent! For the rest of us we need to avoid laying down the law. This is likely to lead to confrontation and your wishes are likely to be ignored. Discuss situations that are troubling you and explain your feelings as calmly as you can.
8. No nagging!
The occasional argument is unavoidable. Therefore to keep your relationship as strong as possible, try not to let the little things get to you. Constant nagging will undermine any relationship very quickly. Biting your tongue too much can be painful, but it is a worthwhile price to pay to avoid silly arguments.
9. Accept times when the door is shut
There will be times when it is simply not good to talk. If your child is about to go out or is simply spending some down time alone in their room it is not a good time to try and strike up an important conversation. Watch and wait for a time when your teen seems ready to talk.
Always be available to talk when your child wants to. It may be that they have had to make a big effort to start a conversation. Be there for them when they do try to talk to you. Turning them away makes them less likely to come back again.
10. Show a little faith
At this time they also need a bit of rope, but not enough to hang themselves. Give them a bit of extra leeway with life. This helps to show them that you trust them and helps to boost their self esteem. They will appreciate this and as long as you don't take this to extremes it will help them view you in a positive light.
There are times when you worry as a parent. If your child shows signs of becoming truly withdrawn then there is likely to be a more serious problem lurking in the shadows. The first place I would go for help would be my child's school. I would try and find out if there are problems at school and try to gain an understanding as to what may be behind the difficulties.
If having talked to your child's school you are still unable to get to the bottom of the problem I would consider talking to organisations offering telephone support lines such as Parent Line Plus.