How to communicate with your teenager
As their offspring move from childhood to their teenager years, many parents are left perplexed at how to talk to them. How did their chatty ten year old become this monosyllabic teenager who communicates with grunts and eye-rolls? And how can a mere parent keep up with what's going on in their lives?
The key to communicating with teenagers is establishing patterns early. "Ask about their days," says childhood behaviour consultant Nathalie Brown from Easy Peasy Kids. "Be passionate about what they're passionate about, not what you're passionate about. Be interested in what they're interested in - not what you wish they were interested in."
And while it's tempting to go in hard with the big questions, Brown suggests a more relaxed approach. "Start the conversation around nothing in particular maybe a newspaper headline or something you've seen on television. Nothing too deep."
Once a conversation is established, there are two key things to remember: one is to listen, and the other is not to rush it.
"If they say 'I hate school', don't just say 'that's stupid'," says Brown. "They're telling you that they're not enjoying school. So a parent's next line could be, 'Sorry you're not enjoying it, is there anything I can do? Do you want to talk about it now?'."
"When they start to talk, allow 15 minutes of time," says Brown. "It's hit and miss as to whether they'll open up, so be ready for it. Be late for something else, if you need to - if you say, 'Let's talk about this later', you might not get that moment back."
Other tips for talking to teens include:
- Know their friends - mention them by name. It shows interest and that you're listening to what they're saying.
- Teens will often like you to reminisce about your past, but many parents are uncomfortable with it. They don't have to know everything, but give them 60-70 percent. Tell them about that first love who broke your heart.
- Exams and homework are important, but not the be-all and end-all. Not everyone can get an A grade.
- Every four to six weeks, do something together - one parent, one child.
- Have as many dinners together as you can. No TV. Put some music on and talk.
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This article was written by Allison Tait for Kidspot, Allison is the co-author of Career Mums: a guide to returning to work post-kids (Penguin).