As any parent of a teenager knows, it can be hard to get them to open up. You know they have a lot to say (and you have the phone bill to prove it) but they don’t seem to say anything to you. This pulling away and reticence is normal teenage behavior. In their quest for independence from their parents, teens gradually start limiting what they say and opt instead to spend more time with their friends and peers.
While it can be frustrating to see your child share more be more open with their peers, it’s still crucial to cultivate a healthy and trusting relationship with them. The key to having the relationship you crave is to encourage open communication with your teen. Here are 7 ways to get your teen to talk to you:
1. Talk Less, Listen More.
Give your teen your full attention when they’re talking to you and try not to interrupt. This means avoiding distractions like the TV, phones or your computer and just focusing on what they’re saying. Most of the time, your teen just needs someone to talk or vent to, and they’ll often feel much better afterward. Giving them your undivided attention also shows that you consider them important to listen to.
2. Ask Open-Ended Questions.
If you keep getting one-word responses from your teen, perhaps you’re not asking the right questions. Spark conversations by asking open-ended questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer. For instance, instead of asking, “How was your day at school?” say, “Tell me about your favorite class,” or “What was the funniest/saddest/most inspiring thing that happened today?” Such questions can easily lead to a discussion where your teen won’t feel interrogated or pressured for answers.
3. Validate Without Being Judgmental.
Teenagers can be quite sensitive to perceived criticism or disapproval, so be supportive and empathetic to whatever they’re saying or going through- even if you don’t agree with them. Most importantly, don’t ridicule or be dismissive. Let them know you understand what they are going through and that they can count on your support.
4. Give Genuine Praise.
Your teen cares about what you think and longs for your approval even though they would be loathe to admit it. Expressing praise when they do something you approve will go a long way towards boosting their self-esteem and confidence. Being a positive and encouraging parent will help your relationship grow as opposed to being overly critical.
5. Don’t Overreact.
Controlling your emotions is key to enhancing communication with your child. Getting upset, yelling and being dramatic only shows that you can’t handle what your teen is telling you. Remember that this is not about you. While your teen is allowed to overreact, thanks to their hormones and still developing brains, you are not. So keep calm and carry on.
6. Include Them In Decision-Making.
Teens think they know everything so why not put those opinions to good use? Ask their opinion about major decisions and gradually start increasing their responsibilities around the home (i.e. setting up their own financial accounts, driving classes etc.). This demonstrates your trust in them. It is also a good idea to involve your teenage son or daughter when setting rules and consequences. Although the final decision is yours, involving them increases their chance of cooperating with the laid out rules.
7. Spend Time Together.
There’s more to communicating than just talking with each other. Set aside time each week to spend with your teen doing something that both of you enjoy, such as camping, hiking, dancing, or going to the movies. Additionally, you should make a habit of sitting down to a meal regularly as a family. Hanging out together helps you bond and gives you time to get to know each other. Your teen will also learn to relax and enjoy your company without worrying about being questioned or lectured all the time.
The teenage years are a trying time for you and your teen, but it doesn’t have to be. By learning how to best communicate with each other, you can forge a healthy, meaningful relationship that brings you together as a family.
Tyler Jacobson – Father of three and avid outdoor enthusiast – has been juggling life with kids for around 18 years. He’s learned a thing or two about parenting and has turned from a full time career in digital media to helping fellow parents of teenagers. He pulls from his own life experiences raising spunky, free-spirited children, as well as his work with various organizations that help teens be their best selves. During his free time, Tyler enjoys taking his family into the mountains to connect with a simpler side of life which he finds grounding and rejuvenating.