Talking with Your Teen: 7 Tips to Make It a Two-Way Communication
“I don’t know what to do anymore. My teen just doesn’t want to talk to me!”
Sounds like your situation?
Before you get too frustrated with the matter, stop and think for a moment. Are you actually upset that your teenager won’t talk to you, or that they won’t listen to you?
Yes, there is a difference.
Talking too much and not listening enough is actually lecturing. And lecturing is one-way communication—it will get you nowhere fast!
Teens don’t respond to it. Why?
It’s mainly because when you lecture, your teenager may feel that you don’t respect them or hear them.
Why not make the effort to have two-way communication? But how?
How to Make Talking with Your Teen a Two-Way Conversation
If you want to nurture a respectful and close relationship between you and your teen, aim for having two-sided discussions that allow you to get to know each other.
Consider some helpful tips:
Tip #1: Remove the communication roadblocks on your end
If you find you’re getting frustrated, angry or disappointed a lot with your teen, then the best first step is to look inside yourself for the reasons.
Sometimes it’s emotional baggage you may have been carrying around for years and now you’re trying to live vicariously through your child or you want them to follow in your footsteps. Whatever it is that influences the way you look at and treat your teen, you have to remove that roadblock to have a chance at straightforward communication with each other.
Tip #2: Focus on listening and learning about them
Instead of looking at your teen as something odd that you simply can’t understand, become curious about them. Be open to learning what they think, what they like, what inspires them, what makes them happy and sad.
Make sure to be around enough to benefit from informal moments to have spontaneous and leisure conversations. Just keep in mind, getting to know your teen is not about you liking or disliking any of their things, it’s about listening and learning.
Tip #3: Ask them open-ended questions
Asking your teen how their day at school was can feel too personal to them and they may not be eager to talk about their feelings right then. However, if you start off with just asking them to tell you about school, it’ll allow them to talk about other people and things. In the end, it may even lead them to talk about their own experiences.
You can use that approach for anything. Just keep the question open-ended and general, and let your teen lead where they want to go.
Tip #4: Make it short and sweet
Of course, when you have something important to say, you need to say it. But if you talk too long, it can become like white noise to your teenager. Consider what you want to say and then thoughtfully extract and express about a half of that or less. Remember, avoid the lectures! Pause and let your teen voice their thoughts. You want them to get the point but not start tuning you out.
Tip #5: Keep criticism at a minimum
Not everything you talk with your teen about will be joyous. Sometimes you have to give them advice or discuss a tough situation. Make sure, though, that you don’t linger on critical talk. Be positive, show appreciation, and compliment them whenever you can. But do it in a genuine and authentic way, not fake.
If there’s a problem to overcome, guide your teen to the solution. Don’t dictate. Let them use their intellectual muscle and reason it out. They may not have the same level of knowledge and experience as you, but they do have logical tools that help them to be sensible, think matters out, and come to the correct conclusion. Give them the dignity to do so.
Tip #6: Don’t be judgmental of their opinion or point of view
Certainly, it’s alright to disapprove of some of your teen’s actions, but don’t judge their core essence as bad. That’s like an attack on their character. It can put them on the defense and make them feel that you just don’t understand them. And that will only create a rift between you and your child. On the other hand, if you show respect for your teenager’s opinion, even if you don’t agree with it, it opens up the doors of communication.
Tip #7: Take time to have fun together
Just because your child has reached adolescence doesn’t mean you have to stop playing and having fun with them. Don’t let your worry about their future allow you to become too serious. Continue connecting, spending time together laughing—even being downright silly at times—and just enjoying each other’s company.
Obviously, there will be days when your teen just doesn’t want to talk. That happens during adolescence. There’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t imagine that you failed the big parenting test. Just stay available, open-minded, and ready to listen. They’ll talk again.