Five Tips to Get Teens TalkingParents
Get Teens Talking
As children become more independent in the tween and teen years, it’s common for them to share less about what’s going on in their lives. They are probably less likely to come home from school eager to tell you about the fun things that took place. In some cases, it may seem like they’ve clammed up altogether. Don’t take it personally. It’s a natural part of adolescent development for teens to begin pushing away from parents. But there are ways you can get even the most reluctant teens talking. Here are 5 tips to try.
1) Create a Welcoming Environment
Your children have just come home from a full day of school and you likely have lots of questions. Was there a pop quiz in science? What happened during gym class? How did the school fundraiser go? You’ve been away from each other for a good part of the day and there’s so much you want to know! Instead of hounding them the minute they get home, just greet them. Tell them it’s nice to see them. Let them put their books down and get settled. Kids may find it frustrating to be given the third degree as they walk through the door. Keep the conversation light and find ways to create a welcoming environment. One simple strategy? Prep some food before you get talking. Just like adults, hungry teens can become irritated if they haven’t eaten. A conversation is more likely to stay on track when you make sure they have a healthy snack first.
2) Listen Closely
It may seem simple, but one of the easiest ways to get others talking is to not talk. Your choice to say little let’s teens know you’re paying attention and value what they have to say. Put away distractions like phones and laptops and really focus on their words. Use simple words of encouragement like “Tell me more,” or “That sounds interesting. Go on.” Be a sounding board so they can bounce ideas off you.
3) Stay Calm
We all get the urge to jump in with advice during conversations. Especially when something concerning is shared. Keeping calm impacts how your children will react. Let them have their say. After hearing them out, ask if they want your insight. Try, “I have some thoughts. Want to hear them?” If you automatically interrupt with opinions and advice, teens hear the message that you think they are not capable of solving the problem themselves.
4) Avoid Eye Contact
For many teens (boys especially) talking face-to-face can be uncomfortable. If you’re having trouble getting your teen to talk, think about ways you can start conversations that don’t involve direct eye contact. How about the car? If your teen sits in the backseat, you’ll have a chance at an occasional glance in the rear-view mirror. If they sit next to you, it’s easy to keep eyes forward on the road. Both scenarios may make it easier for them to open up. (That said, if talking in the car distracts your own driving, consider another option!) How about talking in the dark? Head into their room before they go to bed or suggest you do some stargazing before lights out. Darkness may make it easier for them to tell you what’s going on. Or turn on the switch and try bright light. Get outside and take a walk. Look around at the scenery as you talk.
Getting Teens to Talk
It’s common during adolescence for teens to communicate less about what’s going on in their lives. Click through to learn effective strategies for getting conversations started and keeping them ongoing.
Sometimes it’s better just to listen. Be a sounding board -- letting your teen bounce ideas off of you. Your teen will open up and share more when you listen respectfully.
Unless safety is at risk, value your teen’s feelings and point of view. Reserve judgment and give your teen the benefit of the doubt. Ask if you can share your thoughts and opinions before doing so.
Consider the Environment
Determine the places that make your teen feel most comfortable. This may mean talking in the car, in the dark when you’re saying goodnight, or during a shared walk.
Being a parent is a 24-hour-a-day job. Teens won’t always want to talk when it’s convenient for you. Make it clear that you are always there if and when they are ready to talk. And when they come to you, be sure they know they have your full attention.
5) Do a Technology Check
Some parents are concerned that their teens aren’t talking because they are spending so much time on technology. Monitoring time spent on devices and establishing limits may be warranted. And don’t forget to monitor your own device usage. Teens notice if you’re constantly distracted by devices and not practicing what you preach. Consider eating meals together — technology free. The table is a great place to talk and family dinners can make a difference in the health and well-being of young people.
Get Started Today
You don’t have to wait until the teen years to try these tips! Implementing these strategies early will encourage open communication. While we hope our children will be comfortable sharing many aspects of their lives with us, remember that all adolescents want and need some privacy. That’s a normal part of growing up, not a rejection of you. Remain present and let them know your door is always open if and when they need to talk.