How to Talk to your Teenager
Teens are complex creatures with a lot different things going on inside them. While you feel that, as an adult, you carry all of the stress, you can be assured that teens face a good deal of stress as well. Kids aren't the way that they were when we parents were their age. Times have changed and the kids of today face a lot more pressures and a lot more scary things than their parents did. With that being said, it is easy for a teen to stray from what he or she has been taught and fall in with the wrong crowd or go down the wrong path. However, knowing how to talk to your teen can make all the difference. These five tips will help you open the lines of communication with your teen and keep them on the right path.
1. Learn to Listen
Sounds easy, but sometimes you just need to be quiet and listen. Kids need to be heard just like adults do. They just need to vent, to talk and have someone listen to them – really listen. Ask appropriate questions to show that you are listening, but reserve your opinions and response for another time, such as when they ask for it.
2. Keep an Open Door Policy
Be there for your teen when they need to talk. Ask them to sit in the kitchen with you while you cook dinner. Boys especially tend to open up more readily when they are engage in an activity. So, if you have them sit in the kitchen with you and ask them to chop vegetables or wash dishes with you, you may be rewarded with them opening up to you and revealing a side you did not know.
3. No Taboo Topics
This is probably a tough one, but it is vital if you want to maintain good communication with your teen. Don't have any taboo subjects. If your daughter comes to you with questions about sex or your son comes to you with questions about drugs don't close the door on these vital conversations just because they make you uncomfortable. There is a trick to handling a topic that may be uncomfortable. Draw in a deep breath n through your nose and hold it for a second or two then exhale through your mouth (like you are blowing out a candle). You may have to do this a couple of times, but do it discreetly if your child is standing right there. This will at least relax you a little.
It is OK to be a little nervous about some things, but if you close that door and respond to your child, saying, "We don't talk about those things." You have just closed an important door and sent your child out to the streets to find the answer from someone else who may give incorrect information.
4. Don't Judge
No matter how floored you are by what your child tells you or asks you, try not to judge. Your child is an individual with their own personality. They are not an extension of you. Regardless of what they say, reserve your judgment because if your teen feels that you cut them off and pass judgment on them, they will feel that you don't listen and that will end your communication.
5. Ask Guiding Questions
This is what you do instead of passing judgment. Ask guiding questions. Also known as the Socratic method of questioning, this is a great tool for parents. The philosopher Socrates used this method when he talked with his pupils to show them their flawed reasoning. You don't ever have to tell the child that they are wrong. You simply ask a series of questions and guide them to find the answer for themselves. This way you are not telling them how to act or feel or be, that figure it out for themselves. What they don't readily realize is that you were the guide.
6. Keep it Safe
This is probably the most important tip for communicating with your teen and if you don't go with any of the others, at least stick with this one. Keep your discussions safe, meaning don't go blabbing what your teen tells you to your sister, friend or anyone. If your teen tells you something in confidence and it does not violate a safety issue, then don't betray their trust. If there is a safety issue involved, discuss with your teen what you can do together to remedy the situation. Even more importantly, when you are angry with your teen or having an argument, don't bring up things that they have told you in confidence. That is just dirty and the quickest way to slam the doors between you and your teen.
Volumes could be written on talking with your teen, but these ideas can help give you a great start to better communication with your teenager. The important thing to remember is that they are people too. They are individuals and are trying to become independent. Stand beside them and continue to guide them, but don't be afraid to give them a little room to grow.