How to Talk to Your Teen (Listen!)
Without exception, every teenager we’ve talked to in the course of interviewing for Teens Talk Truth, says they want a better and more open relationship with their parents. Some of the teens have forged this connection with their parents after a cataclysmic event and others hunger for it deeply. If you haven’t laid a foundation of open communication with your child from a young age, it’s never too late to start. Across the board, the following is what teens have told us they want from their parents:
- Non-judgement-listening without condemning
- Questions-asked in a caring way (no interrogation).
- Calm demeanor-regardless of your inward shock
Keep in mind most of the intimate talks with your children will take place during an activity; in the car, while cooking, fishing, shopping, walking, hiking, vacationing and even at bedtime. Here are some ways to respond when your child begins to discuss something with you:
- “That sounds important to you.”
- “Can you tell me a little more about it?”
- “If you’d like to talk about it, I promise just to listen and withhold advice.”
Avoid lecturing, punishing or shaming your child when they have the courage to open up to you. The following are some “dos” and “don’ts”:
- Do keep your cool when your child tells you something difficult to hear
- Don’t give them consequences or punishment while they’re confiding in you.
- Do give them consequences later if they’ve broken rules or trust.
- Don’t tell them how to feel (“don’t be upset, don’t get mad, don’t cry”).
- Don’t answer the phone when your child is talking to you.
- Do treat your child’s feelings and thoughts with deep respect.
- Do make your values and family rules clear in a loving manner.
- Don’t say, “Do as I say, not as I do”, parents are their biggest role models.
- Don’t worry about being perfect, it’s impossible!