Teens are notoriously secretive. But, your actions will encourage or minimize their secretiveness. It’s true. You can take certain actions that will encourage your teen to talk with you. In fact, put these five actions into practice to increase your teen desire to talk with you.
- Listen. Perhaps the greatest gift you can give your teen (or anyone for that matter) is the gift of truly listening. Listen with your ears to hear the words. Listen with your eyes to hear the body language. Listen with your heart to hear the emotions that lay beneath the surface. Listen intently to understand. Listen with the goal of understanding to the point of emotional connection. Don’t worry about an answer. Just LISTEN.
- Ask more than tell. Part of listening well is asking questions. Ask questions to assure you understand what your teen means to say. Then, ask questions that can prompt your teen to think about situations and circumstances in new ways. Ask questions to determine what they already know; and, ask questions to help them delve more deeply into areas in which they are gaining knowledge and experience. They will learn more if given the opportunity to think and process than from a lecture or explanation.
- Give them space to grow. Your teen is becoming an individual with his own personality, desires, goals, and values. He needs space to go through this stage successfully. He needs opportunity for self-reflection and exploration. He needs the freedom to talk with other people—peers and other trusted adults. Give him the space and freedom to do so. And create an environment where your teen has the opportunity to talk with you, where talking to you comes naturally. For instance, create a calm and enjoyable family dinner time, create opportunities for family activities, and create times in which you are together in nonthreatening situations such as driving to and from practices. In these nonthreatening environments, your teen has the opportunity to talk. When he does, refer to bullets number one and two.
- Accept disagreement. Your teen is developing her own mind, her own personality, her own perspective. Allow her to disagree with you on certain topics. In the long run, she can disagree on how to take out the garbage or comb her hair. She can even disagree with you in her political views. She can have different interests and perspectives. After all, you have spent years encouraging her to become “her own person,” encourage her to do so now by leaving room for disagreement.
- Stay open and accept moments of silence. Teens naturally go through periods of silence with their parents. Accept it; BUT, stay open for moments when they choose to talk. If they know you are available they will choose to talk with you…and they often want to at what we perceive as the most inopportune moments. They need to know you value them above whatever else may be important to you. So, when they choose to talk with you, enjoy the moment. Put down the paper. Turn down the TV. Pause the game. They are more important. Give them your full attention and listen.
Practicing these five tips will encourage more conversation between your teen and you. You will enjoy the opportunity of a growing relationship with your teen!