You almost need a master’s degree to communicate effectively with teenagers and a doctorate to do it coolly and calmly. It’s getting even harder now that social media has revolutionised the way teens talk to each other.
Before we share some advice from experts about how to nurture positive relationships and stay connected, here’s a few funnies that parents of teens shared with us when we asked how they interacted with their offspring;
- Road trips: We have boys and if boys don’t have to make eye contact they will talk more freely. During one-on-one trips we learn a lot about what is happening to them.
- Try not to take the “you’re dumb as s*&t” tone of voice personally, it’s involuntary on their part.
- Lots of wine is needed.
- I have been known to message them or Skype or SMS to gain their attention, it appeals to their sense of ridiculous and they usually come to me to make sure I know how uncool I am.
But let’s get serious, because for many parents it’s impossible to have a civilised and informative conversation with their teenagers as they grow in independence.
However, children still value and need a strong relationship with you to feel safe and secure as they forge their way into the often-troublesome teenage years.
While they might spend more time away from home there are other ways to communicate.
Casual connecting is way to use everyday interactions to build closeness and positive relationships and the best chances to get this is when your child starts a conversation with you. These can happen when you’re in the car, preparing dinner or at the shops together.
5 tips on how to connect and stay cool
1. Stop, collaborate and listen
Give your child your full attention by stopping what you’re doing even just for a few seconds. This will send the message that your child is the most important thing to you in that moment.
2. Eyes on the prize
When you’re listening to your child make sure you are actually looking at them too, this lets them know what they are saying is interesting to you and that you care.
3. Keep your opinions to yourself
Try hard not to judge or give advice unless you’re asked for it, just be there to listen without correcting or trying to solve their problems. The aim of casual connecting is to just be with your child, not lecture them.
4. Make yourself available
If possible make sure you’re available when they’re at home, even if they’re holed up in their room they will feel comfortable knowing your just a few feet away in the kitchen or backyard.
5. Don’t force the issue
Avoid forcing a conversation because this could end in conflict and no one wants to be pushed into talking if they’re not in the mood, especially teens. Nagging them is also best avoided because after awhile your voice will become white noise.
If it gets to the stage where you haven’t had a proper chat in a few days then maybe plan some time together.
Sure teens might find it embarrassing to hang out with you but make sure you insist on it and let them choose an activity.
You don’t have to spend all day together, even a meal out or snack at a cafe after school or a trip to the movies or bowling alley.
Just keep in mind that your time together should be enjoyable and fun without any lectures or criticisms.
There’ll be times when it’s a very one-sided relationship but don’t give up because no one likes to feel as though they’re being ignored or avoided.
Also keep up the physical affection such as a random hug or pat on the back, and don’t forget to knock before entering their room!