Getting Your Teen to Talk Openly with You. Yeah, Right!

Your child’s teen years bring on some of life’s biggest challenges — for them and for you as parents. During this transition to adulthood, so much is going on mentally, physically, academically and socially, it can be very difficult to stay in touch with what’s happening in your child’s daily life and monitor their emotional wellness. Communication is vital, but what can you do to get your teen to talk openly with you?

Clearly, every child is unique. What works for one family is not going to work for all. But there are a few general guidelines you can follow to foster better communication.

Go from lecturer…to listener. By the time they’re teenagers, our kids have endured a lifetime of us telling them what to do…and how to do it. (Insert the sarcastic remarks and eye-rolling here.)  Now that they’re “practically” grown-ups — and grappling for independence — we need to change our approach. Try talking with them as you do with other adults. Respecting their opinions, even when you don’t agree is also important.

With every opportunity listen, observe and watch. A perfect time to do this is when you take their friends places, including carpooling to school.  It’s ok for them to say, “I do not want to talk about to you about it.”  Simply try other settings to open conversations, such as when shopping for school supplies, snacks and lunch items. Here are a few questions to use;

What do other kids eat for lunch at school?

Do your friends like these?

Then you can start to get a little more detail with; Who do you sit with at lunch?

It’s best to ask open-ended questions to fuel conversation, and, most importantly, focus on less talking and more listening. Wait for them to ask for advice before giving it.

Try not to judge. Teens are going to have some tough or sensitive questions — about sex, bullying, drug and alcohol use, body image, etc. Ensure them that no topic is off limits. Remind them they can speak with you about anything, without worrying about being judged or feeling embarrassed. Let them know, in no uncertain terms, that you love them and you are always there for them.

Be honest with your own feelings. Honesty is a two-way street. Your teenager will be more likely to be open and candid with you if you are forthcoming with you own feelings and emotions. If you feel strongly about certain issues, share those thoughts with your children so they know where you stand. Discuss your own personal failures, and admit your mistakes. This reinforces the notion that nobody is perfect and we can all learn from our miscues.

Promote open communication early in life. It will be much easier to achieve an open and mutually understanding relationship with your child if you introduce these principles early in life. Once the teen years arrive, life can quickly become out of balance — for teens and parents.

Get another person or a professional to open communication. Perhaps your child is more likely to open up while talking to a trusted family friend or even a professional therapist. The therapists at S.A.G.E. Therapy all have children of their own, as well as special training to help kids needing emotional assistance. Contact Us if you want to talk more about Child Therapy.