Does your child talk to you? I mean really talk to you, about important topics like boys, girls, alcohol, drugs and the one that starts with S (sex).
When children reach that delicate period known as puberty, it can be a confusing time for both parent and child. Children begin noticing changes in their body, mood swings and not to mention those raging hormones.
For some parents it’s that overwhelming feeling of frustration and helplessness when you try to offer guidance and your child rejects you and disconnects the lines of communication.
Most adolescents are under a lot of pressure, both academically and socially, while also discovering who they are and where they fit into a society that is forever changing. It is possible to be a part of this journey and maintain a strong relationship with your child.
How to get your teen to talk to you? – communication is key.
“Communication is the key to developing positive relationships” –Kath Bunney (student services professional)
How to get your teen to talk to you
1. Listen – Actively listen. Stop what you’re doing and listen. Show them that their thoughts, ideas and feelings matter and their concerns are being heard.
Listening is the best way to find out what your teen knows or needs. Just listen and then say, ‘Would you like advice?’
2. Don’t lecture – when adults yell, exaggerate, get frustrated, roll their eyes, sigh, it turns teens off and they stopped listening. As a result, the relationship suffers.
3. Take a breath before speaking; smile, look friendly and set a positive tone. Keep the conversation happy and upbeat.
Happy conversations are more likely when you’re both in a cheerful mood. The conversation will decline quickly if either one of you is upset. Never demand they tell you their problems or what is bothering them.
Friendliness gets the point across quicker than sarcasm, scolding or a lecture.
4. Distraction – Before you ask too many questions offer them a snack.
Let’s be honest, how many a good conversation is had over food?
5. If you’re hoping to make a point keep the conversation short, simple and to the point.
Timing can play an important role in how the conversation goes. Choose short sentences over paragraphs.
You’re the parent, you know you have life experience; you don’t need to flaunt it and waffle on.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask open-ended questions to encourage them to open up. Allow for their point of view.
Teens are at a stage of their life where they feel they know more than you do. Okay, they might know more about pop culture and technology but it isn’t the whole story.
7. Understand how your child likes to communicate. Driving in the car, cooking dinner, kicking the footy, waking the dog or in a quiet place with no distractions can be a successful way to get little bits of information from your child.
I can remember many a conversation with my mum on the way to school.
8. Look at yourself. How strongly you feel about certain topics such as teens engaging in sex, and using drugs and alcohol may prevent your child opening up to you.
If your child already knows what you’ll say about this topic why would they bother asking?
9. Be consistent and thank them for opening up to you.
“The importance of listening to your child as they are growing up cannot be underestimated. The listening I am talking about is when you give your child the time and opportunity to share their problems.
It is not necessarily about jumping in to give them the solution; it is about giving them the space to verbalise the myriad of issues that the young person has to grapple with as they move from child, to young person to young adult.
What your son or daughter may be looking for is knowing that they have been heard and understood rather than wanting a ready-made solution to their issues”.
-Paul Campbell (school principal, Australia)
The most important parenting skill is effective communication. Parents need to start early – well ahead of the teen years.
Show your child it’s okay to talk about anything. Don’t wait until your child is in school and a teenager before you try to work on the relationship.
And of course, if you are struggling with any challenges, consult a local, trusted professional or two for advice – ideal people to talk to include a teacher, principal, child psychologist, school chaplain or counsellor, but do not leave it until things are really bad. Prevention is better than cure.
Do you have a question, concern or comment? Please drop us a line below or on social media to get the conversation going.
By Cooper Dawson