GET TEENS TALKING: Communicating With Your Teenager: Part 2
As I mentioned in the previous post, communication between parents and teens can be difficult. Parties on both sides of the conversation find the dialogue to be stressful, ineffective and unproductive. Following are some ideas about how to open up the conversations between you and your teenager.
LISTEN VS FIX
Parents are primed for problem solving, fixing, organizing, orchestrating, managing and more. You’ve been doing it since your children were born. Now that they are teenagers, it is important to step back and allow their brains and psyches the space they need to develop into adults. You will consciously need to remind yourself to ease up on guiding and problem solving for them. It’s practically in your DNA to jump in and give your teens ideas on what they should do about the issues they are dealing with. After all, you’ve been there; why reinvent the wheel? You can save them time and energy if they just listen to you and do what you suggest….
Notice something? You wanted to hear from them, know what is on their mind, find out what they are thinking and planning but suddenly, you are talking and they are listening (hopefully but doubtful) to you!
Teens need to know they can mention a problem without having to talk about it. Here is one area where you begin to build communication trust. Try this:
They mention something, you artfully restrain your “fix it “ self and respond with, “Wow. Is this something you wanted to talk about or were you just letting me know?” or “Is this something you want help with?”
Initially, most teens will say, “Just letting you know”. Your response can be something like, “Okay, thanks for letting me know”.
It can be a test of sorts – they are mentioning an issue to gauge your initial reactions to it before they go into a discussion about it or ask for help. In addition, they are saying it out loud to see how it sounds, both to you but also to themselves. They may not know exactly how they feel about the issue, so in their minds, it doesn’t make sense for them to discuss it just yet. (they usually have to be ready to defend their position with adults, so they want to be sure first).
Adolescents, as we know, are riddled with self doubt, especially when trying to imagine themselves in an adult world. They think they are supposed to know the answers and are often too embarrassed to ask. As much as they hunger for information, it is difficult for them to admit that you, the parents, are helpful. In their black and white world, it must mean “you win” and “they lose”. If you initiate conversation or offer unsolicited advice, they often feel they can’t agree with it. In this process of trying to find a place for themselves in the world, they feel compelled to rebel against you and what you have to offer. Until, of course, the next moment when they don’t; when they seem to embrace and need and want from you. It can be very confusing and is certainly no exact science. Listening and not fixing can help. Give it a try!