We know that communication is key. We know that we need to have meaningful conversations with our teens. We also know that the one-sided conversations in which WE do all the talking is not ideal. So… what can we do to get stubborn, tight-lipped teens to open up?
Here are a few suggestions to overcome this common teen communication struggle.
- Ask questions about things that THEY care about. We have so many important things to talk about that we sometimes forget to ask them about the topics that are important to them. If the dialogue is going, you can usually get in a few questions about other things you want to know, but be careful not make the conversation about your own agenda.
- Be less threatening by having conversations while you are not looking directly at them, like on a road trip or when you are making dinner. Eye contact can be extremely difficult, especially when talking about heavy topics. By eliminating this, they will usually feel less like they are being “grilled for information.”
- Take them out to do something, like out for dinner, out for a walk, or off to the batting cages. It’s much more difficult to be silent in these settings. Let them talk, and be careful not to do all the talking because that sounds a lot like a lecture to our teens.
- Offer to give your teen and his friends rides. When their friends get in the car, it’s as if we become invisible drivers up front. They seem to forget that we can still hear, and even though they are not talking to us, we can still get a good feel for what is happening in their worlds.
- Watch your reactions! Our teens make themselves vulnerable when they talk to us, and they are watching closely to see how we react to what they say. Be careful not to seem shocked, angry, or disappointed in what they are saying. This is not to say you can’t feel those things and talk more about them later, but if you immediately give a negative reaction, it will likely close them off to you completely.
- Laugh and have fun together. Do something new or unexpected. When our kids see us as someone they can have fun with, they are more likely to see us as someone they can talk to. It’s the best part of nurturing a strong relationship with our teens!