We all know how hard it is to talk to teenagers when all you seem to get back is a grunt or a monosyllabic response to the most innocent questions, such as ‘How was school?’.
When everything you say elicits an eye roll, an audible sigh or a good dollop of teenage sass, it makes you wonder if you will ever have a proper conversation again.
However if you don’t talk to your teen enough, then you miss out on what they are doing and more importantly, how they are feeling. You could soon end up feeling disconnected.
We’ve put together some secrets from experienced teen parents on how to talk to teenagers.
Pick your timings well
If both you and your teenager are knackered after a hard day, then it’s not the best time to chat. Even if you’re feeling rested and cheery, if you jump on your teenager the minute they walk through the door, then you’ll probably find it gets shut in your face.
Choosing the right time to talk to teenagers can mean that the conversations are more likely to be positive.
Make the most of drive time
All those times in the car when you’re ferrying your teen around to various activities, can be a great opportunity to strike up a conversation.
Use these times to talk to teenagers and ask any questions you might have about what’s going on with them.
Driving has the added advantage that your teenager is there in the car with you and can’t wander off into their room and close the door in the middle of the conversation.
Meet round the dinner table
As often as you can, gather the whole family round the table for the evening meal.
Just being together and sitting at the table encourages conversation and helps you talk to teenagers.
The dinner table is a great place to discuss all sorts of things, whether it’s something interesting that happened in your day, a news story that made you think, or a TV show you know your teen is watching.
Wait up for them when they go out
Sometimes the best chats of all can happen late at night, when your teenager comes in from a party or a night out.
Stay up, sit quietly in the dark together and see what conversations unfold.
Remove any distractions
If your teenager comes to you to talk, get rid of any distractions so you can really listen.
If you’ve got one eye on your laptop to check work emails and another on The Chase on TV in the background, your child will know you’re not really invested in the conversation and might give up altogether.
Make the most of those times when your teen comes to you and initiates conversation by making sure you drop everything and listen.
Bite your tongue and don’t react
When you talk to teenagers there are bound to be some things that you don’t agree with.
Bite your tongue and try not to react.
If you start judging or disagreeing with their point of view then they’ll soon stop talking to you.
Your child is still shaping his or her views and their views may be valid. So accept disagreements and be prepared to agree to disagree.
Listen as much as you talk
We have one mouth and two ears.
When trying to talk to teenagers, listening is definitely as important as talking.
If your child is in a state then don’t jump in and try to fix things. Sit back and really listen. Don’t offer advice but instead acknowledge their feelings and let them talk.
Mostly teenagers want to be listened to and understood. Just being there to listen is what they need the most.
Ask more interesting questions
Generic questions, such as “did you have a good day at school?” can lead to a one-word answer or a shrug, which can quickly end any chance of conversation.
Instead ask more interesting questions to engage your child.
Ask about the things you know they have been doing recently and the things you know they have been thinking about. A question such as “How did your English talk go?” or “Have you got anything interesting planned this weekend? Is it the Volleyball meet-up?” are much more likely to get a good chat going.
For more inventive and creative ways to strike up conversations with teens and tween alike, see our article 35 genius questions to get your tween talking.
Pick your battles
If you find yourself having the same arguments over and over again with your child then take a step back and try to pick your battles carefully.
For the really big things then you do need to set firm boundaries but for the not so big things ask yourself if it’s worth the fight.
Your teen’s messy room might drive you round the bend but the world won’t end if you just shut the door and ignore the mess.
Choose your battles wisely.
If you mess up, say sorry
Teenagers can press our buttons and brush us up the wrong way when they appear rude or dismissive.
But if you end up losing your rag and shouting at them always say sorry. Don’t let the bad atmosphere of a row linger.
Put things right as soon as you’ve calmed down enough to do so.
Spend more time together
A recent survey revealed that many teens rate not having enough time with their parents as one of their top concerns.
It’s hard to find time together when your teenager’s life is so packed and your own life is busy too.
You can also be so sensitive about not intruding and giving your teenager their own space, that you forget to carve out time together.
Redress the balance and plan in times when you and your teenager can be together each week. It can be anything from a daily walk with the dog, treating yourself to coffee and cake in a late night café one evening, or going to the cinema together.
The more you talk, the closer you feel
The more time and opportunities you create to talk to your child, the closer you feel.
Once you learn ways to really communicate well with your teenager then both of you benefit.
You’ll soon remember the amazing, interesting, passionate and funny person that sometimes hides behind a wall of teenage attitude and eye rolls.