Friday, July 7, 2017

How To Talk To Teens (It CAN Be Done!)

I think communication is essential especially when it comes to your tweens and teens. It's ever so important to keep those lines of communication open.  I want to know what's going on in my kids' lives.  I want them to feel comfortable coming to me with their problems, joys, concerns, and questions.  But, let's face it, parents and teens/tweens are not always on the same page.  Sometimes we're not even in the same galaxy when it comes to communicating.  So, I've comprised a list of 10 things you can do to improve communication between you and your teens.

1.  Don't ask them stupid questions.  According to my kids, this includes asking them, "How was school?" the minute they walk in the door.  I know we've been programmed to do this (much like preparing a variety of vegetables even though we know darn well our kids are never going to eat Brussels Sprouts.)  It's in the parenting manual so we do it, but it's pointless and we'll never get an answer beyond, "okay", "boring", or just a plain ole grunt. Ask open-ended questions to get them talking more in depth.

2.  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  A few weeks ago, I got a text from my daughter asking me if she could go to her friend's house.  Not unusual, right?  However, my daughter was sitting 5 feet away from me when she texted her request.  You could burst into a speech about how you didn't even have cell phones when you were a teen.  Only important people like the president had a mobile phone and it was the size of a microwave oven.  And maybe doctors had pagers and when their pager buzzed, they had to find a PAY PHONE to return a call.  But I've tried this technique and it's surprisingly ineffective.  I was met with blank stares from my teens who are now certain I grew up when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Instead, text your daughter back with something like "LOL!  That's pretty funny.  Now go clean your room." In fact, here's a handy guide to important texting lingo.
DYH - Do your homework
SBYS - Stop bugging your sister
CYR - Clean your room
GHN! - Get home now
GHNOEYGUTSC! - Get home now or else you're grounded until the second coming!
It's okay to communicate via text with your teens/tweens, but save the texting for the unimportant stuff. When it really matters, talk in person.

3.  Don't minimize what your teen/tween is talking about.  If you make light of a situation that is genuinely stressing your teen, you're not showing consideration and your teen is not likely to come to you with future problems.  So when your tween is completely distraught because both she and her best friend wore the same shirt to school ON THE SAME DAY, avoid telling her that she's being ridiculous.  Instead, listen with compassion (and maybe return those cute matching outfits you just got for her and her sister.)

4.  Don't try to act all cool and use your kids' lingo. Your kids don't think you're cool. There's nothing you can do to change this. They will never think you're cool. Accept it. Speak to them like you're their parent, not like the kid who sits next to them in geometry. 

5.  If you want them to actually listen to you, tell them that you heard it from a YouTuber. For example, let's say you want your teen to clean his room before Hazmat has to come in and quarantine your domain. Just tell him, "Olan Rogers just did a story about the importance of cleaning your rooms. It was hil-ar-i-ous!" When they doubt your sincerity, and they will, just make up something like, "Yeah, bummer you missed it. He had to take the video down because all of the traffic and comments. He couldn't keep up with it. All these teens writing to thank him for inspiring them to clean their rooms before families of ocelots started hibernating under their rancid gym shorts, and parents thanking him because after their kids cleaned their rooms, they acquired an entire restaurant's worth of dishes, cups, and utensils they thought had been lost. Seriously, kids love YouTube stars.

6.  Use humor. I'm not saying to act like a stand-up and tell a bunch of jokes that your teen will undoubtedly think are lame. But use humor as an ice breaker to get your teen to relax and open up. This is especially effective if it's self-deprecating humor. Admitting to something stupid you did as a teen, and being open with your shortcomings makes you more relatable and approachable.  

7.  Don't be a know-it-all. Much like in #6, admitting to shortcomings is a good way to open doors of communication. Remember that, despite the fact that you have years of experience and wisdom on your teens, you don't know everything. I mean, really, who fixed your computer, set up your TV, and showed you how to use Snapchat? Yeah. Teens aren't stupid, and shouldn't be looked down upon and treated as such. (Although you do have permission to laugh when one of them does something worthy of AFV.)

8. Stop talking. Remember, talking is only a small part of communicating. You also have to listen. If you need to put duct tape over your mouth, do it. Take time to listen. And then take some more time to think about your answer. Put yourself in your teen's shoes for a moment and remember how much it sucked to be a teenager (acne, math homework, your crush who likes someone else, curfews, demanding teachers, clueless parents.) Then you can respond. And don't talk too much. Think Twitter - put your answer in 140 characters or less. Or well, maybe not quite 140 characters, but brevity is your friend. Or your kids will tune out.


9.  Make sure there are no distractions when you need to have a serious talk. Speaking with your teen about sex, drugs, and peer pressure doesn't work as well when you're fielding phone calls, your teen is texting, or their younger siblings are running in and out of the room wearing Batman costumes, fighting with lightsabers, and arguing about Legos. Trust me on this one. If you need to have a serious talk, bring your teen along on an errand. When you're in the car, you have a captive audience. Mwaaa haaa haaa.

10.  Talk early, talk often! Don't wait until your kids are teens to start having conversations. Talk to your kids! Have light conversations regularly. If your kids are used to talking to you about the mundane stuff that goes on every day, it'll be much easier to bring up the more serious topics later. So, all those hours you've feigned interest in those endless Minecraft and Pokemon stories - they had a purpose after all! If your kids know you're interested in Creepers, Endermen, and Bulbasaurs, they'll know they can come to you with more important subjects.

If you have a hard time thinking of things to talk about, you're in luck. Click THIS LINK to be entered in a drawing for Family Table Topics. When I was at BlogHer last month, I received Table Topics and thought I'd pass it along to a reader. 

See why Table Topics is the recipient of Creative Child Magazine's 2012 Preferred Choice Award. This set contains 135 conversation-starting questions for the whole family. 

Click here to enter for your chance to win! A winner will be randomly generated on Thursday, July 13! Good luck!

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Janie said...

Dawn you are awesome as always but in #7 you mention #7.
I do love table topics. I have something similar to it my sister got us years ago.

Dawn said...

Thanks! I switched around some points and deleted a couple and forgot to change the number there!

Anonymous said...

What is AFV?

D Baker said...

Love this! My son is now 19 and works 4pm-12am, I work 730-4pm. I only see my son on weekends/holidays (this will soon change when he goes to college then I may never see him). For the past year or so we have been going out to lunch at least once a month. We choose a time when the restaurants are not so busy. Eating out has always been a cell free zone. We are there to talk and spend time as a family and not play on phones. It is our time to catch up with each other and find out what is going on. My one requirement for when my son goes to college is a weekly text "hi mom, i'm still alive" Of course he can call anytime and ask anything but he is required to text one simple phrase weekly.

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