Every parent has been a tween/teen. It may feel like light years ago, but there was a time when confusion and figuring out life was a big concern. Those concerns did not disappear with time. They simply rolled over to our children. Tack on suicide, school shootings, pregnancy, homelessness, abuse and violence and suddenly we’re having an entirely different conversation.
These events do not just change our children, they also impact we communicate. At one point, our children may have talked nonstop. Then, one day, “teen” became attached to their age. And almost instantly the communication seemed to wane. Say the right thing the wrong way and poof, the conversation comes to a standstill.
Why is it so hard to talk to tweens/ teens? We were once them. How can we not understand? Sometimes it is because our own communication style interferes with our ability to connect with our kids. That is where trying new approaches to communication become key.
Listen for understanding
A conversation includes two things: talking and listening. Not listening simply for an opportunity to speak, but listening with the purpose of processing information and gaining clarity. We tell our kids to listen all the time. When the opportunity for us to do the same comes along, are we?
Consider using silence as an ally
Silence is an opportunity for clarity. Although it can feel awkward, it allows people to process their thoughts or statements. Silence encourages the speaker to keep going. Uninterrupted. While it may seem like the end of a conversation, it is sometimes the beginning of a more in-depth conversation.
Encourage regular dialogues
When we notice something is different about our kids, we want to figure out what is wrong. However, the urge to talk to our kids should not strike at these times alone. By encouraging regular dialogues, our kids will know that we are coming from a place of genuine concern when we start a conversation.
Keep your tween/teen’s personality in mind
I mentioned earlier that communication styles could interfere with our ability to connect with our kids. Keeping our kids’ personalities in mind, and tailoring our approach to conversations, can make a HUGE difference in their responses. Come into a conversation to accusatory and judgmental, and you can kiss the conversation goodbye. Come in with an open mindset, and the want to learn and receive and the conversation flourishes.
Keep the focus on your tween/ teen, not you
Sometimes our kids remind us of decisions we do not want them to repeat. However, conversations should not center on parents’ should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. These conversations are about listening, providing insight when necessary and support.