'Talk To Me First' - Getting Teens To Open Up To You
I’ve been enjoying the fantastic weather and juggling writing with being a Butlin’s Redcoat for my own kids on holiday from school, and it got me thinking about the way I communicate with my kids.
Communication can dry up during adolescence which is why people identify so much with Harry Enfield’s Kevin and Perry characters and that’s why the teenage stage has often been called the “grunt stage” but communication is a two-way process. It’s what we want and think, and what our teenagers want and think. Most of us are great at talking but less good at listening and understanding and we often only half listen to our kids.
Here are some classic ways to switch off your teenager:
Asking too many questions
“Why did you say that?” “What did you say?”
“Do your homework right now and don’t argue”
“You should know better at your age”
“How could you be so stupid?”
“I’m so sorry for you, you poor thing”
Rescuing – doing it for them
“Alright, I’ll do your homework for you so you don’t get into trouble”
Jumping to conclusions
“Late again! I suppose you’ve been up to no good getting back at this hour!”
Threatening and shouting
“If you don’t shape up you’re grounded for a week”
Always knowing best
“I told you that would happen, didn’t I!”
Most of us find ourselves lecturing, ordering and jumping to conclusions or even threatening our teenagers but if we always presume the worst and speak to our kids like this we block communication.
And, effective communication is the oil that lubricates a good family and builds a lasting relationship between teenagers and their parents.
Here are some Positive Parent Tips for good communication:
- Remain silent most of the time!
- Be aware and sensitive to your child’s body language, e.g. whether they look disappointed, worried, angry, excited, pleased etc…..
- Show you are really listening by saying “I see, uh-huh and mmm” occasionally, and looking into their eyes without just staring to maintain good eye contact
- Reflect back the gist of what they have said to you to check you have understood them clearly
- Avoid giving advice or offering suggestions (Tough, I know, but believe me this one REALLY works)
- Show your teenager by the tone of your voice and body language that you really respect and care and are genuinely trying to understand where they are coming from.
It’s worth remembering that most teenagers don’t like face to face chats. So it’s easier if you are doing something else at the time like emptying the dishwasher, driving them to a football practise or peeling the potatoes.
Often they like to talk when you’ve just settled down with a cup of coffee to watch your favourite TV programme or just climbed into bed exhausted or just run a lovely hot bath, but these can be the “Golden Moments” – the deep and meaningful chats – the ones that connect you to your kids and help bridge the gap of empathy.
So, go with the flow and keep remembering the bigger picture to your parenting – bringing up the happy, confident, well-balanced teenager; tomorrow’s adult – tomorrow’s parent.
Learn, laugh and enjoy the adventure!
Sue Atkins is an internationally recognised Parenting Expert, Broadcaster, Speaker and Author of the Amazon best-selling books “Parenting Made Easy – How to Raise Happy Children” & “Raising Happy Children for Dummies" one in the famous black and yellow series as well as author of the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs & MP3s.
Sue offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, resilient children from toddler to teen.
She specialises in supporting families through divorce & has created a series of Divorce Cards to help start the difficult conversations about the changes that families face when they are going through divorce. These simple cards help children and parents explore, express and prepare for the changes and challenges ahead.
She regularly appears on the award winning flagship ITV show “This Morning” and Sky News and is the parenting expert for many BBC Radio Stations throughout the UK including talkRADIO where she does a regular weekly parenting round up of stories in the news on The Eamonn Holmes Drive Time Show. Her parenting articles are published all over the world.
To receive her free eBooks, eCourses, Webinars & weekly podcasts bursting with practical tips and helpful advice from toddler to teen log on to www.theSueAtkins.com and join her Parenting Club today.