Talking to your teenager has been especially difficult as of late for you. When they get home from school, they don’t engage in conversation about their day. They only seem to offer one or two-word answers when asked direct questions. They’re beginning to bend the rules to see how far they can go. At times, they’re even outright defiant. You may ask yourself “how do I talk to my teen?” and “what am I even supposed to talk to my teen about?”
Talking to teenagers can sometimes be a daunting task, but you can do it by following this advice:
- Listen more, talk less
- Be observant
- Avoid dictating the conversation
- Trust in your teen and they may trust in you in return
- Understand and validate how your teen feels
In this article, we’ll explain how to have an open and honest line of communication with your teenager. We’ll have a list of tips for talking to your teen, which may prove helpful to you. We’ve also listed important topics you need to discuss with your teen. Some of the conversations may be hard or awkward, but they are necessary. If you feel like your teen puts a wall up that you can’t seem to break through, then read on.
Five Tips for Talking to Your Teenager
Maintaining a trusting and healthy parent-child relationship with you teenager is very important. Staying close isn’t always the easiest thing to do, though. Teens can be seen as ungrateful when pushing back on perceived parental interference. They might be an open book to their friends but close off when you ask them something as simple as how their day went. A basic request in your eyes can be seen as an outrage and a personal attack in theirs.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, take a deep breath. Think of the teenage years as a repeat of the so-called “terrible twos”. These life stages have a lot in common. Teens are pushing boundaries as well as your buttons. They’re throwing tantrums when they don’t get their way. Sometimes they act as if they’re the center of the whole universe. This will pass in time. Your role as a parent may change slightly, but it’s still just as important.
Check out these five important tips to help you when talking to your teen.
Asking your teenager directly about their life may not be the most effective way to get answers. If you’re curious about what your teen is going through, sit back and listen. The absence of pressure to share may make them more comfortable opening up. Something as simple as an offhand comment about the day’s events can be their way of reaching out. You’ll likely hear more by keeping yourself open and interested without prying.
- Be Observant
It’s normal for teenagers to go through various changes as they mature. Pay close attention if you notice changes to your teen’s appetite, behavior, mood, or energy levels. Make a mental note if they stop wanting to do things they used to enjoy, or if they begin to withdraw. If you’re seeing changes in your teen’s ability to function throughout the day, then ask them about it. They might need your help and don’t know how to broach the topic.
- Don’t Play the Part of Dictator
As a parent, you are the one to set the rules and standards in your household. Be sure you’re ready to explain them to your teenager. Pushing boundaries comes naturally for teens. They’re going to want to stay out late at parties on school nights. By explaining the rules in a thoughtful manner, they will seem a lot more reasonable to your teen. You may even find in the rarest of cases, they’ll end up agreeing with you.
- Show Your Trust
Teenagers want nothing more than to be taken seriously by their parents. Look for small ways you can let your teen know you have trust in them. Asking for a favor will prove you can rely on them for help. Volunteering privileges shows your teen you believe they can handle it. Make a point to let your teen know you have faith in them. It’ll be a nice confidence boost and they’ll be more likely to rise to the occasion when needed.
- Validate Your Teen’s Feelings
Imagine your teenager just went through their first taste of heartbreak. You want to console them as much as you can. However, saying something along the lines of “they weren’t good for you anyway” can come across as dismissive. Don’t simply downplay the disappointments your teen goes through. Show your teen you understand and empathize with them. Try to relate their situation to a moment in your own life and validate how they feel.
How to Talk to Your Teenager in a Meaningful Way
Many parents feel like their teenagers are a closed book. The book is locked with a padlock, surrounded by pitfalls with poison spikes, and guarded by a pack of rabid dogs. It sometimes seems impossible to get them to chat about even the most mundane parts of their lives. As a parent, it can be frustrating to feel so shut out from your teen’s life. They just won’t talk to you, which in turn can make it difficult to talk to them.
Understanding your teen and their struggles is an important way to protect them. When your teen refuses to open up even a little bit though, protecting them becomes much harder. Don’t resort to snooping through their belongings or spying on them. Your teen will find out one way or another, and this will only serve to strain the relationship further.
If you want to be able to talk to your teen in a meaningful way, then keep the lines of communication going. Maintaining a strong relationship with your teen is easier that trying to start one you didn’t have before. Show an interest in their life early on. Encourage them to tell you about both big things and little things alike. At times, they may try and pull away. Stay the course and keep at it. Don’t become a helicopter parent, but don’t be absent, either.
Find some common ground with your teen. For instance, look for things both of you are interested in. You’ll find it’s easier to start a conversation about something you have in common. This way, you can ask your teen about a band’s new record or a hit movie instead of the same old “how was your day?” Making small talk will help you to break through their guard and get them comfortable. Then you can start to get into different aspects of their day or life.
Keep an open mind when you talk to your teen. Once you get them started, don’t be too shocked if they say some things you don’t like or agree with. Try not to be judgmental and instead be open to what they’re telling you. When they’re done, explain to them why you don’t approve of something in a way that doesn’t attack them. Your teen is more likely to come to you with problems if they’re comfortable talking to you.
Make an effort to spend more time with your teen as well. Sometimes kids feel their parents are too busy doing other things to have time for them. Be different. Set aside a few hours during your week to spend time together. Eat meals as a family as much as possible. Engage in sports or other physical activities with your teen when you can. If they take the bus to school, then offer to drive them instead.
You may find at first your teen may still be reluctant to open up to you. Don’t let yourself get discouraged. With time, they’ll begin to feel more comfortable with the idea of talking to you. They might even begin to look forward to spending time together.
Five Important Topics to Talk to Your Teenager About
Conversing with your teenager isn’t always an easy task, as we’ve established. Teens believe in their minds that their parents can’t understand what they go through. The fact you yourself were once a teenager doesn’t matter. To your teen, you don’t get them and you never will.
Indeed, there are certain things you didn’t have to contend with as a teen, such as social media and cell phones. The main points you need to discuss with your teen however have not changed all that much.
It’s important to have open and honest conversations with your teenage children. Keeping an open mind doesn’t mean abandoning your beliefs or letting the kids dictate to you. It’s more about listening and seeing their point of view on a topic. Here are some important topics to discuss.
- Recreational Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Drug and alcohol abuse can quickly get out of control and ruin your teen’s life. Make sure your teen understands they can come to you with questions or if they think they have a problem with either substance.
Trying to hide addiction can make it much easier for that addiction to intensify. The worse an addiction is, the longer the path to recovery becomes. Be real with your teen. If you once had a problem in your past, it’s best to let them know.
- Safe Sex Practices
Safe sex can talks aren’t easy, but that doesn’t mean you should put them off, either. Don’t leave the education solely to your teen’s health class at school. Reinforce the dangers of STDs and STIs. A major goal as a parent is helping your teen avoid disease and unwanted pregnancy. Some kids will go to extreme lengths to have sex. You don’t have to allow it into your home, but you need to stress the importance of safe sex nevertheless.
- Texting and Driving
A recent report suggests one-third of teens either email or text while driving. This is despite the fact the overall driving habits of teens are improving. Distracted driving is extremely dangerous and reckless. Lead by example and model limited cell phone usage while driving. Educate yourself about safety tools which can be used with cell phones. Talk to your teen about the consequences of being found texting and driving.
- Bullying and Cyber-Bullying
News reports on bullying and cyber-bullying can be hard to read and watch. The problem is very real, and social media has brought bullying to a whole new level. Encourage your teen to follow anti-bullying policies at their school. Monitor your teen’s cell phone and limit their social media exposure. Also, educate yourself on the signs of bullying and victimization. Don’t hesitate to act on your suspicions if you have any.
- Mental Health
The mental health of your teen is a subject you shouldn’t take lightly or downplay in any way. It can be difficult as a parent to see the difference between teenage angst and true depression. As we mentioned earlier, listening and being observant are important traits. Pay attention to what your teen is saying as well as how they’re saying it. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for help if you feel you need it.
Having honest communications with your teenager takes a great deal of work. You need to really listen, build trust, and keep an open mind when in conversation. Some of the talks you need to have can be tough and awkward. For example, chatting about safe sex practices isn’t the most inviting topic. If your teen is being bullied, they may close off from you when you try to bring it up. Still, you can’t and shouldn’t ignore the issue.
No matter how difficult things get, don’t give up. You can have better quality conversations with your teen with time and patience. You know your kid better than anyone, no matter how much they try to cut you out of their daily struggles. Approach the conversation the way you think is best. Above all, remember the teenage years can be a strange time. Have a little sympathy for your teen and things will start to turn around.
Nicole Malczan is a content marketing writer and freelancer. She's applied her knowledge of marketing and SEO to many clients over the years, ranging from food service to facilities management and currency exchange. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, baking, and music.