Communication matters. We all agree.
Parents need to sit down and chat with their kids on a regular basis.
Once the kids become teens this can become a challenge. They either give you one-word answers or just roll their eyes as if your opening comment is just a waste of his time. Or, more likely, he has his head down and is busy on his smartphone.
So, how do we open the line of communication?
In this day and age start where your kids are. Reach out and text. Let’s say you’re concerned about whether he is getting his homework done.
Instead of cornering him at the breakfast table and starting to address your concerns, start with a text.
Send him a note telling him that you want to have a conversation and asking him to suggest a good time for a chat.
If you get no response, text again but this time mention some possible times and ask him to choose.
An excellent time for having a meaningful conversation is when driving teens to the mall or soccer practice. You have a captive audience; you are not having to make eye contact and both you and your teen know that this will end as soon as you arrive at your destination.
The supper table can be a good place for conversation.
These should not be personal concerns but discussions about neighbourhood activities such as the new folks who moved in down the block, or a store opening up at the local mall. Or maybe the latest movies or music videos that interest the kids.
Not all our conversations will be serious. Be open to conversations about your kids’ latest music interests, their popular culture or fun facts about their daily life.
The more we listen, the more they will talk. If your kids can easily talk about relatively trivial things, when the time comes, they will be able to discuss major events such as bullying, school problems and even sexual matters.
One sure-fire way of ending a conversation is to interrupt. Your teen starts talking and you know where she is going so you jump in with advice.
It may be valid and useful advice, but it stops the flow and lets her know that you are not going to listen.
Even worse is to make a point not related to the topic. In the middle of a talk is not the time to correct her grammar or point out something you see out the window. Focus on listening to her.
There are simple things we can do to open the doors of communication.
Listening is the most important. They don’t need to hear that you know it all because you remember from when you were a teen. That may be true, but things are different today and your teen is not you.
Listen to the end of the conversation. Don’t make snap judgements. You may think you have figured out the situation but let her tell you the whole story from her perspective.
You may or may not have come to the correct conclusion, but you owe her the respect of hearing her out to the end of the story.
Finally, it you’re told something in confidence keep it to yourself.
If you’re going to share it with the other parent first inform your teen. Then keep it to yourselves.
The more you can open the lines of communication with your teens the stronger the relationship you will develop.
So simply listen and then talk once you know for sure what your teen is looking for from you.
Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert and author of Vive la Différence, Who’s In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home. parentingtoday.ca.