There’s nothing sweeter than hearing your teen ask for your opinion. However, you must realize that every teen parent doesn’t have an easy time starting conversations. Sometimes, you’ll struggle with conversation or feel like your attempts are falling on deaf ears. Your efforts might also be met with one-syllable responses.
You may struggle to talk to your teen because you haven’t transitioned to a mentor. If you try to parent your 14-year-old like you did when they were eight, you’ll likely have communication problems. Parents should start stepping into the mentor role as their child transitions into their teens, meaning that you transition from telling your kids what to do to mentoring them on their decisions. This transition is crucial to helping them learn how to make good decisions.
It would help if you were in an advisory role instead of a director capacity, letting them take charge of their life while still giving guardrails. The more you stay in your mentor lane, your kids will open up to you. Unfortunately, there are no fool-proof ways to get your teen to open up. Still, there are ways to make it easier for communication to transpire. Here are some ideas to get your teen to open up to you.
Teenagers need space and time to process their thoughts and feelings. They could shut down if you’re rushing them to talk when you’re ready. You’ll have to develop the capability to wait until they’re prepared to open up.
Realize that silence is golden.
Parents should also realize that they need to let the quiet build. Sometimes, parents attempt to rush and fill the silence with words. However, what your teen needs is for you to stop talking so they can respond and think. Don’t be scared to stay quiet to let them have the space to speak.
Choose the right time.
If you’re trying to talk to your teen, think about picking the right time. That isn’t the time that’s right for you, but a time that’s convenient for your teen. An example of an inconvenient time for your teen is when they walk in the door after school, wake up, watch something on YouTube or play video games. Naturally, there will be times when you need to discuss something with them at inopportune times, but save the long discussions for a time when they’re not doing something.
Don’t use too much eye contact.
Please don’t fixate on whether or not your teen looks you in the eye when you talk to them. Giving your teen the space to not look at you can help them open up about things that bother or matter to them. For example, some parents understand the value of talking to their teens while driving or after watching a movie. If those opportunities don’t come up as much in your home, you can create them by talking while baking or cooking, dimming the lights, or asking your teen to take a walk with you.
Listen more than you speak.
This advice could be challenging, especially when you want to say things, but it pays to listen more than you talk with your teenagers. No one wants to feel like every discussion requires the parent to speak while the teen listens. Instead, try flipping the script and do more listening than speaking.
Ask open-ended questions.
This advice coincides with listening, but asking questions that allow for an expansive answer can help your teen share more, so try your best to avoid yes/no questions. However, it would also help if you avoided speed-asking questions. Give your teen the space to answer one question at a time and see where that answer leads before asking another. Some examples of open-ended questions you could ask your teen are “What made you smile today?” “What was the best part of your day?” or “What happened during lunch today?”
Try your best to remember your role as a parent, to guide and mentor your teen into adulthood. So, for the most part, save the lectures. Sometimes, you’ll have to have hard conversations and correct inappropriate behavior, but keep those discussions short and sweet. Teens don’t need their wrongs beaten into the ground and are intelligent enough to recognize their mistakes. They get enough lectures from sports coaches or at school, so skip them and save your breath.
Don’t try to fix the problem.
When you have to address issues with your teen, try not to tell them how to solve them but let them come up with the solution. Give them time to think about it and respond as they see fit. Then let them try the fix and see if it works or needs adjusting. The more you give them ownership of solving issues to your teen, the more likely they’ll seek you out when they have an issue.
Expand your subjects.
Your kids don’t want to talk about school all the time. Be interested in your child as a person, not only as your daughter or son. Figure out things they like to talk about and get into their world. You don’t have to enjoy video games to appreciate hearing your child discuss strategies, but ask a few questions when you can and listen to them. You’ll strengthen your bond.
See them as an individual.
Your children are their own persons, not an extension of you. You should see them as having thoughts that differ from yours. If you don’t, you risk making too many assumptions about their future and present. You can also isolate them by not seeing them for who they are. You might not like what they see, but you’ll have to see them through the lens of their personhood, not yours.
If you try these suggestions and none of them get your teen talking, it may be time to schedule a checkup with their primary care doctor to see if something else is happening behind the scenes. Your teen may be struggling with mental health issues and not know how to discuss them with you, which they’ll need help with sooner than later.
Remember, the more you’re interested in your teens as people instead of your children, the more they’ll be willing to talk to you and share their genuine selves.