It’s the worst when teens try to talk to you about their problems. Like you don’t have anything better to do, you know? Fortunately, I’ve got some tips for preventing that from happening!
This post is tongue-in-cheek of course, but we really DO do these things to teenagers all the time, and then we feel frustrated when they won’t share. Here are examples of some communication pitfalls:
Put lots of pressure on them to talk. Ask a lot of yes/no questions and show frustration with them when they don’t say much.
Have face-to-face conversations. Stare them in the eyes! Don’t let them look away!
Jump in with advice. Don’t ask if they want it – just assume that they do 🙂
Criticize them for their poor decisions when they admit to making them. Repeat the previous tip again for good measure.
Minimize their feelings and force them to look at the silver lining. For example, you can say, “You think you have it bad, but you have it way easier than I did!”
Again, I know this post is a little silly, but we adults frequently do the things listed above. If you truly want to develop open communication with your teen, try these suggestions instead:
Accept that you can’t force anyone to talk. Put down the desire to control the conversation with your teen.
Start conversations when you’re engaged in an activity together, like going for a walk or driving in the car. Don’t demand that they look you in the eye. It’ll feel less pressured for them this way, and less pressure = more open.
Don’t make it about you and your past. When they share their genuine feelings and worries, show empathy and keep the focus on them.
If you DO share something about your own adolescence, let it be for the purpose of establishing a common ground. For example, “I get it, I remember feeling annoyed with my parents, too.”
If they’re sending clear signals that they don’t want to talk, respect that. “I can see you don’t want to talk right now. I understand. I’m here for you if you change your mind.”