How was your day? Good. How was school? Fine. Sound familiar? Conversations are a little tricky to navigate during the teenage years, but with your loving guidance and these three steps, you’ll be able to help your teen communicate with ease – without feeling like you have to pry the words out of his or her mouth.
Although your teenager is gaining independence, he or she still needs your guidance. The dialogue has changed quite a bit over the years, or has been greatly reduced, but don’t let that fool you. This is a critical time for you to be the primary influence in your son or daughter’s life and it’s essential for you to let your kids know you are available by being both physically and emotionally present in their lives.
When you’re ready for the next conversation with your teenager, here are three keys to keep in mind.
#1 Enter the conversation with self awareness.
I’m going to be bold for a moment and tell you: the way you view yourself has a lot to do with how your teenager views you plus impacts the quality of your relationship and therefore your conversations. Let me explain. The people in your life mirror your beliefs, whether they are conscious or unconscious, back to you. If you’re feeling rejected by your teen, ask yourself, “in what way am I rejecting myself?” You might be surprised to discover your teenager is reflecting back to you something you’ve believed about yourself for a long time. Kids have a funny (and sometimes not so funny) way of teaching us and revealing things to us we often don’t want to look at. But, if and when we do, we can deepen our connection not just with our kids, but with ourselves too.
So before you even go to talk to your teen, ask yourself, “what am I believing about myself right now?” Or, “how am I viewing my teenager right now? Is this the truth?”
#2 Be curious.
Once you’ve entered the conversation, get curious about your teen. See this as a time to learn more about your son or daughter, without offering your advice or judgments. Encourage your child to discuss how certain situations and events make them feel. Ask open ended questions like “what was that like for you?” or “what’s your opinion about xyz topic?” Teenagers love to talk about themselves – and it’s so important that they do. This is when they get to really discover who they are becoming and what matters most to them. When you help your teen uncover his or her views and opinions, a strong sense of self emerges. Plus you give your son or daughter the gift of being heard.
#3 Acknowledge your teenager.
Your teen is desperately seeking approval. He or she wants to be seen, heard, recognized and acknowledged. When teens don’t get this at home, they will look for it in all the wrong places. So, this is imperative. In order to do this, you must actively look for all the things he or she is doing well rather than focusing on the problem. Repetition is crucial. And detachment. In other words, acknowledge your teen without expecting anything in return. Say it because you mean it not because you’re looking for a particular outcome. By acknowledging and appreciating your teen regularly, he or she will want to come talk to you more often.
Let me make a key distinction between a compliment and an acknowledgment. Compliments are more external. For example you can compliment your son or daughter on what they’re wearing or something they did well. An acknowledgement, however, is a deep appreciation for a quality your child possesses. What did it take for them to accomplish a goal or to overcome a particular challenge? Was it courage? Tenacity? Authenticity? What do you appreciate about a certain choice he or she made? Both compliments and acknowledgments are important, however, an acknowledgment truly allows your teen to know his or her own value and worth as a human being.
In conclusion, it’s not only possible to have respectful, loving conversations with your teen on a consistent basis, it is probable. With a little persistence, a lot of patience and lots of practice, your teen will begin to open up and share more with you. Be sure to remember your value as a parent, encourage your teen to express his or her thoughts and feelings and acknowledge and celebrate your child’s individuality. When you show up fully and follow these simple steps daily, you give your teen the sense of inner security and stability he or she needs to be a happy, confident and fully expressed individual.