So, you want to communicate with your teenager?

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Are you a lucky parent raising a teenager in today’s world? Pretty scary! We all want our kids to like us. We know they love us, but liking us is another thing entirely. We want communication open and flowing – how do we make this happen?

Does this sound familiar?

You: “How was school?”

Teen:  “Fine.”

You: “What did you do today?”

Teen: “Nothing.”

When was the last time you spent some one on one time with your teen?  How can you have a good relationship with your teenager? Nothing takes the place of getting involved and interested in your teen’s life. We often think of quality time for very young children, but this term still applies when they are teenagers. We forget about it because they’ve seemingly reached that age of “not wanting to be seen with us.”

It’s really the quality of time, not the quantity.  It may take a bit of work to figure out the best way to do this, but trust me, it’s worth it!  What do you think they might say if you asked them to teach YOU something that they’re good at?  Ask them to teach you the “quirks” of texting so that you can communicate with them on their terms.  Ask them what they like best about what they’re studying and YOU study up on that subject so that you have another commonality.  Take walks, hike, bike, attend art, music or dance classes, etc.  Make sure it’s their choice of activity.  Don’t go to the movies unless you both commit to 15-30 minutes of discussion of the movie once it’s over.  The object of this exercise is to communicate, not be entertained.

Do you really Listen to them?

Always pay really close attention to what your teens are saying to you.  Look them straight in the eyes and let them know you care about what they are saying!  When they realize you’re really interested, they typically will let go and really talk to you.  You’ve got to be prepared to stop what you’re doing and listen if they want to talk.  They want to share something with you!  How cool is that?  Isn’t this what we’re striving for?

Everyone has ridiculous schedules in today’s world.  Finding family time can also be difficult, but to keep communication open, you have to make the time.  Meals are a terrific place to start. Try to have at least one if not more sit-down family meals per week. Find a common topic for conversation, and let the family know ahead of time so that everyone can find a tidbit or two to add to the conversation.

Now here’s the glitch – even if you don’t agree with their opinions, find a way to listen, really listen to theirs.  This can be a difficult task, as it can be hard to really listen when all you want to do is tell them your opinion about something with which you don't agree. Whatever you do – Don’t judge them!  It may be best to admit there is a disagreement  and postpone the discussion until you can calm down and be rational.  Then you can go back and say something like, “I’m not sure I agree with all you said, and there are some things I don’t understand.  Let me think about this and we’ll pick it up tomorrow night at dinner.”  By setting a deadline for the conversation, you are acknowledging the importance of their opinion to you, and they will come back to finish up.  Isn’t communication the goal?