8 Ways to Get Your Teen to Open Up

Posted on: 03.05.2017.

Author: Ana G

For teenagers, the world changes quickly. They fall in love for the first time, their bodies change in unexpected ways, they experience heartbreak, bullying and a host of new problems that come with age. As a parent, you remember these experiences, but you also know that life becomes easier to manage with time, and you want to be there for your kids as they go through these new challenges.

At the same time, your teenager may start to rebel. From spending hours on social media to texting with friends, your kids can start to shut you out. Fortunately, there are ways to break down these barriers and connect with your teenagers. Building trust with your kids will help you to break down their walls so that you can be there for them when they really need you. Here are eight ways to build a better connection.

 

1. Get Interested in Their Interests

Take an interest in your kids' interests, whether it's rock climbing or sci-fi fantasy novels. Music is especially important since teenagers tend to listen to music more often than they watch TV. Music also gives you a better sense of the culture that your kids are growing up in. Teenagers start to explore new forms of self-identification, and it's important to support them as they test the waters. Getting involved also gives you talking points if you're having trouble communicating.

MusicImage courtesy of pexels.com, licensed under CC0 1.0

Keep in mind that you don't have to like or pretend to like the activity, sport, movie or music that your teen likes. The key is to show an interest so that your children feel comfortable talking to you about it. If they can talk about their interests, they may feel better about coming to you with other questions, problems or concerns down the road.

 

2. Create More Family Time

Find time during the day to sit down for family discussion. They shouldn’t be formal. Instead, create opportunities for you and your kids to communicate more naturally, such as eating breakfast together or planning weeknight snack times that force you to convene. This may feel forced and uncomfortable at first, but over time, you'll be able to relax and enjoy each other's company without the pressure of busy schedules.

Teenagers may respond better to one-on-one chats, but eating meals together tends to encourage more natural conversation. You can also find other ways to bring the whole family together. Explore natural areas around your city, take up a leisurely activity together or try new sports as a family. Spending time outside will get the conversations going, and as an added bonus, you'll all benefit from regular exercise.

Family dinnerImage courtesy of pexels.com, licensed under CC0 1.0

 

3. Start the Conversation Wisely

Teenagers hate being confronted directly, especially about problems or fears that they might be experiencing. As a parent, you need to take a proactive approach to getting information without intimidating your kids into shutting you out. Instead of interrogating or drilling them about their day when they get home from school, invite them to talk to you about the day in general. Keep the conversation casual. Even better, refer back to TV shows, movies or music that they know. This gives you talking points without the conversation turning into a grilling session:

  • How do you feel about last week's episode of Example Show?
  • Do your friends also do those things?
  • Did you like the movie last night? Why?
  • Do you think the parents were right or was there a better alternative?
  • What would you do in that situation?

 Your kids are forming their own ideas about tough topics, such as what's socially acceptable or where the line is for certain behavior. As you discuss pop culture and their social lives, pay close attention to hints that they might be dropping about problems or concerns. Know when to stop pressing for the time being and when to keep pushing for more information.

 

4. Make the Most of Daily Routines

You can't avoid some tasks, like the drive to and from school, the weekly to-do list, or shopping for clothes and school supplies. However, you can make the most of your time even if the activity is a chore. Here are some examples:

  • Driving: Few things are more stressful than teaching your teen to drive, but the mechanics of driving open up new possibilities for conversation. Discuss the rules of the road, how it makes them feel when someone cuts them off or the different types of vehicles you encounter.
  • On the drive: Since you can't look at each other while one of you is driving, being in the car can encourage some kids to let their guard down and open up about uncomfortable subjects. Let the conversation flow naturally, and seize the opportunity to discuss more personal topics when they come up.
  • Daily chores: No one likes scrubbing the bathroom or unloading the dishwasher, so add extra challenges to the daily to-do list to make it more fun. You could race your teen to finish a room with the prize being that the winner gets to ask any question he or she wants.
  • Shopping: Teens tend to be more self-conscious about what they wear, so take shopping as an opportunity to explore your kids' opinions on body image. Whether you have a son or daughter, it's important to discuss body image and how advertisements can distort the truth.
teenage driverImage courtesy of pexels.com/licensed under CC0 1.0

Teenagers are especially resistant to doing things that impede their personal time. Use these must-do activities to your advantage and get to know your kids better. Sometimes, doing mindless tasks, such as cleaning out the fridge or trying on jeans, can clear the mental roadblock that prevents your teens from talking about their lives.

 

5. Lead by Example

If you're having trouble getting your teen to open up, lead by example. Talk about your day, how you handled different situations and what you had hoped to accomplish. When applicable, discuss your own experiences as a teenager. Kids need to see their parents for the humans that they are, so don't be afraid to talk about difficult subjects. You don't need to give them every dark detail about your young life, but you should be honest when talking about tough subjects, including sex, drug or alcohol use, and bullying. If your kids can trust you to be honest, they can trust you with their own burdens.

 

6. Listen, No Matter What

Maybe it's been a long day and you need to relax, but if your teen comes to you with a problem or concern, take the time to listen. Put your own stresses aside for the time being, and pay attention to what your kid is saying. When teenagers purposely seek out your attention, it's critical to be there for them. They may need advice, they might be struggling in math or may simply need to unload some fears about a social situation with someone they trust.

CrescentImage courtesy of pexels.com/licensed under CC0 1.0

If you're there for them when they need you, they'll be able to come to you for all sorts of problems. Don't let your own problems get in the way of building rapport with your kids. If they can't trust you or don't feel like you're really listening, they may seek out comfort from other sources.

 

7. Be Understanding

Effective communication starts with understanding. Your kids will check out if they think that you're just waiting to lecture, give advice or offer suggestions. Instead of jumping in with your own two cents, let your kids speak, and really listen to what they're saying. Avoid:

  • Joking: You can use humor to dispel tension, but some subjects require a serious approach. Joking belittles the experience, making teens think that you're mocking their problems.
  • Lecturing: No one wants to hear a lecture, least of all teenagers. Give them space before you talk about your own ideas.
  • Interrupting: Let your kids finish what they have to say before interrupting with your own opinions or thoughts.
  • Judging: Difficult subjects, like drinking and sex, require lengthier discussions, but before you judge your teenagers, be patient. Listen to what they have to say, and show them respect.

 

8. Lend Them a Hand

Your kids may be growing up, but you can still help them fight their battles. Instead of offering to talk to a bully's parent, write the teacher a note or get involved directly, offer to brainstorm with your child on ways to solve the problem. Develop a pros and cons list, and make sure to encourage your teenagers to find good solutions on their own. By fostering a proactive spirit in your kids, you can help them to think more critically about how to resolve difficult situations.

 BulliedImage courtesy of pixabay.com/licensed under CC0 1.0

Finally, don't give up when the going gets tough. Your kids need you even if they won't admit it, and being there for them, even silently, will show them how much you care. As a parent, you have the right to set rules and expect your kids to follow them. However, it's important to create a bond of trust with your teens so that they feel comfortable coming to you for advice. If you truly listen to them, then you can offer support and guidance without coming across as overbearing and unreasonable.