Today I had the pleasure of discovering a wonderful blog, www.wearyparent.com with a great article, entitled 9 Tips to Help You Communicate With Your Teen. I left a message emphasizing how great the list is, and also mentioned how important it is to be a role model to your teen. It is not only what we say, and how well we listen, but how we live our own lives. That means it does matter how gracious we are, how kind we are, whether we are generous of spirit and eager to not hold grudges or be petty. It does matter what we say, but often it matters just as much how we say it. Can we cushion a criticism with some sweet honey? Can we wait until the right moment to say something personal when no one else is listening. It all matters! If you think back to being a teen, can you remember when someone was gentle in what she had to say, instead of rough? Or when someone was extra kind? I can and those people are still with me today. I’ll say ‘thank you’ right now to Mr. Masters who made me feel good playing the violin, even though I really wasn’t very good at it, and Mr. and Mrs. Sylvester who always knew how to boost up my spirits when some boy I thought I was in love with, had dropped them down so low, I could hardly muster the strength to answer the phone.
Give her your undivided attention. We’re parents. We’re busy. But we need to make time for our kids. Sometimes it feels like they’ve gotten so independent they don’t need us anymore. But they do. Put the Blackberry away. Shut down your laptop and just concentrate on your teen.
Fight fair. Don’t bring up the past. Don’t say, “You always do this. Remember in the 2nd grade when I couldn’t get you to…” That’s not going to help anything. Stick to the issue at hand. Present your case. And then really listen to your teen’s rebuttal. Try to be understanding, but still be firm.
Share your day. We all know what the answer to “how as school today?” So instead of asking that question, tell your teen about your day. When you open up, it may get him to open up. Tell him about a funny conversation you had with a co-worker. Or about somebody that really ticked you off that day and see if he has any advice. Get him talking.
Don’t force him. Ask “Do you want to talk?” and if the answer is “no” then respect that. Sometimes teens (and sometimes parents) just want to be left alone. But let him now you are there if and when he is ready to talk.