Tips for Getting Tweens and Teens to Talk
Sometimes it may seem easier for parents today to text their teens or tweens than to get kids to sit down and really talk about what is going on in their lives. Here are some tips for parents to keep in mind that, when practiced regularly, can build trust and open communication.
First, Really Listen.
Many parents talk first and listen later. Flip flop that for more effective communication. If your child gets upset because he or she is not going to get to do something they want to do, it’s important to first really listen and focus on your child’s concerns. If you are focusing on what you are going to say while your child is talking, you are probably not really listening. Just listen. This is a great way to talk to children about anything, but particularly touchy topics.
Address Their Concerns
A pitfall for many parents is trying to justify, explain or argue with their kids without speaking to their concerns. Be careful not to invalidate what they’re concerned about by beginning sentences with words like: “I can’t believe you’re worried about …” or with gestures such as rolling your eyes. Also, give your kids some space and breathing room to go through what they need to go through, and to ask questions. For a 10-year-old, wanting to know why he can’t have something is a legitimate concern. It’s reasonable for a 16-year-old to ask why she can’t borrow the car or go to a show. Your children’s concerns are valid. Seeing and addressing their concerns will strengthen your communication and your family.
This is also about clarity. Strive to understand what your child is saying before you speak. If a child is asking something, and the answer is “no,” parents often try to soften the blow by saying “not now” or “maybe later.” It actually helps the child (and frankly you as the parent) when you just say “no.” Then it’s decided and clear. For instance, if your child tells you she wants something that the family can’t afford, simply talk straight about how the family budget is tight. If the answer is really “not now,” think of ways to engage your kids in creative solutions. Can they help to save money for something they really want by clipping coupons, doing extra jobs or pooling their allowance? Ask them for their ideas and solutions.
Use these three tips to have a conversation with your child tonight. Listen first, address their concerns, and then talk straight when you answer their questions. Most importantly, when the conversations get tough, really listen before you speak. Listening is often much more powerful than what you say.
David Cunningham is a communication expert and seminar leader for Landmark, a personal and professional growth, training and development company.