Does your teenager appear to be “somewhere else” when you are talking to him/her? Are they preoccupied with their phone? Disinterested in what you have to say? Or do they simply give you the feeling that they want to get back into their room and exit the conversation as quickly as possible? This is not uncommon. Teenagers are often preoccupied with their own lives, friends, social media, television and video games, which leaves little time for interacting with mom, dad and family members. Here are some easy tips to help you successfully communicate with your teen:
- Share a meal and put the devices away! The dinner table has always been an excellent place to share anecdotes about your day and catch up. Ensuring that your teen participates in a family dinner each day and puts away his phone will create an opportunity to chat and share with one another. It won’t be beneficial to single your teen out and ask him to put his phone away – so identify dinner time as a “device free zone”, and stick to the rule (even when everyone is rushed or had a long day).
- Ask open ended questions. Try to ask questions that require more than a one-word response. E.g. “Tell me about the plans for the school play”, “what are your plans for the weekend?”. “What is your opinion about _____?” Asking open-ended questions will help your teen become more engaged in the conversation, and will help him share more information with you.
- Listen! While you may want to provide your child with information and guidance (which requires a lot of talking), make sure you do more listening than talking. Being a good listener will leave the door open to more interactions and communication than you may have expected!
- Do something fun together. Teenagers are often busy with their friends, but it is still important to get out and do an activity you both enjoy (e.g. a game of basketball, shopping, etc.). Sharing in an enjoyable activity together can open up the lines of communication and allow your teen to feel comfortable to discuss his experiences and problems with you.
- Make it about them. Teenagers tend to be quite self-involved, so keeping the focus on them will help them engage. It’s important that the focus be positive (their events, experiences, achievements), and that you ask those open-ended questions that will allow them to share the maximum amount of information with you.
Communicating with teens can be very challenging at times. Use the tips in this article to maintain successful communication between you and your teenager.
Ilana Klain, M.Sc., CCC- SLP, Reg. CASLPO
Speech-Language Pathologist at Simone Friedman Speech-Language Services