All the experts preach that you need to communicate with your teenager.
But what if they don’t want to have anything to do with you?!
I came across an article that I think may help!
Kara tells the story of Sam who hides out in his room and only comes out to eat. (–sound familiar?) He communicates on the level of a Neanderthal with one word answers. His Mom is anxious because, as she explains, “He’d rather shut himself in his room and go online or play video games than be with her.”
Find What They Love and Share it With Them
Kara points out that Sam’s mother Nora discovered that Sam loved movies. She read up on the kind of movies that he loved and would make a point of inviting him. Talking before and after the movie became a window into his world, so she picked theaters that were far away from home.
Build on the Good Times
Nora was very wise in her approach. If a student loves sports, music, eating, or camping this is the place to start getting communication happening. During this time I find these tips helpful:
- Don’t interrogate –don’t go digging for personal details, let them share them when they are ready
- Don’t criticize or preach –some of their values will come out and they will differ from yours
- Don’t expect instant results –if they have shut you out for a long time be happy that you are spending some time together even if the conversation revolves around the technical quality of the movie or the taste of the food.
- Give them space afterward –the temptation is to follow them back into their room after the activity is done. Be thankful that the silence is broken temporarily but they will go back to their behavior when you are done.
Keep it Up
It’s easy to have a few successes and think that things are going to be okay. Instead, think of these activities as a regular thing that you will keep doing. As their interests change your time together will have to take on a different shape as well.
The three years from 15 to 18 are critical for developing and maintaining a relationship that will last into the college years. Investing in consistent times together will keep lines of communication open in a time when teens don’t know if they want to push you away or hold you close.
What Works For You
These were just a few ideas of Kara’s and my own. What do you find works for you to get a teen to open up during this stage of life?
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