how to relate to your teen
Updated: Mar 5, 2022
from children to teenagers
𝗔𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝘄𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗧𝗘𝗘𝗡𝗔𝗚𝗘𝗥𝗦… They weren’t wrong when they said, “The days are long and the years are short,” especially when it comes to parenthood. The years seem to fly by, and before you know it, your 3-year-old is now 13. What once worked in relating to your 3-year-old, no longer works in relating to your 13-year-old. A simple thing like finding out about their day may sometimes feel like pulling teeth. We have worked with many parents who all have the best of intentions and genuinely want to relate to their teenagers but are often met with one-word answers and/or sighs at questions asked. As children mature and strive towards independence and autonomy, parents can feel like a wall is built and it can feel as like that once cuddly and interactive 3-year-old, is now a stranger. We are here to assure you that this is a normal part of your child’s development and recommend a couple tools to help break that teenage wall.
𝗧𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝘁𝗲𝗲𝗻, 𝗕𝗘 𝗥𝗘𝗟𝗔𝗧𝗔𝗕𝗟𝗘 Keeping up with the times is tough these days, but keeping up, just a little bit, can go a long way. Pay attention to what they’re interested in and learn and take interest in it. If you notice your teen holing up in their room and binge watching a show, subtly find out what show and watch it yourself. Next time you ask them about what they watched, and they reply with a brief response of the title, follow up with specific questions about characters of the show. “Who do you think would win in a fight? Captain America or Iron Man?” (Avengers) or “If you were Elena, who would you pick? Stefan or Damon?” (Vampire Diaries) or “Who do you think is responsible for John B’s father's death?” (Outerbanks). If your teen enjoys games, try playing with them. If they’re resistant to playing with you, play anyway and let them see you playing.
𝗣𝗮𝘆 𝗮𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗨𝗦𝗘 𝗧𝗛𝗘𝗜𝗥 𝗟𝗔𝗡𝗚𝗨𝗔𝗚𝗘 For example, did you know using all lower-case letters with no punctuation (like this posts picture) is a thing? I noticed my own teen had changed the way text messages were written to this trend and when I asked why, I found it was because it is more “aesthetic,” which is a common draw in for teens these days, things being “aesthetic.” In this example, you engage by using their own language to relate, “How can we make your room more aesthetic?”
𝗦𝘁𝗮𝘆 𝗮 𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗽 𝗮𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗗𝗢 𝗬𝗢𝗨𝗥 𝗢𝗪𝗡 𝗥𝗘𝗦𝗘𝗔𝗥𝗖𝗛 If you want to know about how school is going but are getting minimal responses from your teen when you ask about such, find the answers ahead of time. There are a variety of ways to find out what’s going on in school. Sometimes teachers will email updates on what goes on in class for the week. Pay attention to those details and instead of asking how their day was, ask specifics about that. “How is your Lord of the Flies paper going?” Or you can ask about their teachers and instead of asking which teacher is their favorite, ask them questions that pull for more dialogue. For example. “If you had to draw out of a hat a teacher you had to be stuck on an island with, and you get to choose 2 teachers to put in the hat, who would you pick and why?” Preemptively do some research so if they minimally respond, you can start back in on who you would choose and why, “I would choose Mr. X because he teaches Wood Working and he can build us a boat.”
𝗥𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗰𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗺𝘂𝗻𝗶𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗯𝘆 𝗕𝗘𝗜𝗡𝗚 𝗣𝗥𝗘𝗦𝗘𝗡𝗧 As young children, our kids would often seek out and demand our attention and communicate what felt like all day long. As they grow older, spontaneous communication may reduce but parents can help fill this gap by reinforcing when it does occur. In the event that a teen does express something it is so important to be present. We don’t mean just physically present in the room. Parents need to be intentionally present in the interaction. When your teen expresses ANYTHING that is interesting to them, stop what you’re doing, acknowledge it, give them your undivided attention and engage in an interested, nonjudgmental way. Reinforce that you’re interested so they’ll want to spontaneously communicate again. If we don’t take interest and listen, it makes them less likely to communicate again, and in this critical time of development, open lines of communication are so important. We want them to be able to come to us with anything and feel heard.
𝗕𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗙𝗥𝗜𝗘𝗡𝗗𝗦 At this age, peers are so important, and often the center of your teen's world. Take interest in their friends and finding out more about them. If your teen is resistant in sharing info on their friends, find other indirect ways of getting info. You can ask who they spent their first break with, their lunch with, or who is in their group for a project. Or you can check out their social media accounts and see who comments or interacts most. Once you get some info, you can ask them things directly about their friends, “Did you hang out with Sally today?” or “What part of the project did Jane do?” or “Does Amy play any sports?” Getting the doors open to speak about their friends often opens up the doors to better communication overall, because again, peers are so important at this age.
𝗞𝗘𝗘𝗣 𝗧𝗥𝗬𝗜𝗡𝗚 Lastly, and most importantly, KEEP TRYING. If something isn’t working to break through, try something else. If that doesn’t work, try something else. Don’t just take “fine” for an answer to how their day was. Don’t just take “nothing” for an answer of what they did today. Keep asking other questions. Once you can get through with one thing they engage in, the doors usually open.
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• These tools, more often than not, open the doors for other more personal topics and help make not your teen, but you, feel connected and engaged.