Talking to your teen can be tricky.
If they’ve reached the point where they don’t really love to engage with you about regular day-to-day things, don’t worry: that’s natural. There are, however, ways to draw them out. You can get them talking again, but there’s a catch: though your teen’s world is all about them, getting them to talk is all about you.
It’s all about how you behave in the moment.
To get it right, you need to do some sneaky relationship jiujitsu. It’s not being manipulative – it’s being smart.
Five Tips for Talking to Your Teen
- Be Respectful. Talk to your teen as if they’re a friend or colleague. They’re not, obviously – but they need to feel like they’re on equal footing, or they’ll shut down.
- Be Fun. Make jokes, laugh, and connect. If the stakes aren’t high, you can drop the whole parent persona. No problem, though: it will still be there when you need it.
- Be Present. Look at them, make eye contact, and listen to what they have to say. Let them finish all their stories and let them make all their insights and observations. Resist the urge to editorialize. Let them be the expert, even if they’re not.
- Be Open. If their responses to your questions are stilted and forced, then try this: start a conversation by talking about something embarrassing that happened to you at work. Own up to a mistake you made or tell a story about a boss or co-worker. Your teen will probably follow your lead and share something from their day.
- Be Easy. When the stakes aren’t high, you can drop the parent act. Be more like the version of you that cracks wise with your friends than the parent delivering a lecture about getting in cars with strangers.
Don’t misunderstand: with all this treat-them-like-equals stuff, we’re not saying stop being their parent. They need that now more than ever. We’re saying save that version of yourself for when it counts.
During the in-between times, match your energy to the moment, and do like we advise in Tip 5 above: be easy like Lionel Richie.
We bet that will get you back on track.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.