The tween and teen years are challenging for all parents and kids. Your kids will be going through physical changes as well as developing an independent identity. It’s an exciting yet stressful time.
Keeping the lines of communication open between you is essential in helping them to navigate these years. It’s not always easy to do, especially when they roll their eyes at you. However, if you can open up a dialogue with them on a regular basis, they’ll be more likely to come to you with those bigger issues like sex, relationships, drugs, or problems at school.
Not sure where to start? Here’s how to bridge the gap and keep the conversation going.
Talk about interests
Not every conversation needs to be loaded. Make a connection through hobbies, music, sports, fashion, and future goals. Be interested in what your tween or teen tells you, even if it’s something that’s not a personal interest of yours. Open your mind to learning about something new. Plus, your teen would be more comfortable talking to you about something if it’s an interest you both share.
Make family time a priority
In this age group, we might be the most unhip people alive, but that doesn’t mean our teenagers don’t want to be valued members of the family. Even if your family is busy, make sure to have family dinners as often as possible and try to plan an outing together at least once a month to bond.
Be quiet and listen
And really listen. Don’t listen waiting with your retort or to interject. Teens just want to feel like they’re being listened to with understanding and patience. Even if the conversation isn’t anything earth-shattering, one day it will be and by listening to even the most basic stories your child tells you, they’ll feel comfortable coming to you when there’s something bigger.
Respect goes both ways
When your teen talks, don’t dismiss their feelings or opinions. You can have a different point of view, but if you learn to communicate your differences without being judgmental, it teaches your teen to be respectful in the same way. It also brings them around to see that they can trust you with anything.
Help without hovering
Our tweens and teens need to know that we are always there for them -without being intrusive. Form active conversations, instead of lectures with you in the spotlight, droning on and on. For example, if your teen comes to you about an issue, ask them how they think they should handle it. Sometimes, teens just want to talk instead of getting advice. By letting them sound off and come up with ideas around you, it makes them feel more in charge while at the same time, closer to you.
Make one-on-one time
In addition to family time, make time for your tween or teen – just the two of you. It doesn’t need to be long, perhaps a weekly walk or an outing that you can enjoy together. It will strengthen your relationship and break down any barriers that would make them hesitate when talking to you.
The earlier you start these habits, the smoother these years will be. Do it with patience