How to talk to your teen in a way that encourages meaningful conversations.

How to talk to your teen: have important and meaningful conversations

“How was practice today?”

“Fine.”

“How was school?”

“Okay, I guess.”

Sound familiar? It can be so hard to talk to your teen, but this is also the developmental age when they need guidance the most (even if they don’t think so!). Important and meaningful conversations CAN just happen organically, but with teens, they often need a little help in coaxing along when it comes to communication. Here’s how to talk to your teen…and maybe more importantly, how to cultivate an atmosphere that encourages them to open up.

Make sure you’re available to talk to your teen.

A meaningful conversation needs room to blossom, and as the parent, it’s often our job to cultivate an atmosphere that’s conducive to sharing. A hurried morning is probably not the time to try to talk to your teen, but what about dinner hour? Or on the commute home from school, with just the two of you in the car? It’s often said that when it comes to parenting, quantity can often be even better than quality…make sure you carve out time to spend with your teen, or even just in your teen’s presence, in a way that invites them to open up.

Ask the right questions.

Look at the examples above. These questions invite ‘closed’ answers, which is why I kept getting one-word responses. Instead of asking ‘how was school?’, try asking something more specific, like ‘What did Mr. Johnson cover today in science?’, or, ‘Who showed up for Speech & Debate practice today?’. Specific questions encourage more sharing, and might prompt your teen to remember details.

Remember that teens aren’t too old for bedtime routines.

You may not need to tuck your teen into bed and read him a story like you used to, but kids this age still benefit greatly from routine and consistency. Have a school night bedtime and stick to it, checking in with your teen at the same time each evening. This is a great time for a ‘check in’, when you can ask your teen more details about her day or check to see if homework is done, the phone is put away, etc.

Listen instead of ‘fix’.

Yes, sometimes we need to step in and help our teens fix their problems, but other times, we only need to listen. Cultivate a space of non-judgement, even if just for the space of one conversation. You may need to revisit the issue later and offer some suggestions or even step in, but when your teen wants to talk about a problem close to her, first, just listen.

Validate their feelings.

Along with feeling listened to, teens need their feelings validated. Remember, we were once teens, too! Even if your teen’s reaction to an issue seems over the top, remember that to them, it’s of great importance. A problem that seems trivial to you may feel awful to your teen. This feeling is valid.

Ask questions.

Before offering solutions or letting your emotions take over, ask questions. You may feel like a psychologist with questions like, ‘Why do you feel that way?’ or ‘How did that make you feel?’ but there are reasons these questions are asked. They will challenge your teen to dig deeper into his feelings and emotions, which in turn will shed more light on the situation.

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How to talk to your teen: learn the ways we can help cultivate conversations.

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