If you’re feeling disconnected from your teenager, don’t give up hope! With a few simple strategies, you can open up the lines of communication–and maybe even do a little bonding in the process.
Choose your moment. Don’t start firing questions at teens when they’ve just gotten out of bed, are engrossed in a movie or are on their way out the door. Choose a time when they’re less preoccupied—say, while rummaging through the fridge for a snack—to kick up a conversation.
Be specific. When you do have a window to talk to your teen, don’t waste it with open-ended questions, like, “How was your day?” Be more specific—e.g., “Tell me how the tryouts for the volleyball tournament went”—and you’re likely to get more detail. Plus, your teen will appreciate that you’re aware of and care about the details of his or her day.
Enlist food. There’s one thing all teenagers have in common: food. Invite them to grab a burger, some ice cream or a latte, and they’ll probably reward you with a nice chat along the way.
Say yes to rides. If your teenager doesn’t have his or her driver’s license yet, you’re probably frustrated by the endless requests for rides all over town. Don’t be. The intrinsic privacy of the car provides one of the best opportunities to talk with teens, and a time when they often feel safe opening up and sharing feelings.
Embrace texting. While face-to-face conversations may be scarce, teens and texting are inseparable, so make texting a part of your communication game plan. Not only is texting a quick, painless way for them to check in with you, but it’s also a way for them to share more serious information. Texting allows them to avoid an awkward, in-person conversation and gives you time to think and respond thoughtfully as opposed to just reacting.
Say sorry. The parent/teen relationship is often a volatile one. You’ll probably say the wrong thing in the wrong way several times over. That’s okay. Just be sure to apologize. This shows teens that nobody’s perfect—not even you—and that you respect them and their approach toward adulthood.
These small strategies can go a long way toward creating healthy communication during a critical time in your child’s life, setting the stage for a strong relationship long into adulthood.