“She spends more time texting than speaking to anyone!”
“Once my kids became teenagers, I feel like I lost them to their friends.”
I hear these comments in parenting classes, from friends with teens, and have contemplated the same questions myself. Parents are frustrated, sad, and sometimes even scared. So how do we get our kids to talk to us?
First and foremost, remembering the behavior is normal helps. As children mature, they want and need to become more independent. They will test the boundaries in words and actions. Think of this developmental stage as the toddler years relived in a teenage body. The use of the word NO, the desire to do life independently, and take risks are similar to the toddler years. Love unconditionally, stand firm in your convictions, and remember this time too shall pass. Honestly, it’s a wonderful time to step back a watch your child learn, make his own decisions, and take on the world. Keep the lines of communication open to guide your child.
Here are ten suggestions to get your teen talking…to you!
- Talk about more than the messy room.
When the conversation focuses on only behavioral issues, it’s bound to be minimal. Talk about what your child is interested in; school activities, sports, or hobbies.
- Plan special one-on-one dates.
Schedule a date with your teen to a sporting event, the theater, a fun restaurant, whatever appeals to the child. Make it a time for just the two of you.
- Get acquainted with the teen’s buddies and their parents.
Know whom your child is hanging out with during and after school. Become friends with the other parents. You’ll quickly know who shares the same values and house rules. If you want to know the kids well, have a well-stocked fridge and pantry. The kids will end up at your house!
- Use effective communication techniques.
Use good eye contact, repeat key ideas, and STOP multi-tasking, especially moms!
- When you’re apart, communicate the way your child likes to communicate.
Texting is HUGE with teenagers. Getting a quick, “I love you. Hope your math test goes well today” makes a tremendous impact on a child. It’s nice to know out of sight is not out of mind.
- Share your experiences as a teenager.
A lot of empathy can be built when children hear Mom or Dad have overcome challenges too.
- Be the parent. Keep the teen accountable.
There’s a detrimental trend in parenting today. Adults are choosing to be their child’s BFF rather than the authority figure. There will be lots of time to be a friend when the child is an adult. Now is the time to be the parent, lovingly creating boundaries and establishing consequences for broken rules.
- Choose holy and healthy over happy.
Happiness is fleeting. It’s a subjective state of mind. Stand firm in the morals you are teaching your child. A morally straight child who makes healthy choices will be happier in the long run.
- Win the war, not every battle.
Choose your battles carefully. Will wearing the same shirt to school five days in a row be worth the battle? Probably not. (This is where peer pressure can influence a kid positively. One comment from a classmate and that stinky shirt will hit the hamper!) BUT, if it’s a legal or moral battle, be relentless!
- Parenting is a journey, not a race.
Enjoy the good times. Kids grow up quickly. Every age and stage has joys and challenges. Teens are fabulous, full of surprises, and funny!
How do you get your teens to talk?
By Becky Danielson
Wife to Scott, mom of two
Licensed Parent & Family Educator
Co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting
Co-author of The 1 Corinthians 13 Parent Series:
Raising Little Kids with Big Love and
Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love
More ideas and strategies for parents of tweens, teens, and young adults can be found in Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love by Lori Wildenberg and Becky Danielson. Dive in deeper with the book and study guide!