How to Talk to Teens for less grunt and groan and more “Hi Mum, I’m home!”
We all know those conversations that feel like dragging cows through the mud. Every question leads to a grunt, a shrug or (if your lucky) an eye roll.
With a few tweaks, the good news is that you can start to turn family conversations around to be more enjoyable for everyone.
Try incorporating ideas from the suggestions below for more open communication in your home.
How are you turning up?
Yes, I hate to say it; it all starts with us. How the conversation progresses is entirely dependent on if we turn up as active listeners.
It can be challenging to stop, pay attention, and be present when our kids have something to say as busy working parents. However, the more we dismiss or half-listen or, worse, pretend to listen while finishing the last line of a work email, the more our kids subconsciously pick up that what they have to share is not that important.
In addition, paying attention can become much more challenging if we are all in lockdown or working from home. Setting those boundaries between paid work and parenting can be very hard when they both take place at the kitchen table.
It is up to us to role model active listening and mutual boundaries for all. For example, when listening to your teens, put your phone down, close the laptop or turn off the TV/ Spotify.
Using Communication Tools
Be honest and authentic: “It is important to me that I listen and hear what you have to say. So can I please finish this work task and be with you in one minute?” Then only be one minute!
Working from home: Block time in your work calendar for the 20 mins that your teens get home if they enjoy a quick chat and catch up over afternoon tea.
Paraphrase and use the words they have used. For example, try “So what you are saying is that Maths is…….”
Open questions: Using questions that start with ‘What’ or ‘How’ encourage more developed answers. Additionally, try following up with curiosity. For example, “That sounds cool. Tell me more about that!” or “What do you think about that?”
Closed questions: Leave closed questions that start with ‘Can’, ‘Are’, and ‘Is’ when you need help with household chores.
And then, try the “When, Then” method to avoid arguments and set healthy boundaries around non-negotiable tasks.
It won’t happen overnight
Remember, it took time to get to where you are and it may take longer to re-establish trust and set new behaviours. Consistency is key.
If you make a mistake – own it. “Oh no! That came out all wrong! It didn’t sound like I wanted it to!” or “I really stuffed up today. I am sorry” goes a long way.
Role modelling honesty and vulnerability by owning our blunders will show our teens that we all make mistakes. It isn’t about how we fall. Its about how we get back up. And this is a valuable lesson in resilience – something we all need a little more of right now.