What Your Teen Isn't Telling You
If your child has been giving you the silent treatment, here's how to subtly but surely improve
Be the student continued...
Ideally, you’ll have a news-hook entry point; for example, "So California voted on legalizing marijuana. People don’t smoke pot much anymore, do they?" Your teen might talk about people he knows or things he’s heard. At the very least, you’ll gather insight and those in-demand snippets.
The media can be a great conversational springboard, too. "If you know that your teen is a fan of a band or a TV show, ask about it: 'So tell me, what’s so great about Glee?'" suggests Amber Madison, author of Talking Sex With Your Kids: Keeping Them Safe and You Sane — By Knowing What They’re Really Thinking. "It’s an authentic question that will start an open-ended conversation. You’ll gain insight into your kid by listening to how she talks about the characters."
Also, play dumb about teen language. Nothing irritates Maggie more than when I say "epic fail" or "totes ridic." "Some parents need to try harder to be their kids’ friend, but a lot of parents need to be more parental," says Madison. "If you’re 40-something, saying 'OMG' doesn’t make you sound plugged in to teen culture. It makes you sound dorky and forced." So forget feeble attempts at Teensperanto. It only highlights the generation gap. Instead, connect by listening to what they mean, not how they say it, and your conversational connection will be that much stronger.
"If your kid doesn’t talk to you much, you can’t take it personally," says Haight. "Part of raising kids involves becoming aware that they have a separate life, and that they will make decisions that don’t necessarily reflect on you." Accepting that is critical as your child matures. To make peace with their changing role, parents have to establish a new emotional baseline. Maggie is never going to sit in my lap and watch American Idol again. But she will sit next to me and watch Top Chef. She won’t rehash every social skirmish or tell me whom she has a crush on. But she does ask me about world events and share her own passionate opinions. Sometimes she gives up a few nuggets of information. I’ll take what I can get, in the hope that one day the gold rush will come in.
I find solace in this comment from Ayers: "If you’re circulating enough in your kids’ lives — driving them places, having dinner together — you hear and see enough to spot trouble. Just because kids don’t talk, that doesn’t mean there’s a problem. The fact is, teens aren’t so good at communicating. Were you as articulate at 15 as you were at 25? Set expectations low, and raise them as time passes."
So meet my new mantra: Less is more. There’s a limit to how much I can and should know about my daughter’s private life. It hurts — I won’t lie — to feel excluded from her thoughts. But as an adult, I have to put my feelings aside. Right now, I need to do what’s right for her, which means giving her room to grow...and accepting that running commentary may not always be part of the picture.