We teach parents how to talk to their teens. What we really need to emphasize is that it will be a whole lot easier if you set the stage for a good quality of dialogue when your kids are much younger. You can do this as early as when they begin to talk. You see you can’t simply start opening up the dialogue with your surly 14 year old if you haven’t built a strong and healthy foundation.
How to Start the Dialogue with Your Kids Before They Become Teens
#1: Listen when your children are speaking to you. No, that does not mean nodding while you are on the cell phone. It means being fully present emotionally and physically.
#2: Provide opportunities for disclosure. This means spending some alone time with your kids where they have the opportunity to talk to you without an audience present. We suggest taking a walk with them, going for a drive, anything where you are alone together and in a relaxed situation.
#3: Try not to emotionally over-react when they tell you something upsetting. Kids and teens shut down when their parents become intensely emotional. It gives them the impression that their parents can’t handle what they are saying. If you need to freak out, then do it after you have gotten the whole story. After that, you can freak out, but on your own time.
#4: Try not to deliver harsh consequences. Harsh consequences create a breeding ground for lying.
#5: Try your hardest not to be judgmental. Kids and teens are far less likely to open up in a judgmental atmosphere.
#6: Model respectful, calm, and supportive dialogue yourself. You are your children’s most important role models.
#7: Don’t give advice unless the kids want it. You may inadvertently be giving them the message that you don’t believe that they can handle things on their own. Ask them if they want you to do some problem-solving with them before dishing out the advice. Sometimes they just want you to absorb some of their feelings. Parents are in many ways shock-absorbers.
We are not suggesting that you don’t have a set of expectations, rules, and consequences. It is important to create an atmosphere where growing up together is easier for the whole family and that means opening up the lines of communication early!
Want more tips on talking with your teen? Visit Barbara online at Talking Teenage.com where she shares helpful tips and advice to help parents navigate the teenaged years!