As Junior is progressing through his teenage years (he's now 14), I've noticed something: his vocabulary seems to be shrinking, at least as it pertains to me.
|Teenage boys often do little more than grunt.|
A typical conversation after school goes like this:
Me: How was school?
Me: What'd you learn? Anything stand out?
Him: Nothing. Nope.
Me: Did you have any club meetings?
Me: What'd you do?
See the pattern?
Then he goes up into his room to do his homework and Skype with his friends and I don't see him again until he wanders down, like a man lost in the wilderness, looking for food before he, once again, returns to his cave.
In an effort to break this pattern and really communicate with him, I've discovered these tips for talking with my teenage son:
- Time it right. Obviously, right after school is not the best time for my son. He needs to decompress. When we're driving to or from a friend's house, however, IS. He's more open to communicating, is captive, and seems eager to talk. Dinner time is prime talking time as well. We don't often eat as a family, but when he comes down to supper, I sit with him. Lastly, just before bed is the BEST time to find out what's on his mind. I've learned more in the 15 minutes before bedtime than at any other time in the day!
- Ask open-ended questions. That was one of my mistakes above. What I should have done was ask questions like:
- What was the easiest/hardest question on your test today?
- Who's your favorite teacher and why?
- What current events are you talking about in school? This is a great one that can lead to ALL kinds of discussions!
- Validate his feelings and reflect what you hear. Statements like “I hear how frustrated you are!” and “Wow! That must have been hard!” let him know that his feelings are okay. Similarly, don't try to solve his problems. Let him talk it out. Only give help when directly asked for it.
I love the sound of my son's laughter!
- Don't pressure him to talk, but let him know you're open to it. Say, for example, “I see that you don't want to talk right now. If you want to later, I'm here for you.” Then, when he comes to talk to you, drop what you're doing and listen! You're showing him that you respect his wishes but are still leaving the lines of communication open.
- Listen more than you talk. Sometimes teens perceive that parents are lecturing, even if we're not. For example, a little while ago, my son heard the sentence “Putting your backpack away will help you find your book” as a full discourse on his messiness. Oh boy – I shouldn't have said that. But when he's sitting down to eat, I try to use active listening skills like looking him in the eye when possible, using engaging body language, etc. (learn about active listening skills here).
Remember, that the teenage years are a time of transition.
There will be periods in which your boy is processing all that he's going through and may seem withdrawn. Let him know that he can always talk to you about anything and then, when he does, LISTEN and don't' fix or judge!
To read my helpful notes on a presentation I attended entitled “Get Out Of My Life” - “The Road Map For The Rocky Road Of Teenage Life”, click here).