Have you ever had one of those breakthrough moments in parenting where a conversation suddenly goes way deeper than you expected and your teenager actually opens up? Those are the best. But figuring out how to get your teenager talking and sharing like this is tricky! So here are some things to try:
1. Ask unexpected questions. There are only so many times you and your teenager can tolerate the question, "So . . . how was your day?" So try a new icebreaker once in a while. Ask them what made them laugh today, or what they're watching lately, or who their favorite friend is at the moment. Here's a secret: you can find a lot of funny, unexpected icebreaker questions with a search on "Duck, Duck, Go" or check out THIS ONE.
2. Listen with curiosity. When your teenager is speaking, listen. Then keep listening. As they share, keep engaging with eye contact and follow-up questions so they know you care. If they give a brief answer to a question you've posed, ask them to explain it to you or say something like "That's an interesting response/answer what makes you say that?" This can even help a teen to think deeper about the question as well. Also, remember, not every conversation needs to be long to be effective. Just try to listen more than you talk.
3. Go first. If you have a tough or personal question for your teenager, remember they're more likely to share their stories, opinions, feelings, or questions if you share yours first. Giving them a relatable example from your life can help spark a stalled conversation. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable either, remember this generation CRAVES authenticity and nothing makes a parent/adult feel more distant than acting like we are perfect or have it all together. That only opens up a greater feeling that they will only disappoint us.
4. Hear their feelings. When your teenager shares something with you, remember there are real feelings behind even seemingly straightforward experiences. Don't dismiss, ignore, or overlook those feelings. You may not agree with a teens deep sense of the feels, but that doesn't mean we should shut them down. Try to remember what it was like when you were a teen because sometimes it DOES feel like their world is falling apart and we have the insight and wisdom to know it's not. More likely, they just want to know someone "gets them."
5. Invite silence. This may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the best way to encourage conversation is to sit in silence for a moment. Give your teenager time to think and rehearse their answers before expecting them to speak. We try so hard to fill empty space because it makes US uncomfortable, but there are times we have to remember "it's not about me" it's about creating an opportunity for our teen to be heard.
Remember, you’ll never be able to manufacture “breakthrough” moments on demand, but hopefully, these five tips can help you make those moments a little more likely.
Here is the VIDEO version of the Blog above.