So you want to talk to teens, ah?

Guess what? Believe it or not, sometimes we actually want to talk too. It’s true.  We want to be able to open up to you, confide in you, and trust you, but it’s not always that easy.

“What if my parents don’t understand?” “It was so different when they were teens, they probably never did anything wrong.”  “What if I get in trouble?” “Will my parents think less of me if I talk to them about this?”

There are a lot of reasons why teens hold back from talking to their parents about things in their lives. From my perspective (as a teenager) there are ways and opportunities to show your kids that you really want to just talk because you care about them, not to judge them, or tell them how to live their lives in every situation.

So how do you start?  For one, build trust.  We want to be able to trust that you, as parents, will see things from our point of view, not over-react right away or be judgmental.  We also want to know that you will listen to what is important to us.  It’s important that we know you want to talk to us because you’re interested in our lives, not just interested in controlling it.

I know what you’re thinking:  “It’s hard to build that trust if we never talk to begin with.”  But it is possible to do so by doing what you can with what little conversation we give.

Another way to help us talk to you and build the trust is to be transparent (open up to us).  We may give off that “yeah, yeah, I really don’t care” vibe at first, but believe me, it means a lot knowing that you trust us by sharing mistakes you’ve made when you were our age, and even just things that are going on in your life right now.  It shows that you value our opinions and input, which helps us to feel the same way about you.

The last but probably most important thing is to make sure you let your teenager know that you don’t expect them to be perfect and, that you know they aren’t perfect. Most of the time when I was younger, if I didn’t talk to my parents about something it was because I was afraid to let them down because I always felt like I needed to be perfect because I felt like they thought I was. It’s really important that we know you don’t expect that from us. We need to know that even if we make mistakes you are still going to love us and won’t think differently of us. I think if your kids know that, it will make all the difference in how comfortable they are talking to you.

~ Contribution by Jackie Werner


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