Communicating with Children and Teens (and anyone else, for that matter)
Be flexible! Take advantage of bedtime, driving in the car, running errands. Look for spontaneous opportunities to listen. Offer to drive home from a party or event. Understand eye contact is not always necessary (es
pecially with boys). If you cannot stop to give your child attention at that time, offer an alternative. Tell him or her exactly when you can pay full attention and follow through.
Quality is important. But quantity counts.
If you are telling a child/teen you have time to listen, show it. Sit down, get to eye level, close the door, turn off the cell phone.
The key to getting a teen to open up is to say very little. Respect silences. Kids don’t process as fast as adults. Filling in silences can derail their train of thought.
Sometimes, they just need a sounding board. If they want your opinion or advice, they’ll ask you directly.
Let them know that you “get” them, or at least that you’re trying to understand where they’re coming from. Avoid sarcasm. It’s the fastest way to kill a conversation with a teenager.
Exercise caution in expressing criticism or opinions. They will often recognize mistakes on their own as they think out loud. If they have made mistakes, chances are, they already know what you think and how you feel. Most of the time kids feel plenty of self-disappointment long before we open our mouths.
Ask your child, “How can I be most helpful to you?” or “How are you thinking of handling this?”
Hugs make everyone feel better. You, too.