By Dr. Yanina Gomez, Mindset/Emotional Wellness & Parenting Expert, Mother of a tween & teen
You and I know about the importance of communicating with our tween/teen. We know how easy it’s to have access to everything and anything out there and we want our kids to be smart about it. You want to be her #1 influencer and want her to trust you. But, sometimes, we can be a little pushy and, actually, distance our kids from us. Other times, we simply don’t know how to connect with them.
In this post, I’m excited to be sharing with you 4 strategies I use to connect with my tween and teen that I’ve actually learned from them by simply asking them. I hope they work for you as well.
1. Be Present!
If your kids are like mine, they usually want to talk with me when I’m the busiest. So, I am in the middle of writing my previous blog post. I was quite inspired and ready to transfer my thoughts into paper. My daughter is into making squishies. She’s so into them that she has her own online store at Easy and is starting her YouTube Channel. As I am typing my post, mind you I’m super into it, she stands in front of me with 5 brand new squishies. She not only wants to show me the squishies but also wants me to squeeze each of them and tell her if they’re slow rising.
At that moment I was in the middle of a thought and needed total concentration. I had to ask her if the presentation could wait until I was done with my post. Although she agreed, I could tell she was a little disappointed. I finished my post and asked my daughter to share the squishes with me. And, they were slow rise. I bet you can relate!
The truth is, we need to be present when our kids need us. Just like my squishy story above, I’m not suggesting that you have to stop everything you’re doing to pay attention to them every time they come to you asking to speak with you. That’s not how it goes in real life. They also need to learn that there’s time for everything and, sometimes, they need to wait until you’re done. But, please make sure that if this is the case, you don’t forget about the conversation. Don’t let them wait on you and end up not having the conversation.
It’s important that you evaluate the situation. Is this something urgent that needs immediate attention? Then, perhaps, putting things aside and listening to your tween/teen would be necessary. Is this something that can wait like my daughter’s squishies testing session? Then, teach your tween/teen that sometimes they have to wait.
So, I told my daughter:
“I really want to check out your squishes and want to squeeze them, but right now I am in the middle of a thought and I need to finish this so I can give you my undivided attention and take the time to really test each squishy.” Can we do this after I’m done?”
We have to be present when we are talking with our tween/teen. What does this mean? No answering phone calls, no browsing social media, no picking on the television while you’re talking with her. They know when you’re not present and, they resent that. Be present, listen and show her that what she has to say truly matters to you.
This is as simple as to focus on the conversation and listen carefully to what they have to say without interrupting. Have questions or need clarification? Wait until they’re done or politely interrupt to get clarification. Tweens and teens want to be taken seriously, especially by their parents. Listen to their point of view, even if it’s difficult to hear what they have to say. It’s when they can count on you to share their mistakes without being afraid of being scolded or judged that the relationship steps up to the next level. Let them complete their thoughts before you respond.
One thing I find quite empowering is repeating what you heard them say to ensure that you understand it correctly. Listen and ask for clarification when necessary.
“Let me make sure I’m understanding what you’re saying…” “So, I hear you saying… Is this right?”
3. Use Your “Indoor” Voice.
Sometimes conversations can get a little heated. I know! You just looked online at your son’s gradebook I found out that he’s got an “F” on his report card. You ask him how come there’s an “F” on his repost card and he blames it mostly on how his teacher doesn’t know how to teach. You’re not only disappointed but also upset that your son is not taking responsibility over his actions. Naturally, you get angry and your tone of voice begins to escalate. He’s upset at you because you’re yelling at him and starts raising his voice too.
To say the least, the conversation becomes and war zone with no winners. One thing I’ve learned is this. When I use my indoor voice and keep it that way, the likelihood that a conversation becomes a war zone is pretty slim. No matter how angry I get, I have to consciously keep my voice down. Believe me, it hasn’t always been like that. You’ve got to be intentional about it. Always use your indoor voice, stay in control and when your daughter raises her voice, calmly ask her to lower it.
“I’m keeping my voice down and I’d appreciate if you do the same.”
4. Don’t Lecture Your Tween/Teen. Instead, Have a Conversation.
I often hear parents say: “my teen doesn’t want to talk to me.” But frankly, it’s more like “my teen doesn’t want to listen to me.” It takes two to tango. Likely it takes, at least, two to have a conversation. There’s a difference between having a conversation and lecturing someone. Do you remember when you were a teen and your parents kept on lecturing you about how bad your boyfriend was and how he will ruin your life? They kept on going and going about your wild boyfriend. They would bring him up (and remind you about how much they hated him!) every time they could, even when the conversation was originally about how annoying was uncle Bill at last night’s dinner. I bet you totally tuned them out and likely said to yourself “I’m done with this. Stop talking!” Don’t let this happen to your tween/teen.
If you’re in the habit of making a lecture out of every conversation, don’t be surprise when your tween or teen tunes you out. Instead, be mindful about your conversation with your son or daughter. Make sure it’s a two-way conversation. Ask questions and, as I said before, listen. So, here are my 4 tips to have authentic and meaningful conversations with your tween or teen. If you and your tween/teen aren’t used to doing this, it will likely feel awkward at the beginning. Don’t stop, be persistent. Like any new habit, it takes time to change.
Here’s my challenge to you, start with one today and slowly add others when you’re ready. It has to make sense to you so it feels natural.
Which of these 4 will you start with today? Share below!