Talking to Teens: How to Keep the Lines of Communication Open With Teenagers by Cynthia Miller

Teens Parenting
a month ago
Talking to Teens: How to Keep the Lines of Communication Open With Teenagers

Teenagehood has entered our household, and my once-sunny daughter is now frequently sullen and withdrawn. It's hard to watch these young brains lurch in between childhood and growing independence, and it's very sad to let go of the little girl. But I know that this is an important part of her development, as she becomes more independent so that she can function on her own one day. Of course, I do want to keep the lines of communication open, and I'm grateful for two things:

  • Being able to remember not to take her behavior personally – that every time she pushes away, she's doing what she's biologically wired to do.
  • My work to meet her where she is, which is really paying off. When she does come chattering into my world – be it in the car after camp pickup or in a sudden burst of giggles over an inside joke with her sister – I drop everything and engage, fully present. She may not want to share the joke with me, so I start fake complaining that I'm being "dis-included" and how can I ever get smart if she doesn't clue me in – or act like I'm trying to sneak into the conversation.

I soak up every detail from what she does choose to share, no matter how seemingly "trivial" the topic might be to me. If she wants to talk about eye shadow or needing fingernail glue (I wouldn't know a fake fingernail if it hit me in the head), that's totally fine. By hardcore listening and showing my early teen that I want to hear about what is important to her, she knows she can trust me.

I'm giving lots of validation and positive reinforcement with phrases like, "What a great story!" and "I'm soooooo glad you told me about that." And if she's talking a blue streak and we're driving, I'll make a detour by the frozen yogurt shop to make sure I get every last drop of what she wants to share – and to reinforce that sharing with mom can still lead to sticky sweetness!

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Elisa All Schmitz 30Seconds
"It's hard to watch these young brains lurch in between childhood and growing independence, and it's very sad to let go of the little girl." It so is! I love this post, Cynthia Miller . You're doing a great job with your new teen. Sending you high fives!
Dawn Taylor
Some great tips here. The only thing I’ll add is that teens BS meters are pretty good so don’t fake interest if it’s not there. If I’m getting tired of a story that really bores me, I will say something funny to change it to something we can engage in. Doesn’t have to be every time but being honest sometimes can lead to them engaging more.
Cynthia Miller
Could not agree more. Absolutely - and good flag on this topic. I’m mainly trying to show my young teens I’m genuinely interested in them, period- so if they want to tell me about something I’m not that into (fake fingernails always comes to mind) there may be some self-effacing joking on my part, but I don’t pretend that I’m interested in the subject as much as what they think about it. For us, asking, “What do you think about that?” is a good way to not be fake but stay engaged. Great point, thx for that note!

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