It hasn’t all been clear sailing since you got through the “terrible twos,” but you’ve finally reached the point where you and your darling offspring can actually have a meaningful conversation. Your son or daughter has become a person you may even enjoy talking to. What a delightful surprise!
And then puberty sets in and your clear-eyed, chirpy child turns into someone you’ve never met before. You ask an innocent question and get a monosyllabic response, an exasperated eye roll, or the sight of a retreating back. What is it about nearing or turning thirteen that makes your son or daughter dole out words as if they cost £20 each, not to mention thinking you’re the stupidest person who ever lived?
First, Evaluate With Help
Hormones, raging or otherwise, are partly to blame. So are the pressures of growing up in a society that is changing so quickly that even adults are often set off-kilter. Uncertainty about who they are in the world and what they’re to become adds more tension.
The support of a strong, loving family is all some kids need to get through the rocky times. Some teenagers need extra help, though, because the turmoil inside and around them leads to behavioural issues and substance abuse. You love your child to pieces, but some problems need more than you can handle yourself.
There are many resources for school and outside counseling, and there are also some very fine boarding facilities that offer continuing education along with professional therapies and guidance to help your son or daughter through a rough patch. Use resources like the Diamond Ranch Academy admissions page to talk about solutions with your teen that will make you both happier.
With patience and time, they’ll grow up and all will be right with the world. But while you’re making your way through the teenage years, here are some suggestions that may help keep the conversation going:
Pull Back a Bit
Your natural instinct is to push forward. Where were you? Who were you with? What did you mean by that? How was school? Did you finish your homework? What are you doing in there? Do you like getting grilled over everything you say and do? Of course not. And neither do teenagers.
They’re trying to establish themselves apart from you, and it’s easy to make them feel invaded. In response, they go on the defensive… and there goes any chance of an actual conversation. Make an effort to avoid phrasing everything like a point in a formal inquisition.
Turn off Your Hot Buttons
After a dozen or so years in close proximity, your kids know every single one of your hot buttons and knows how to push each one. You may not have realised it before, but it’s how they control you. If those buttons stop working, there’s no more incentive to poke at them. You might try smiling and saying something like “nice try.” If you can get a laugh, so much the better. It’s hard to stay angry if you both know the other one knows the game.
Don’t Take Everything Personally
Even if it feels as if it is, none of what your teenager does is really about you. It’s all about him or her. The center of the universe resides entirely inside your kid’s head for the time being. Go somewhere later and brood about it if you need to, but don’t be personally offended unless you want to remain in that state of being for the next ten or so years. There are enough people out there who will offend you on purpose. Give it up when it comes to your kid.
If you begin every conversation with a lecture, you’re setting your teenager up to expect that all of those encounters are going to be unpleasant. It’s awful to be talked at. Instead, start a conversation with something like, “Hey, what do you think about… ?” and let your son or daughter have the floor first. Then really listen instead of just waiting for your turn to talk. And don’t interrupt. You may learn something you never knew.
Give a Little to Get a Little
You’re the grown-up and it’s your responsibility to law down the law. Stick with established rules, but be willing to make reasonable concessions. “Because I’m your mother and I say so,” is the universal fallback answer, but it leaves a conversation nowhere to go but downhill. Give your teenager a chance to understand your reasoning. He or she may still not agree, but at least will know the rule isn’t arbitrary.
Keep Things in Perspective
Not everything is worth being bothered about. Don’t ruin a good time by nitpicking about something. When the family is engaged in something that your teenager is actually enjoying, comments like “stand up straight” or “get your hair out of your eyes” just stop everything cold.
For some good tips on how to talk about the hard subjects, read this article from cnn.com.