Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Taking the Mystery Out of Talking to Teens

A recent LinkedIn discussion centered around the question "If you had five minutes to share your greatest passion, what would it be and what would you say".

My answer: "How to Talk to Teens".  Yep.  Seriously.  No big world issue.  No big political discussion or hobby. Just straight talk on Talking to Teens.

Here's the thing.  I think teens are one of the most disenfranchised groups in our world today.  They are misunderstood and discounted. 
The biggest mistake I hear in "teen talk" is silence. 

It is so often assumed that there is no point in talking to teens because they won't listen.  It's assumed that they are just going to go off and do whatever they want anyway, so why bother telling them what to do.

This makes me crazy!

Tell kids of all ages what you want them to think.  If you have an opinion on sexual behavior between teens, let your teen know what your value is.  They should know where you stand on underage drinking, behavior on social media platforms, and a whole host of other things. 

When you assume that your teen has already made up his/her mind, you are giving up your personal power. 
You are handing your influence away. 
To who?  To their friends.  To other people on Facebook or Twitter.

Teens tend to isolate at times.  It is normal kid behavior and developmentally appropriate for them as they learn to separate from you.  That's ok. Give them their space but always create opportunities for them to come back when they are ready, rather than letting them stay gone.
No matter, what, keep talking to your teens. 
They may not talk back all the time but that doesn't mean they aren't listening.

Here's another secret.  Teens have a lot of opinions of their own.  They care about things.  They are developing their own social conscience and are determining their values.

Ask them what they think.  Show teen curiosity about their ideas and opinions.  Ask a follow up question.

Teens behavior can make us all nervous.  It can seem mysterious and foreign and we can worry about risk.

Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions. 
Just like we hear over the loud speaker in public transportation stations, "If you see something, say something".
If your teen is acting in a way that you don't understand, ask and show curiosity. 
The answer is often a lot less scary than whatever you are assuming it to mean.
Meet your teen where he/she is at.  While you may be expecting a good 1:1 conversation, you may learn that your best conversations happen in the car when they are protected from the pressure of eye contact. 
And as must it pains me to say it and you to read it:
Teens are texting these days and they are reading texts.
An easy way to keep in contact with your teen is through texting. 
Don't just text rules and reminders about curfew. 
Keep in touch with conversation. 
You'd be surprised in what you might get back.
Of course, as with anything, text in moderation. It can't be your sole mode of communication with your teen.
What's most important here is that you keep the conversation going.
You'll maintain your relationship with your teen.
 You'll increase the likelihood that when they have a tough decision to make, it's your voice they hear. 
Ok, so that probably was longer than a 5 minute talk.  As you can see, it's my passion. 
If you're needing help connecting with your teen, contact me, and we can get started on helping you get that conversation going.


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