My oldest daughter and I used to be so incredibly close. We were like best friends who told each other everything and loved to spend time together. I would always brag about how well behaved and polite she was and I truly meant it — she was a gem…
….then she became a teenager.
Yes, my daughter finally hit those dreaded teenage years and I have to say it’s not as bad as everyone says it is — it’s worse. Something must switch in their minds the second they become a teenager that tells them to rebel, to act out and to ignore their parents; because all of that has surely happened to us.
It’s been a little over three months since my daughter officially became a teenager and while I’m no expert on communicating with teens, I have learned some valuable things that I want to share. Through trial and error I figured out some ways to communicate with my teenager and though they aren’t foolproof they have been working for me.
Listen to your teen without passing judgement
Teenagers have so much they have to deal with: bullying, peer pressure, hormones, friendship issues, etc… Sometimes they want to talk to you and tell you what is going on but they’re afraid of you passing judgement. They just want to talk and want you to listen — really listen. I made the mistake of asking my daughter tons of questions about her day, issues she’s having with friends, etc… Because I asked and overwhelmed her with so many questions she didn’t want to open up to me or even talk to me about how her day was in general. Sometimes she would even get very defensive of me asking any questions. I tried sitting down with her and just letting her talk and ramble on about anything she wanted to and it worked so much better. She opened up and told me as much as she felt comfortable telling me about her day, issues she was having with her friends, etc… This might not sound like a big deal but for us it was a huge accomplishment. It took two months of bugging her for me to figure it out but I feel like she’s opening up so much more since I laid off pressuring her about telling me things.
Be more understanding of your teenager
There are times when we want to scream and yell at our teenager for various reasons but screaming and yelling doesn’t always work or even help the situation. I’ve learned that just like with small children, you need to choose your battles. Are you really going to waste your energy screaming at your teenager for not finishing her homework? Is that really going to work? Not one bit. When I notice my daughter is doing something else (such as texting) when she should be finishing her homework I will say something along the lines of, “I know talking to Kayla is important to you but you really need to finish your math homework. Kayla will be there after you finish and it won’t take too much of your time.” That works about 90% of the time. The other 10% she’ll tell me to leave her alone –but that’s normal for a teenager!
Trying to be understanding with your teenager even when you don’t understand or don’t want to be understanding is important. We had a situation recently where my daughter’s grades were slipping. She’s normally a straight A student but her attention and concentration just wasn’t on her school work. When her teacher contacted me I was angry because I know she can do the work and get better grades but I knew accusing her right off the bat was a bad idea. We sat down after school and I said to her, “I spoke to your teacher today and she said your grades were slipping. I understand seventh grade is extremely difficult and I understand that you may have other things on your mind, but getting your grades back up is extremely important.” After a few dirty looks she told me what was going on that was distracting her from her school work. Together we calmly spoke about how we could overcome those hurdles and get her attention back on her school work. You know what? It worked. Her grades are back up and she’s handling the other situations she deals with much better than she was in the past. I know it’s extremely hard to be understanding when you don’t want to be, but it’s very important to teenagers to be understood and to be heard.
Empathize with your teen by sharing your own stories and experiences
Your daughter wants to know that you were in her shoes and that you’re a real person. My daughter recently got her first boyfriend and she was worried about what her friends would say. When she finally told her friends about her boyfriend some of her friends turned their backs on her because they knew they weren’t going to get her undivided attention anymore. I empathized with her by telling her a similar story from when I was a teenager and let her know exactly how I handled the situation. She enjoyed hearing about my own experiences and even took something away from the conversation — how to handle those friends who turned their backs on her. She and I now share stories on a regular basis and she loves to hear my teenage stories. It’s definitely a good bonding experience and it shows your teenager that you were there once too and you got past the hard times.
Do more things together
My thirteen year old is the oldest in the family and sometimes she feels left out when we all do things together. At first I thought maybe she didn’t want to do anything with the family anymore or maybe we weren’t cool enough for her, but I soon found out that she felt left out and just wanted to spend time with me. Even teenagers need their mothers even though they don’t want to admit it. They love us and they want to spend time with us but sometimes they want to spend time with us by themselves. My daughter and I take two days out of the week to have time just for ourselves. We do our nails, watch YouTube videos, watch movies or even go on a shopping trip together. She loves it and feels much better since she can spend time with me alone. I think this is more-so the case when your teenager has younger siblings because they feel limited in what they can and can’t do and say when their younger siblings are around. Try spending some alone time with your teenager, it definitely does work.