Just when you think you’ve figured out how to effectively communicate with your kids, they go and change all the rules on you. And at no time is this more evident than when they hit the teen years. Suddenly grunts become answers and eye rolls are a standard response to any question, no matter how innocuous. So, to combat the "teen wall of silence," we parents need to get creative and talk to our teens when their defenses are down.
Here are five things you can do to open lines of communication with your kids:
You may not like it, but teens today communicate a lot differently than we did. Don’t force them to go old school; instead, get with the times and join them. Send texts and video messages as conversation starters, even if they’re in the house with you. But before you start chatting with them on social platforms like Instagram or Twitter, check that they are okay with it. (This can open up conversations of their own!)
I follow my kids on all their social media platforms but rarely - if ever - comment. I may not be "there" with my words, but I'm always observing what's happening in their social media communities - and what I see often opens up great conversations at home. So while nothing beats actual one-on-one conversations with your kids, having other ways to reach out to your child is always a good thing.
Video games are a huge part of many kids lives today. Teens in particular love the Xbox One and you might be surprised how much you'll love it too! I am blown away by the graphics in NHL Hockey and Final Fantasy; gaming has come a long way since the Commodore 64. Don't worry about your beginner status if you've never played XBox One before - they're the only gaming system that offers live tutorials right alongside your game. The really interesting thing about playing video games with your teens is that your roles are reversed - suddenly your teen gets to teach you a few things...and it's fun! (See below for an amazing offer from EB Games). If you want a multi-player experience and chance to meet your teen's gaming friends, join in the multi-player function - XBox One allows you to connect with other players on their XBox One or Windows 10 PCs. Why not host a gaming party for your teen and be the coolest mom on the block?
Sometimes connecting with your teen just means changing the scenery. Get out of your house, away from daily disturbances and take them out to dinner. It doesn’t always have to be just the two of you, but if you can occasionally make it an outing for two, all the better. With your mind off cooking and cleaning, you can truly just sit and relax - and let them order whatever they want with no questions or comments from the Nutrition Police! This is also a good place to insist everyone put their phones away.
Even though they’re all grown up (at least in their minds) teens love hearing stories about their younger years. Pull out family photos or better yet, text them one and ask them if they remember it. Make Throwback Thursday the day you share a memory of your own with them and not the world. Keep them connected to your family story and your bonds will grow stronger.
Ok fine, that technology is long gone, but that doesn't mean you can't share the sentiment. Here's how "mixed tape" love for your teen would look today: load their E-reader up with classic novels from your youth like V.C. Andrews or the Sweet Valley High series - the cheesier and the more retro the better. Make a playlist of your favourite music when you were their age, and throw it on their MP3 player. Finally, grab the popcorn for a movie marathon of the best teen angst ever to hit the big screen, AKA, a John Hughes movies. Aside from being trippy fun for you, this is a great reminder to your teen that you have indeed been there, done that.
I recently started watching Gossip Girl with my eldest daughter. There’s a ridiculous amount of drinking, drugs, sex, and fabulous clothing in this show. In other words, some perfect conversation starters. While you can’t possibly watch everything your teen does (nor would you want to), joining them to watch their favourite show allows you to open up conversations about things you wouldn’t normally be able to segue into without a lot of awkwardness. Finding time to watch your favourite "together time" shows is easy and available anytime you want - just stream them in on Netflix or any of the other entertainment apps available on the XBox One.
Remember: connecting with our teens doesn't have to be complicated - we just have to sometimes step out of our own comfort zones.