It seems to happen overnight, suddenly your teen seems to shut down. He (or She) answers your questions with an “I don’t know” or a “Whatever.” The more you inquire, the less you get. So, what do you do? Here are seven tips to help you navigate these uncharted, and often worrisome, waters:
- Teens crave privacy and independence. Allow them their space as much as possible. It is time to loosen the reigns and allow them a life outside of you. You don’t need to know everyone they talk to on the phone or speak to at school.
- Keep questions to a minimum. To a teen, questions can feel like an interrogation. KEEP QUESTIONS TO A HAVE TO KNOW basis such as scheduling and logistics. This is not to say you can never have a heart to heart with your teen again! However, you will have to be patient and wait for opportunities when they are open and ready to engage.
- BE AVAILABLE and present. Be around. You will catch a lot of what is going on just by being the one in the room or car. Look for opportunities. If they are coming home at 7:00pm, be in the room they will enter at that time. If you only see them on the go or you are over scheduled, there will definitely be a disconnect at this time in your teen’s life.
- BE CAUTIOUS OF YOUR REACTIONS to any information they are sharing. Less is more. If they perceive you to disapprove or anticipate you will lecture on anything they bring up in conversation, you will most certainly be hearing much less from them in the future.
- Match their energy level. If they are quiet and withdrawn and you are bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm, it will repel and irritate them. You don’t need to have a bad attitude or be sullen just because they are, but you can be reserved and soft spoken. Likewise, if they are excited about a new video game coming out, and you seem indifferent or uninterested, they will move on to talk to someone else.
- When your teen is feeling (on rare occasion) in the mood to converse and is the one to initiate conversation, make the most of it and respond openly and encouragingly to what they should say. Be positive when at all possible. Open-ended questions regarding what THEY think/feel, or what THEY are going to do are much better at keeping a conversation going than how YOU think or feel about the topic at hand. More than anything, your teen wants to feel accepted to by you.
- Find assurance in the fact this is a normal and typical part of development for your adolescent. Your tween/teen is forming a life and social circle separate from you in natural preparation of one day being an independent adult. Resist the urge of attempting to force more information out of them than they are willing to give.
By now, you have probably heard the term “Helicopter Parent.” It is term referring to a parent who hovers over their child, fixing and controlling every detail in their life. This is not only detrimental to your teen’s development – remember, you want to raise a child who becomes an independent adult and is capable of living outside and away from you, a problem solver, self-motivated individual – but will also push your teen away from you. So, don’t be a helicopter parent. Be a connected parent….an encourager…a support when all else feels wrong or confusing in life. I am familiar with a quote that states “Be the person you needed when you were young.” I like that, and when I look back, I remember needing to figure a lot of things out on my own but wanting that safety net and unconditional acceptance at home. If you take this attitude and apply it towards your daily interactions with your teen, you may have a teen that opens up a little more often than before.