By Megan Zapalac
Coming up against a brick wall when wanting to chat with your teen? Being involved in your child’s life is crucial for their development at all stages and will affect their mental health for years to come. One way you can show them you care is to ask them questions every day.
The basic question “How was your day?” is a good starting point, but be sure to notice their body language and tone. Occasionally these signs will tell you more about how they feel than words ever could. Simply asking them if they want/need a hug can also have a lasting impact.
Try asking them about good things that happened to them or something that they thought was funny when they were younger which can help them learn to think positively. This practice alone might help them not to always lean towards the negative if that is their nature or their habit.
“How are your friends?” is another great question that will show them that you are interested in their life as well as those they hang with. It’s always smart to even reference their friends when you hear they won an award, or had some great family news. Talking with them about their friends is many times even easier for some kids than talking about themselves.
An important thing to know is if they NEED someone to talk to. You do not necessarily need to ask this, but it is good to ask when something seems off with them. You want them to always know that coming home and speaking their heart and their own mind is always valued in their home. It will be crucial that your emotions not be on display immediately if they are opening up, so they can be assured their home is “safe” for them to express themselves. This takes practice and LOTS of miscommunication before you might ever find that perfect “zone” where they are secure in speaking to you in confidence.
The important thing is to NOT GIVE UP. There will be some successes and some failures along the way, but truly, consistency is the key. And on the days when there is no conversation, don’t let it alarm you—some days are just like that. However, keep asking, keep reaching out, and keep opening the door to showing them how to converse on all levels.