“Talking to my son used to be easy, but now that he’s 16, it’s difficult for me or my husband to know what he thinks. He isolates himself in his room and barely speaks to us!”
“At one time, my children were eager to hear whatever I had to say. They soaked it all up! Today, as teenagers, they think that I’m out of touch with their world.”
If you are raising an adolescent, you can likely identify with the parents quoted above. In the past, conversation with your child may have flowed like a two lane highway, but now it seems that the road is blocked. “When he was a child, my son used to bombard me with questions,” says a local mom named Gidget. “Now I’m the one who has to initiate conversation. If I don’t, days might pass without any meaningful discussion.” Like Gidget, you have perhaps found that your once expressive child has changed into a sullen adolescent. All efforts to have a conversation may elicit only terse replies. “How was your day?” you ask your son. “Fine,” he quickly answers with no follow up. “What happened at school today?” “Nothing,” she says with a shrug – and trying to jump start a conversation with “why don’t you talk more” is met with stoney silence.
Of course, some adolescents have no problem speaking up, but it’s not always what the parent wants to hear. Many times, inquiries are met with “Leave me alone!” Trying to communicate with an unresponsive adolescent can test a parent’s patience.
What are some ways to break down the barriers if your adolescent seems reluctant to talk?
1. Do something together – take a walk, go for a drive, play a game or perform a chore around the house. Such informal settings often help adolescents to feel more inclined to open up.
2. When your adolescent makes a strong statement, say something like this: “I can see that you are upset, and I want to hear what you have to say.” Then listen without interrupting.
3. If your adolescent is unresponsive to questions, try a different approach. For example, instead of asking your daughter about her day, tell her how your day was, and see if she responds.
4. To discover your child’s opinion on a matter, you may want to ask questions that shift focus away from your child. Ask him how a friend of his feels about the topic. Then ask what advice he would give his friend.
Always give praise to your adolescent when deserved. Ample affirmation builds positive self esteem.
What are your favorite ways to overcome communication blocks?
How can you better communicate with the people in your life?
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