Tips for Talking with Teens

I have teenagers on the brain this week.  I’ve seen a lot at work, talked to a few in my neighborhood, read a new book on cliques, and watched some singing on Glee.  When the authors of Talking Teenage sent me this blog on misconceptions teens have about their parents, that sealed the deal – I just had to write a post on teenagers.

I have to admit, I am a little bit afraid of teenagers.  They can be so dismissive.  Maybe it brings back insecurities of years past (or years present?); regardless, they have an uncanny way of making some of us adults feel simultaneously uncool and inadequate.  But when I read the article about the misconceptions teens have about their parents (and maybe other adults as well), it made me wonder if we unwittingly make the teens in our lives feel the exact same way?

What can we do to ensure that we all feel relevant, connected, and cool?

Use a cheat sheet. Use talking points written by others.  Try the blog post about teens, parents, and misconceptions.  Or try a list of conversation starters like this.  If those don’t go anywhere, try playing a game like Apples to Apples where words are part of the game.

Meet them where they are. Social media, X-box, Wii, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, Glee, University of Texas Football – get into what they’re into.  Not only will it give you something to talk about with your teen, but you might enjoy it as well.  Are you a Twihard? A Belieber? You’ll never know until you give it a try.

Talk a lot; listen more. I’ve heard folks say that we should say one word for every 10 our kids say to us.  That might not be a reality in some families, but it is a goal to shoot for.  Start the conversation, then let your teen take over.

Don’t freak out. Once your teen starts talking, he/she may say things that surprise or upset you.  Resist the urge to tell them why what they are  saying is wrong.  Play it cool and let them say what they want.  If you must freak out, do it later with another adult.  If the situation warrants more conversation with your teen, do it later when you’ve calmed down.

Good luck and have fun!  Teens are a full of interesting stories, insights, and emotions.  Relax and enjoy the ride.

The Wisdom of Madonna

This morning while driving my young daughter to a field trip, I popped Glee: The Power of Madonna into the CD player.  I listened to a few songs before I started to wonder if this album was appropriate for young ears.  Feeling doubtful – but not wanting to stop listening – I began to think of reasons why Madonna was OK for a young girl .  After all, I grew up listening to the Material Girl – and I think I turned out alright.

It didn’t take long before I heard true wisdom in her lyrics, and felt sure that listening to the Glee Cast’s versions of her songs wasn’t going to do irreparable harm.  In fact, I realized that some of the lines in her songs would make great jumping off points for in-depth conversations one day.  For example:

  • “Beauty’s where you find it (not just where you bump and grind it).”  (Vogue) It’s up to us to find beauty and happiness in life – we can’t count on others’ ideas of what it might be.  Is it possible to change our minds about what is beautiful and good over the course of our lives?
  • “If I died tonight at least I could say I did what I wanted to do.  Tell me, how ’bout you?”  (4 Minutes) Are you using your life wisely and doing what makes you happy?  Are there ever times when we shouldn’t do what we want?  Should we ever delay our gratification?
  • “Strong inside but you don’t know it, good little girls they never show it.  When you open up your mouth to speak could you be a little weak?”  …  “When you’re trying hard to be your best, could you be a little less?”  (What it Feels Like for a Girl) Do you think boys and girls are treated differently at home, school, soccer, church?  Do you have different standards or expectations for boys and girls in your life?
  • “You don’t need diamond rings or 18 karat gold.  Fancy cars that go very fast, you know, they never last.”  (Express Yourself) All I can say is that we should have listened to Madge 10 years ago.  Maybe our country would be in a better spot financially if we had.

Other lyrics I’m missing? I’d love to hear them!