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.