It's difficult to get your teenager to open up if you don't show interest in what is important to them. One way to show interest is to find out what they are "into". Do they like music? Are they artistic? Do they excel in sports? Find out what interests your teen has and ask them questions about it. It's important to do this in a non-interrogating way, but rather through showing genuine interest. After all, if it feels forced, your teen will pick up on it right away! Don't give up after one try. Your teen may act annoyed or disinterested in your questions, but keep at it! Eventually, they will realize that you mean what you say and you are truthfully interested in their life.
Above all.... Don't criticize them for the things they are interested in or the things that are important to them once they share with you. All this will do is cause them to shut down again. Ask open ended questions and give them a chance to respond. (e.g. Leave your opinion out of it... especially if it isn't positive!).
Finally, ask your teen to teach YOU something!
Parenting is filled with teaching (another part of the many faces of parenting). But when is the last time you asked your teenager to teach you something about their life you aren't knowledgeable about? Perhaps your teen is into a sport you aren't familiar with-- Ask them to teach you how it is played! Maybe your teen is into a "phase" that is different from what you went through as a teen-- ask them about it! This shows your teenager that you really do want to learn about them and what is important to them in their life. It's like meeting them on their level, instead of conversation being about school and other "responsible" things.
We hope you have found some of this week's tips helpful... See you next week!
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.