The New Silence Between Parents and Teenagers
The Old Days Between
Parents and Teenagers
Remember the old days, when you were younger, and parents and teenagers had some trouble communicating? Remember when teenagers went to high school, attended classes, socialized, went to after-school activities, visited with their friends and came home? In the afternoons and evenings, they might rush through dinner, close themselves in their rooms, stay on the phone and play video games to all hours, but parents and kids would talk in person, at least briefly.
Watch different ways a father and son talk to each other.
How Parents and Teenagers Communicate These Days—Or Do They?
There was indeed a lot of silence between parents and teenagers in the past, but something new has happened. Some parents and their teens aren’t talking in person; they aren’t talking much at all. They are texting and emailing throughout the day and even at home!
Numerous Contacts from Parents
There are actually often more numerous contacts between parents and teenagers but less actual communication. Instead of parents assuming their kids can function all day on their own as they have since preschool, parents are now texting about assignments, schedules, after school commitments and weekend plans. While their kids are, hopefully, trying to pay attention in class, they are receiving texts from parents. The kids hide their phones under their desks and try to reply.
Numerous Contacts from Teens
The parents aren’t the only culprits, of course. Their kids text the parents all day, too, with requests about when they want to be picked up, as well as, demands and complaints.
What Happens in the Summer?
Some teens go to sleep-away camps where phones are not allowed, but snuck in. Sometimes the texting continues. But generally, parents and teenagers take a break from each other and seem to believe they can exist on their own. Other teens stay home and work. Then the texting continues between parents and teenagers.
Are Parents Becoming More Involved
in the Details of Their Teenagers Lives?
On the surface, it seems as if parents and teenagers are too frequently monitoring each other. Do they really need to know each others’ whereabouts at all times? Is this replacing teenagers learning how to take care of themselves and rely on themselves full days at a time? Do the parents trust their kids less? Do the teens trust themselves less?
What About Real Communication?
Whereabouts, schedules, routines have some practical value. But what about talking about feelings, intentions, goals for the future? I’m not suggesting parents aren’t interested in listening or that teenagers aren’t interested in talking. I think both parents and teenagers need this and deep down want to talk and listen to each other a great deal. But this other silent communication fills up so much time that it gets in the way.
Watch different ways a mother and her daughter talk to each other.
What Should Parents Do?
Some Communication Tips
Tip #1: Be Respectful
In my experience, when parents are openly respectful of their teens and let them know they want to hear their ideas, opinions, and philosophies of life, adolescents rise readily to the occasion.
Tip #2: Take the initiative.
Your first try may be general, asking your son or daughter, “So. What have you been thinking about lately? What’s up?” This may end in a surprised look and a curt reply. But it’s not a dismal failure.
Tip #3: Persevere. Add more substance.
The next try, add a bit more: “We haven’t talked much lately. How’s work?” And so forth. Slowly ask questions with more substance. Maybe ask them about their politics, their music, their friendships.
Tip #4: Open up the conversation by asking for more detail.
It’s so easy to slip into closing the door. Don’t jump into disagreeing or being critical. Bite that impulsive tongue.
Tip #5: Say Thanks.
Tell your teen you’re grateful for the talk and hope you’ll speak again soon.
Now it’s time to comment on what you’ve read, so we can all learn together. What do you find with your teenager? Any opinions or tips for others about how to dialogue with your teens?