Effective Communications with Teens: Timing is everything!
At the start of teenage years, it can be normal to feel like effective and honest conversations are starting to dwindle. Often times, this is not because your teen is trying to block you out or is hiding things from you, but that there are not always situations that are conducive for talking about heart issues all the time. With 8 hours school, homework, and maybe an after school activity or two, time with your teen is precious, and sometimes these conversations are happening in the car or whenever you have a free moment to talk one on one. The only drawback to this is that your teen may not be ready, willing or simply in the mood to talk.
Imagine this: You are driving to school to pick up your teen, all excited to hear about their day, what happened what they learned, who they hung out with and when they arrive in the car, your questions are met with one word answers, “ YES”, “ FINE”, “ I DON’T KNOW”, WHATEVER”- I know this is a familiar refrain from the families I work with, and while you are exerting so much energy to engage, their energy is depleted from managing school, a social life, relationships that are constantly changing, and living up to the expectations of themselves, families and teachers- and they are truly spent.
In this case, it may be best to start picking up on if they need some decompressing time in the car with music, silence etc- since we are all humans and do no have a never-ending reserve of energy. Your child may be ready to answer all your questions, but if they are not, it’s not something that you can’t overcome. If you are in a busy house like most of us, it can be as simple as asking “When would be a good time to talk about last night? Your grades? The basketball team etc?” or “ Can we finish our conversation about XYZ tomorrow?” Also, giving each other the freedom to say, “ Now is not a good time, can we talk in the morning etc?” That way both of you are prepared and ready for a conversation and this can eliminate stress on both ends especially for a child who struggles with anxiety.
Another one of my rules of thumb is not to have an important discussion after 10 pm. We are all busy people with demanding lives, and starting to get into the nitty-gritty of things at such a late hour in the day can have some serious implications for saying things you don’t mean, not able to see the problem clearly, or just being overall cranky. Issues may seem a little bit smaller in the morning after a good night’s rest than feeling drained at the end of the day. Giving them the opportunity to say when they will be ready to be fully present and engaged in the conversation is a win-win for both of yall. Although, they may put off the vibe that they do not want you to know about their life or who they are becoming, that is not always true. They are looking to connect with people, have real conversations, and be understood. Your job as the parent is to work at the best stage and time for this to occur to the best of your ability.
***Disclaimer: This blog is the opinion of an individual and does not constitute professional advice or a professional relationship to the reader. If you are seeking mental health services, please contact a therapist in your area. If you are experiencing an emergency, please go to the nearest hospital or call 911.***