Not every moment—or every hour, or every day—is a good time to talk with your teen. So how can you navigate the choppy waters of their mood to decide when it’s a good time to talk?
Here are five foolproof moments to communicate with your teen, sprinkled across all hours of the day so there’s always an opportune moment to connect.
1 Talk over a meal.
First of all, teens are ravenous growing creatures. You must feed them! (…I’m only partially kidding!)
Second, eating a meal gives you something to do during a conversation.
You’re filling your plate, cutting chicken, poking potatoes, spooning soup, dabbing with your napkin, or sipping soda…while also speaking, listening, and maintaining a conversation.
If eye contact feels awkward, break your gaze to look down at your plate. If twiddling your thumbs makes you feel uncomfortable, hold your fork and knife instead. If you want to take your time during the conversation, linger over a meal.
Think back to your teen years when you were asking/being asked on a date. Depending on your story, it might have been a long-anticipated (and dreamed about) moment, or perhaps it was just as awkward as many first-time teen experiences. Keep that in mind as you plan and invite your teen to a meal with you!
A casual bowl of mac and cheese might do the trick. A quick fast food breakfast on the way to school could be a good option. Or formally invite your kid to a nice restaurant. Why not get the whole family involved? You know your child best!
2 Talk in the car.
Dial down the volume on the radio and set aside the phones. I know, that’s easier said than done. But trust me, some of the conversations need to take place and it will be much easier on your heart to have those kinds of talks in the car.
Your eyes are on the road and not on your adolescent. That means you can ask tough questions and they won’t hinder their reactions (because Mom can’t see my roll my eyes from the passenger seat while she’s driving…). It also means your teen won’t have to succumb to your stares of anger, pity, or whatever emotion you’re conveying in the moment.
Plus, where can you go? You’re both seated in a moving vehicle for at least a few minutes.
However, please don’t use this as an opportunity to verbally abuse or berate your child. Try taking during your next ten minute drive to ask how school is going, what’s up with their friends, or how they want to spend the holidays. Then, on a subsequent drive, ask progressively deeper questions.
Bonus tip: Earn your teen’s trust and respect by asking them for advice about something—even if you don’t need their advice!
3 Talk during commercials.
It sounds old-fashioned, but a lot of families still watch television shows together. Not all programs include three-minute commercial breaks, but the live ones still do. Make it an event to talk during commercials!
Try a question game like this. Or alternate who gets to ask a question.
Some rounds may pass in just a minute (like “What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?”), but every once and a while you’ll hit an answer that lingers beyond the commercial break (such as “If you were in charge, what Covid restrictions would you have put in place for your school?”).
Don’t watch live television together? Create your own “commercial break.” Watch the evening news and discuss current events. Watch a YouTube video then talk about it. Pause between Neftlix episodes. Stop in the middle of a movie to make popcorn and talk.
4 Talk at night.
Did you have a great night of sleep last night? Pray that your energy lasts a little bit longer so you can have a late night chat session with your teen.
It’s just bred into the fibers of adolescents to be part-nocturnal. That’s when the wheels of their mind begin to spin, the grand questions of life creep in, and the best time to let conversations begin.
Stay up late to catch them in a good mood, like after they get home from the movies or from a friend’s birthday party. They will already be in a good mood and excited to talk about what they just did. “I’d love to hear all about it over a bowl of ice cream,” is a fantastic intro to talk and listen!
Bonus: you don’t really have to talk—just listen! Invite them in to sit on your bed or meet them in the kitchen for a snack. More times than not, your attentive ear will inspire them to unload more of their heart. (Just remember to limit your yawns and keep your eyes wide open!)
5 Talk whenever they talk to you.
If a match strikes flint, a fire will start. If your teen starts talking, listen!
Unless you are in the middle of an urgent activity, stop and pay attention to your teen. You can catch up on those thirty minutes of work later. You can finish laundry after this conversation. You can “fill in the blank” another time.
Your teen is navigating their identity, a blustery social world, a changing body, increasing academics, and swirling thoughts. They needed you as a tiny toddler, and they still need you now. Pause and listen.
Talking is hard.
Mom and Dad, talking is hard. Your baby is now in a nearly-grown body with complicated thoughts and oodles of questions.
Barriers shoot up like weeds during the teen years, leaving gaping holes and overgrown patches in your relationship.
But you’re not alone. Our team of experts wants to help you (parents) and your teens reconnect. We can tenderly remove the weeds, fill in the holes, and plant seeds in fertile soil to benefit years of future growth.
You don’t need to navigate the rough patches alone. Call our team today. Together is better!Teen Social Anxiety