During a recent parenting presentation, it suddenly struck me that there is so much to talk to young people about.
Developmentally adolescence is a time of risk and identity formation; it’s a stage of moving away but teens also have a need to stay close. It’s a stage when one day/week/month/year they can be inward-looking, high maintenance and (let’s face it) awful. And suddenly they can be incredibly funny, insightful and loving. Some parents would argue that they see more of the former, but despite this adolescence is a stage when we really need to be talking with teenagers about BIG issues such as risk, relationships and life choices.
Stay in the game with teenagers
Here are three ideas to help:
1. Make the most of mealtimes
There is a strong correlation between good teen mental health and regular family mealtimes. Presumably because there is something therapeutic in sitting and talking, as well as the fact that it gives parents a chance to keep an eye on their young person. While many rituals are left behind when kids move into their teens, don’t let regular mealtimes go. Make mealtimes a must.
2. Keep the banter up
Leading boys’ educator and author of ’10 Conversations You Must Have With Your Son’, Dr Tim Hawkes, believes in the value of banter when talking with boys. He maintains that parents who also engage in give and take banter with their sons are more likely to have successful conversations about issues around risk (alcohol, going out, parties) and relationships (friendships, mates, social media) as the banter gives them permission to enter these tricky spaces with boys. The same principle applies to girls, but perhaps replace banter with fun, attention and shared interest.
3. Take an interest in their interests
Show a genuine interest in their interests (music, fashion, sport, etc.). This will give you some buy-in when talking with them, as well as providing a greater insight into what’s important in their lives. It’s worth remembering that many young people are focused in the present (I want to hang with my friends today and homework gets in the way), while parents usually take a long term view (you need to study hard so you can get a good job). These built-in tensions can be alleviated when we focus on the present – their interests – which gives permission to have more difficult conversations when needed.
Keep the lines of communication open
It’s a myth that teenagers are low maintenance. Most teens, like toddlers, are very high maintenance taking up a great deal of parent time and energy. But it’s important that we keep talking with teens so that we can influence their thinking as well as impact on their behaviour. It’s an old-school maxim but it’s as true today as ever: You’ve got to work hard to keep the lines of communication open when you are raising teenagers as it will pay enormous dividends in the end.
NB: For more parenting tips and tricks from Michael, be sure to check out the Parenting Ideas website.
A popular presenter, Michael Grose speaks to parents, teachers and principals on a regular basis.Michael comes from an education background, and has conducted post-graduate research into what makes healthy families tick.He's given over 1500 parenting presentations, including the first parenting seminar in Parliament House, Canberra.Michael is married with three adult children who have all successfully flown the parent nest.