A few weeks ago my 15 year old dropped a bombshell: He wants to start dating.
Yep, you guessed it; I pretty much had an aneurism as I tried to make sense of it all. I mean, I know that I should be celebrating the fact that the kid feels comfortable enough to address these important life decisions with us. Getting your teen to talk is not a common occurrence, I’ve been told. And as he navigates through all these exciting new feelings (like the fact that he wants to – gasp – have a girlfriend!), I want to continue the trend of having him open up to us. Some of the ways to encourage this are:
Respecting his opinion
Staying attentive, as he shares how he feels without jumping down his throat if I disagree. I’ve found that asking questions shows him that I am focused on what he is saying. He needs to know that I value his thoughts and that this is a safe place to share them, no judgment given, ever! Even though I feel as if he shouldn’t be allowed to date until he is at least 30 years old.
It’s not always easy to show support when the words coming out of his mouth clashes with sheer human reasoning. But I’ve found that he is more encouraged to share when I nod (and smile) as he is communicating. This gives him the impression that I understand what he is trying to communicate. If I don’t agree I try to start the sentence off by saying “I know what you mean but I think that” or “I understand where you’re coming from, but what do you think about…”
Easing up on the overreact
This was a biggie for me because I am the queen of overreacting. (Like, even now, with that last sentence: total overreaction) I have been working on staying calm and keeping a straight face when my teen drops bombshells on me. If it’s too much for me to handle, I usually ask him if we can speak about it a bit later. This gives me time to digest what he’s just told me, and to formulate a reply that is not based on emotion.
Making it a regular occurrence
I try to facilitate time each week (or each day) where we can simply chat about anything. The kid doesn’t even need to know that it’s been staged! The key is to make sure you are scheduling in time, each week, to encourage open communication. Once you’ve gotten this down to an art form, you’ll notice that your teen will start conversations on his own accord.
Keeping it chilled
Communication should not be a “big deal”. Well, we all know that it IS a pretty big deal, but having a chat about life or relationships or what to do after high school should come easily and not feel forced or abnormal. Try not to get your mom-feelings all over the place – some teens tend to clam up when they feel under pressure or as if you’re expecting too much from them! Keep it chilled, mom! You’re doing a good job!
With all of that said, keeping your teen talking can be a really rewarding and extremely harrowing experience. There are some things you’d rather not hear about! But at the end of the day, your kid will feel valued and respected and your relationship will be that much stronger.
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