Parenting teens and tweens is seen by many as a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.
The thing that seems to be the most difficult for parents and the most important to children is for parents to listen. I’m not just talking about walking through the kitchen on your way to work with a pop tart in your hand saying, “uh-huh” as you go out the door. I’m saying stop, face your child and LISTEN!
Our kids have so much to say to us. And, while they don’t always seem to want us around, I have some insight for you. No adult looks back and says that they wish their parents listened to them less.
A note of caution here. If your child opens up to you about something in trust and you betray that trust, it is very difficult to get it back. Please understand that for your child to talk to you about the things that are precious to them, they need to know that you will keep their private things private (as long as they will be safe.) Also, there is a difference between reacting and responding to someone. Reacting can lead to a quick, harsh word whereas responding requires you to take time and think about what’s been said and your answer before saying anything. Responding to your teen not only encourages them to open up to you, but teaches them the proper way to have a conversation with others.
One thing that comes from having a chronic illness is our need to rest our bodies. What better time to communicate than having your child sit and relax with you? Have them grab a snack and just come sit down. No agenda, just relax together. It will lend itself to some good conversation.
So, how do you listen to your teen or tween when they seem to be too busy to talk and sometimes they just talk about things you don’t always understand? You just keep doing it. Have family meals as much as possible. That’s a biggie for us at our house. Even if the adults have work to do and the kids have schoolwork to do, carve out time for family meals. Also, no electronics at said meals. Even you, Mom! Put those phones in another room and sit together.
If sitting together and talking is something new to your family, it might seem awkward at first. But keep on practicing. Practice just listening. Your child might have some issues that they talk about and you might want to jump in and fix them, but many times they can solve their own problems just by hearing themselves say them out loud. Once they’re used to you just listening, then talk, but if they don’t think that you’re going to listen, they will stop talking about important things. I’m the same way. If someone tunes me out or just jumps in with their own thoughts every time I open my mouth, I don’t open up to them often.
Another great way to naturally have a chance to listen is to play games. There are some amazing games out there, and it really doesn’t matter which you play as long as your teen/tween likes it. That means that honestly you do not have to like the game. I know that might sound rough, but we’re working on getting people to open up here, and if they know that their preferences are being taken into account, it’s just one more way that you’re showing that you care. Play games that aren’t too in-depth and allow for easy conversation while you’re playing. For instance, chess is a great game, but takes too much focus for great conversation. One game our family loves called “Exploding Kittens.” It’s a unique game, and all of the older kids enjoy it. (the link is below)
Invite your child’s friends over and spend time together as a group. They might not like that idea at first, but you really need to know who your child’s friends are. They spend more awake time with their peers at school than they do with you during the week. You should know the kind of things that they talk about as well.
If these concepts are new to your family, they will take some getting used to. If your family already spends time talking together KEEP IT UP! The older kids get, the more they naturally pull away. That’s just how they get ready for adult life. But until they are eighteen, graduated, and moved out, you have a responsibility to them. And they have one to you also. You have the authority to decide where their time is spent. Especially during these years.
Time passes so quickly. Soon your child will be living on their own, and they won’t have as much time to talk to you. So many parents wish away their kids’ childhood, only to regret it later. There is no getting that time back. Take all the time you can with them. It will enrich both your lives.
Special note about boys. As boys get older, many of them are not as open as girls tend to be. Don’t let that deter you. Your son just needs to know that you’re there to listen, even if he’s not doing a lot of talking. Respect that and keep being close. He will love that you’re taking time for him even if he doesn’t say or show it.
Your challenge today. Go into your child’s room and sit with them for fifteen minutes for no reason other than listening. Want to freak them out? Bring some hot cocoa and cookies with you. Yes, just set that snack down next to them, sit down, and listen. Of course, create some conversation if there isn’t any, but be willing to listen as soon as they pick it up. A good start is to ask questions that require more than yes or no answers. Some awkward silences are ok. It’s going to take some time to re-build the relationship you had when they thought that you were supermom and you knew everything. Make the time, your child is worth it!
Some of our family’s favorite games are these, pick one up today! (You’ll find a free trial for Amazon Prime on the Presents Page HERE, just in time for the holidays!)