The new silence between parents and adolescents
The old days between parents and teens
Remember the old days, when you were younger, and parents and teens had trouble communicating. Remember when teens went to high school, attended classes, socialized, went to extracurricular activities, visited their friends, and came home?
In the afternoons and evenings, they could rush to dinner, lock themselves in their rooms, stay on the phone, and play video games at all hours, but parents and children spoke in person, at least briefly.
How do parents and teens communicate these days?
In fact, there was a lot of silence between parents and children in the past, but something new has happened. Some parents and their teens don’t speak in person, they don’t speak much at all. They are texting and emailing all day long and even at home!
Numerous parent contacts
In reality, there are often more parent-teen contacts, but less actual communication. Instead of parents assuming their kids can function all day on their own like they have since preschool, parents now text about assignments, schedules, after-school commitments, and weekend plans.
As your kids hopefully try to pay attention in class, they get text messages from their parents. Children hide their phones under their desks and try to answer.
Numerous teen contacts
Parents are not the only culprits, of course. Their kids also text parents throughout the day, with questions about when they want to be picked up, as well as demands and complaints.
What happens in the summer?
Some teens go to camps where phones are not allowed, but sneak in. Sometimes the texting continues. But generally, parents and teens take a break from each other and seem to believe that they can exist on their own.
Other teens stay home and work. Then the texting continues between parents and teens.
Are parents more involved in the details of their teens’ lives?
On the surface, it seems like parents and teens monitor each other far too often. Do they really need to know the whereabouts of others at all times? Is this replacing teens who are learning to take care of themselves and trust themselves throughout the day? Do parents trust their children less? Do teens trust themselves less?
What about actual communication?
The whereabouts, the schedules, the routines have some practical value. But what about talking about feelings, intentions, goals for the future? I am not suggesting that parents are not interested in listening or that teens are not interested in talking. I think both parents and teens need and deep down want to talk and listen to each other a lot. But this other silent communication takes so much time that it gets in the way.
What should parents do? Some communication tips
Tip No. # 1: be respectful
In my experience, when parents are openly respectful of their teens and let them know that they want to hear their ideas, opinions, and philosophies of life, teens rise to the occasion.
Tip No. # 2: take the initiative.
Your first try may be a general one, asking your son or daughter, “So what have you been thinking about lately? What’s going on?” This can end in a surprised look and a curt response. But it is not an unfortunate failure.
Tip # 3: persevere. Add more substance.
On the next try, add a little more: “We haven’t talked much lately. How’s work going?” And so on. Ask questions slowly with more substance. Maybe ask them about their politics, their music, their friendships.
Tip No. # 4: Open the conversation asking for more details.
It’s so easy to slip in and close the door. Don’t be too quick to disagree or be critical. Bite that impulsive tongue.
Tip No. 5: Say thank you.
Let your teen know that you are grateful for the talk and that you hope he will speak again soon.