I show concerned parents who want to give their children the best start to life how to better understand their children.

7 Feb 2013

How to Get Your Tween to Open Up to You

At some point, every parent will start to get grunts and nods when asking their kids simple questions, like “How was school today?” or “What would you like to do this afternoon?” Separating from parents and keeping more and more of their thoughts and feelings to themselves is a natural stage kids go through, but that doesn’t make any less difficult for parents to endure. It also doesn’t have to be the natural progression of the parent/child relationship. It takes some extra time and effort, but you can stay close to your child. Here are some ways to keep the lines of communication open.

Avoid questions that start with why.

It’s often surprising how regularly we question rather than converse with kids. Kids often get defensive as soon as they hear the word “why.” Instead of opening up the lines of communication, asking questions like “Why did you do that?” can make the child feel like there’s a right and wrong answer, even when it’s asked with a genuine interest. Instead, ask questions that will encourage your child to share his thoughts, feelings and motivations.

Ask open ended questions.
We often ask questions looking for specific information. Wonderful things can happen when we don’t have a specific agenda and instead welcome wherever the conversation may lead. Questions like “What was the best part of your day?” or “What was the funniest thing that happened today?” make kids think outside the box and often gives you a great jumping off place for a deeper conversation.

Resist the urge to offer advice or solutions.
Whenever a parent learns that her child is struggling with a problem, even a small one, her first instinct is to jump in and offer advice and a solution. Even when you offer your child great suggestions, jumping into a problem solving mode often turns the conversation into what feels like a lecture. When your child is facing a problem or struggling with how to handle a tough situation, use that opportunity to connect. Ask her about how she sees things, how she feels about what’s happening, what she sees as her choices, and what she thinks the results of those choices would be. By creating a safe space for your child to work through her thoughts and feelings, you’re strengthening your relationship and helping your child develop valuable critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Talk on their timetable.
Sometimes it seems that kids want to talk at the worst possible moments. Your daughter wants to give you all the details of an argument she had with her best friend when you’re trying to finish a big presentation for work. Your son wants to ask you about joining the hockey team when you’re rushing to help your 6th grader finish a science project that’s due the next day. You only have so much time and energy, and often there is just not enough of it to go around. Unfortunately, as children get older the times when they initiate a meaningful conversation get fewer and fewer, so take advantage of the opportunities you’re given whenever possible. If you have to postpone a conversation, let your child know why and pick a specific time to finish the conversation.

Plan time to connect.
Your child is much more likely to open up to you when connection and conversation are an integrated part of your relationship. From an early age, spend one on one time with your child on a regular basis. This is a great way to get to know your child outside the hustle and bustle of family life and it gives you the chance to create special memories together. That regular one on one time early on can make it much easier to continue to connect as they get older.

Take advantage of small windows of time.
Not every conversation needs to be a sit down, face to face talk. In fact, many of the best conversations won’t be. Take advantage of the time you and your child spend in the car driving to and from activities, getting ready for bed, cooking dinner over the weekend, or shopping for school clothes. Talking while involved in another activity creates a no pressure environment to talk with each other. Of course it’s important to carve out time when you’re focused on each other as well, however, in between those times try to take advantage of the many chances you have every day to connect and talk.
It’s important to both you and your child to connect and talk with each other. Although the parent/child relationship naturally changes as your child gets older, you can still have a close connection through the years.

Syndicated, with consent, from http://www.babysittingjobs.com/blog/how-to-get-your-tween-to-open-up-to-you/


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8 comments:

  1. Boy, could I write a lot about this. My thoughts are first - THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS QUALITY TIME - ONLY and I emphasize ONLY Quantity Time. Expecting your tween or teen or open up when you schedule it is being really naive. A great way to at least find out things is to become THE chauffeur for your kid and his or her friends. Let THEM control the radio and YOU be quiet. Over time, they'll sort of forget you're there. You'll hear things that will be invaluable.

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  2. Strong words Bruce, but you make a great point.
    Maybe society has missed the boat with quality time.
    What is quality time, but time that you are actively spending with someone.
    Nice comment.

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  3. When I was a professor, I wrote an article about how adolescents avoid topics with their parents. I have to say that these are great strategies especially the talk on their time table. They might not be ready to open to you on when you want to, but they might be willing when you least expect it.

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  4. Indeed. Teenagers are funny creatures, and we were all there at one stage.

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  5. Love this post. You can be a part, without being a part. Listen, observe, learn. Sometimes... just be there.

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  6. I did a public speaking course the other day, and the instructor told us the stats about speaking and listening. We are speaking about 30% of our day. So then, we are listening about 70% of the day. If we improve our listening skill and like you say, "Listen, observe, learn" image how we could change the world...

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  7. I love the open-ended question advice.


    My daughter told my husband yesterday that she loves having young parents because she feels like she can talk to us about anything. I was so pleased to here this. Honestly, this always has been one of my goals as a parent. I don't think it has anything to do with being a young parent, though. I think it's more about being willing to give my kids honest answers to questions and never avoiding their questions. If we give our kids honest answers, they'll be more willing to ask tough questions. I've taken the approach that, if they have the guts to ask the question, I should be willing to answer it. I think it's working.


    Thanks for the great post.


    Kenna

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  8. I agree with you Kenna. It's got nothing to do with age. Actually when you think about it, the older you are, the wiser you should be. I don't think people understand what being wise is, or maybe I'm wrong. To me being wise means you have an open mind and can see past your own reality. Being wise then, it doesn't matter if you are a different age, race, sex, or from another place, you should still be able to understand the person and not force your views on them.

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