Teenage years are a time for identity development. It’s normal and healthy for adolescent youth to start exploring their individuality. As they go through adolescence, they struggle with hormones, growing up and figuring out who they are and where they belong in the world. They might push you away, but, according to Psychology Today, they actually still need you as a role model and need the boundaries you set for them.
While your daughter still needs you during this process, establishing healthy lines of communication can start with some simple steps. Even if conversations don’t come naturally, there are ways that you can stay connected, even when she starts to pull away. Here are a few tools to get this process started if your teen has shut you out.
Discuss Neutral Issues
You may want to hear about her latest relationship or her feelings, but your daughter might not be ready to open up like that yet. So, instead, keep the conversation in a neutral tone. Talk about a book she’s reading or a movie she just watched. Read articles from magazines she enjoys and discuss them with her.
Family dinners are an excellent way to begin discussions on neutral issues and even navigate your way into more intimate topics. Keep questions simple and avoid judging her responses.
Ask Open Ended Questions
Tired of getting “yes” and “no” responses? The fault may actually be yours and the types of questions you ask. Consider altering your questions so that a genuine response is needed. Be specific as well.
Instead of: “Do you like being on the basketball team?”
Try: “How do you think you’re doing on the basketball team? What does your coach say about how the team is doing this year?”
Pick the Right Moments
Many teens find it easier to discuss certain issues under the cover of darkness. Take advantage of this by making yourself available. Stay up and wait for her to get home from hanging out with friends or going on a date. When she comes in, however, don’t jump on her with a million questions. Instead, keep the conversation light and offer a reason to stay up and chat, like a bowl of ice cream or a marathon of her favorite television show. When she’s comfortable with the situation, ask innocent questions, like, “How was your date?” or “Your friends seem like fun, did you enjoy watching the movie with them?”
Don’t Interrupt and Listen
If your daughter starts a conversation with you, try not to react to what she says until she is completely finished talking. It’s tempting to interrupt and put your two cents in, but she may find it difficult to open up to you if she feels she isn’t being heard.
Acknowledge Her Feelings and Opinions
If your teen decides to talk to you, don’t dismiss her opinions or feelings, even if you find them silly or misguided. You might think you’re preparing her for dealing with the real world, but she will simply believe you don’t understand her or are dismissing her. Instead, give weight to those feelings and let her know that you understand. Your validation and openness will go a long way in building trust.
Having trouble talking to your daughter? A little distance may simply be a part of growing up. Having healthy conversations on a regular basis can help you determine if your teen is handling adolescence well or needs outside help. Remember, you don’t need to be a perfect parent to deserve outside support. We are a unique program that helps young women get back on track when students have veered too far off course. Perhaps boarding schools for troubled teens like Greenbrier Academy are here to support your entire family. Use these tips to start the next conversation.