Open conversations with teenagers

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As children move towards the teenage years they may appear to not want to talk as much with you and may be preoccupied with their peers. This does not mean they don’t want to talk to you at all. Nor does it mean they have nothing to say. It is important for you to not give up and to keep checking in and asking questions on a regular basis. Having conversations with your child asking their opinions and listening to their ideas shows that you are seeing and treating them as a maturing young person. This will also encourage them to come to you with any problems and help when you need to have difficult conversations or resolving disagreements.  

Talking side-by-side   

Good conversation with dads often occurs best when we are side-by-side with our kids, such as, driving to school or sport, walking together, in the kitchen cooking or doing the dishes. Side by side chats are usually casual and non-threatening and provide the perfect opportunity to  really talk. Side-by side chats are great for opening up good conversations and particularly if we have a difficult topic to address. Adolescents will be far more likely to open up to us about something they are worried about, if we are going for a walk or in the car side-by side, than if we are sitting looking straight at them eye to eye. This is especially true for teenagers.   

So, if you want your child to open up more or is you need to engage in a tricky conversation, try using the time in the car on the way to school or sport or go for a walk side-by-side.   

Top Tips  

  • Be open and available. Let your children know you want to talk with them regardless of the topic. Always show them that you enjoy talking with them. 
  • Keep up to date with what is happening in their lives on a day-to-day basis. 
  • Try talking side-by-side. Communicate while you doing everyday things together -  at the dinner table, on the lounge, walking or driving together e.g., when driving to school/sport or when doing the dishes. Side-by-side conversations are particularly good for having tricky conversations.
  • To get the conversation going, ask them about things that interest them. Show you are interested in hearing about their own interests. ask them to explain something they are interested in (a computer game, their favourite music, a movie or series they have watched).  Compare notes on football or other sporting teams or ask them about something they have created.
  • Ask questions that need a sentence answer rather than ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.
  • Be open to their ideas and opinions. Young people are learning to be their own person and may have viewpoints that may be different from yours. Use questions that open up conversation. “What do you think about that?”, “What would you do in that situation?”, “How would you do that?”
  • Be prepared. During your conversations they may decide this is the time to talk about something that is difficult for them. Try not to respond with ‘shock and awe’. Be calm and let them talk while you organise your thoughts.  

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