Remember when your child used to come home and tell you every detail about their day, from their recess companion to their awesome snack? Any parent of a middle schooler knows those days are long gone. But don’t fret. We’ve uncovered a few secrets for helping open those doors. Here are our top five things parents shouldn’t do if they want to know what’s going on with their tween or teen. Follow these rules and soon your kids will be telling you all about their day.
- Do not bombard them the second they come home. It’s SOOOO hard but this is crucial. Immediately starting in about their day will earn you stony silence and might ruin your chances for a more meaningful conversation later on. Of course, you may say something pleasant, (offering a snack never hurts) but trying to get juicy details when they’re fresh off the bus probably isn’t going to happen.
- Do not immediately jump in with your opinion. Instead, let them vent and ask questions about why they feel that way. If they say “The dance is going to be boring,” don’t respond with “No it’s not! Dances are important. You’ll look back years later at all the fun you had at the dance.” Instead, say, “Why you do think the dance will be boring?” Could be your tween wasn’t invited to the “it girl’s” house to get ready, and she needs a listening ear.
- Do not invade their comfort zone. Not only do you want to restrict the questions you ask, but try to choose a time to talk when you aren’t sitting face to face. The car can be a perfect opportunity to have a great talk, because you’re just going about your business rather than making it some “big talk.” Create a habit where your tween unplugs in the car, so you can discuss the weather, the latest song or whatever is on her mind. Who knows what might come up! You knew there had to be a silver lining to the Parent Taxi.
- Do not nag. Sometimes we get bogged down in conversations that focus on requests or what kids consider nagging. For example, “For the last time hang up your coat when you come in the house.” or “Why haven’t you checked your grades this week?”. Note when every “conversation” you have with your child is a demand and course correct. Everyone appreciates a positive, fun conversation.
And, the most important one of all:
- Do not ignore your child when they feel like talking. This is hard because it seems to happen at the most inopportune times. When you’re on the phone. When you’re just finally sitting down to catch up on Netflix. When you’re running out the door. It. Doesn’t. Matter. This is your chance to forget what you thought you were going to do because nothing is more important than listening to your child. You will never regret being late for the movie or staying up later than you’d anticipated because you were having a chat with your child.
The main thing to remember is that you want to seem interested, but not intensely so – a very fine line. When talking with kids, less can be more – and you never know when it might even turn into “more” when you keep those lines of communication open.