There always seems to be that point in your child’s life when they enter the dreaded “cloud.” That foggy, confusing age where suddenly you’re not so funny or entertaining anymore, and you suddenly no longer understand their intricate issues and problems. Whether that age is 11 or 14, nearly every child at some point approaches the issues presented by the dreaded teen years. Soon, you may notice that those hormonal changes, a maturing intellect, and a desire for independence wreaking havoc with your formerly civil relationship.
One of the most pivotal things you can do as a parent is to maintain that connection with your teenager, the same connection that you’ve managed to foster since they were born. While there is no standard list of questions that can break any barriers that have arisen between you and your teen, these three simple questions help to start conversations that can begin to chip away at that gap. By opening up communication, your teen can come to the realization on their own that you, their parent, are genuinely interested in their desires, needs, and ideas. Most importantly, they will start viewing you as an authoritative companion, rather than a boss who doesn’t comprehend their individual issues.
1. Tell me about the funniest thing you’ve seen on the Internet today.
This question accomplishes two things: 1) It starts a lighthearted conversation with your teenager, and 2) it validates something they are interested in. Not every discussion with your teenager has to be heavy and serious. Sometimes, an easy-going or comical retelling of the latest viral video can go a long way in building a strong relationship. By doing so, you give the mic to your teen, allowing them to lead the conversation and be the center of attention. Even if, perhaps, you don’t “get” the humor your teen sees in watching a cat fall off of a television, it’s important to get engaged in the story.
If your teen isn’t an Internet guru like most, a retelling of something funny happening that day at school can have the same effect. Placing interest in their comical friends can be just as important.
2. If you could change one house rule, what would it be and why?
There’s an important factor to this question: the why. Of course, the majority of teens would most likely vote against vacuuming, taking out the trash, unloading the dishwasher, having a 10 o’clock curfew, etc. But their reasoning is important and should be considered.
As a teen, one of my chores was to dust the ceiling fans once a week. I hated it. Loathed it. My parents would struggle with me each week to get it done, and I would reluctantly, with considerable attitude, get on with it. Finally, my mother asked me why I hated that particular chore so much. I told her how much I hated dragging the ladder around and how clunky the vacuum attachment was when raising it up above my head. The next day, she came home with an extendable lightweight duster that could reach the high ceiling fans without the need for a ladder. The chore not only became easier but also allowed me to accomplish the job in half the time.
Hearing from your teen that they dislike a chore or want an extended curfew does not mean you should automatically roll over on it. But hearing why they dislike a particular rule can help to foster understanding. If it’s a rule that you refuse to budge on, like a reasonable curfew or dating, then at least having an open conversation about why that rule is instituted can help your teen to be less resentful about it and understand why it was implemented in the first place.
3. If you had $1,000 to spend in one day, but couldn’t spend it on material items, what would you do?
This question is particularly thought provoking, because teens so often immediately go for material items. Xboxes, PlayStations, makeup, clothing and other material items are usually the first things to run through their minds when they receive cash. But material desires don’t give you, as the parent, any true insight into their personality and interests. By approaching the question this way, you get answers that involve activities and hobbies that your teen is interested in, rather than their early Christmas list.