“Young people want to talk talk. Very often, we as adults are just asking the wrong questions.”
If you are or have been a parent of a teenagers, it seeems unavoidable: you ask them a simple question so you can connect, and they either give you a one-word answer, or roll their eyes.
The teenage years are tough, and helping your teen navigate through those years can be even tougher if they don’t talk to you. So, how do you get your teen talking again?
1. Ask them about things they’re interested in
McKee says a go-to question for him is to ask, “If you could text anybody in the world, who would it be?”.
He says a question like that is not only relevant for teens, it opens up a plethora of follow-up questions like:
Why that person?
What would you text them?
What would you hope they’d text back?
McKee says it’s fun to ask fantastical questions, but it’s also good to bring it back down to earth by asking more real-world questions as well.
“We need to turn our lecturing to listening.”
McKee says parents struggle connecting with their teens not only because they’re asking the wrong questions, but they’re asking too many. He says some parents are like parole officers, actively looking for some sort of infraction of the rules by asking questions like:
Where were you last night?
What time did you get back in?
Where you with that boy Chris?!
Did you do your chores?
Did you do it the way I told you?
“If that’s what we’re asking all the time, no wonder they don’t want to talk with us.”
3. Cut back on (your) technology use
Do teens have more gadgets and widgets than ever before? Yes.
Do they sometimes use them at inopportune times? Also yes.
Should parents set boundaries on when teens should be able to use technology? Totally yes.
However! Use of technology is a two-way street: parents should be conscientious of how much they use technology as well.
“We can teach what we know, but we can only model who we are.”
McKee adds that parents should double-down their effort to not bring work home with them; you always want to be available for your teens.
Get Your Teenager Talking has 180 different parent/teen conversation-starters, and you can hear Jonathan share a few of those below:
Jonathan McKee is president and founder of www.thesource4ym.com, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free, cutting-edge resources for youth workers across the world. Jonathan is an author, speaker, and trainer who began his career speaking on campus to unchurched middle school students. He continues to speak at school assemblies, events, and camps, in addition to training adult and student leaders nationally. He’s also author of Do They Run When They See You Coming: Reaching Out to Unchurched Teenagers.