Tweens and teens can be difficult to communicate with at the best of times. An increasing desire for independence and complex feelings and emotions can make it hard for young people to feel comfortable expressing themselves and asking for help.
A family discussion can be very confronting for your child and may not result in the best outcome for anyone involved. Try some of these strategies when chatting with your children, you may find they are more prepared to open up when they feel less scrutinised.
- Usually when kids ‘hang around’ they have something they need to tell you. Be patient and approachable.
- Make time for conversation with your child at bedtime.
- Have regular family ‘challenge’ events using technology (e.g. high score on Candy Crush, family clan challenge on Clash of the Clans; Wii sports challenge, Xbox games night). It is interesting just how much skill there is involved in some of the games children use.
- Co-plan family holidays or weekend outings with your children. Welcome and celebrate their input.
Keep it Positive!
- ‘Catch’ your children doing good things and congratulate them in as many creative ways as you can.
- During the evening meal ask everyone to share their favourite part of the day...or what they hope to achieve tomorrow.
- Find opportunities to keep the lines of communication open with your child. For example, when driving them places use it as an opportunity to discuss what is happening in their life outside of the home and explore what issues are currently important to them.
- While your child is on the computer, use it as a prompt to ask them about what they are playing/doing, how it works and why they enjoy it.
- Walk the dog with your child and chat about general things. Show your child that you enjoy talking with them.
Ask questions that require a sentence (rather than yes/no) answer like:
- What happened today?
- Who have you been hanging out with at school?
- How can we make things better?
- It sounds like you are pretty unhappy, what has been going on?
- Allow for ‘cooling off’ time if you or your child are feeling upset or angry.
- Check you have understood what your child is trying to tell you.