Here is a Paper Hope Teen Tip designed to help you gain a better understanding of your daughter’s world, build some trust and have some fun!
Tip: Get your teen talking.
Seems impossible, right?
A real conversation with your teen? The fact of the matter is your teen wants to be talking with you. Hard to believe, I know, but its true.
How do I know? I asked some teens and young adults directly. I work with a group of amazing teens we like to call The Paper Hope Street Team. They are comprised of mostly girls and some boys ages 15 to 25. As a mom of a teenaged daughter myself, I often have these types of questions so I refer to my team for the inside scoop.
This time I asked them – “What would help you feel more comfortable talking with your mom, parent or other trusted adult?”
After some discussion I was able to boiled it down to three basic steps:
- Find the right environment
- Sharing stories
- Asking open-ended questions
Getting started – step one: Find the right environment
This can mean location, but it mostly means that you and your daughter are free from distractions. Make sure that your phones are away and they you are not near the computer. Send any interfering family members away. You may have to go so far as to remove yourselves from the home. We have some suggested locations to create a good environment:
- A walk after dinner
- Shopping of any kind – provided the conversation isn’t too private
- While driving around town on errands
- Afternoon in the park – weather permitting
- Coffee date at a local coffee of tea hang out
Keeping the conversation going – step two: Sharing stories
Teens crave hearing stories from your past. Sounds crazy, I know. The teens I work with have all told me that they want to know about when you were their age. They want to know about your first crush, your friendships both good and bad, how you found a job, how you managed your money when you were a teen and anything that is relevant to what they are going through currently.
They disconnect when you share stories about your current day job, the mortgage or other adult problems – teens have little in the way of relating to what any of those things mean. They only know what they have experienced. Share stories that will show that you too have experienced similar situations and feelings.
The teens I work with tell me that this alone will strengthen your relationship with your teen because it shows your teen that you understand that you too have vulnerabilities that you over came and that you have the ability to hear and understand what your teen is going through.
Parents often ask me all the time, “isn’t that dangerous telling our teens stories from the past? I don’t want them to know that I drank or experimented with drugs.” Look, you know you don’t have to ‘spill the beans’ in your story while you are sharing. I can speak from experience, the more open and candid you are, of course the better the response will be from your teen.
I talk with teens and am sharing my journals from high school – the teens I have talked with have seen a lot already. There isn’t a whole lot that you are going to tell most teens that they haven’t seen on TV or that they aren’t already exposed to by way of their friends and peer group.
That being said, use your common sense and keep your stories age appropriate. Somethings are definitely better left to be shared later and when your teen is older. If you have a rough story to share involving drinking, drugs, sex etc., always think about what you are going to say first. These are not the subjects to talk about on the fly.
Bring things up and keep her talking – step three: Asking open-ended questions
As you are sharing stories be sure involve your daughter by asking her open-ended questions. An open-ended question is a question that requires more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
Here are a few open-ended questions that you can ask:
- How do you think your summer has been so far?
- What are you most looking forward to this next school year?
- Anything you didn’t get to do this summer that you wished you had?
- What can I do to help you with getting ready for school?
Smatter these questions around in your conversation with your daughter and listen to her responses. You will have additional questions from her responses – see where the conversation takes you.
So what if my daughter and I don’t currently have a good relationship?
This can happen even in household where moms and daughter have good relationships. Take heart. Our relationships with our moms and our relationships with our daughters is one of the most complicated relationships we will ever manage. It’s not perfect. It’s dynamic and always changing.
Don’t give up hope.
The teens I work with told me that if you and your daughter don’t currently have an open relationship, not to give up. They said to keep talking. That even when you think that your daughter isn’t listening – she is. Give it time. Keep sharing the stories from your teenaged years and see if you spark up a conversation.
One point of caution, with all conversations with our daughters there is always the possibility that she may feel the need to get something off her chest or share something with you that you don’t know – either about herself or about a friend. Ready yourself. This is not the time to gather information to provide punishment. This is time to strengthen your bond. Try to take it in and listen – breath and stay calm.
Teens often don’t share because they are afraid of being teased or judged by their parents. We have to remember that we were crazy teens too – once – though it may feel like a lifetime ago – it really wasn’t.
Our daughters need us now more than ever. They crave our attention and stories from the past. Foster your daughter’s unique contribution to her world and see what she creates. Honor her and her gifts.
That is your Teen Tip from our Paper Hope Street Team teens and me!
If you have any follow up questions or comments, please let us know! Me, Rio, my daughter, Ericka, Yvonne or one of the Paper Hope Street team will follow up!
Much love and respect!
- Paper Hope Teen Tip: Get To Know Your Daughter’s Friends (paperhope.com)