Trying to pin down a teen to have a conversation, sigh, some of you certainly know what I mean. Pulling teeth or catching a wet dog (or toddler) is often easier. You get the sighs and the eye rolls and the look of utter dismay. We parents must persist though as there are too many crazy, chaotic, frightening things out there.
If you remember back to those years, we believed we were invincible. We didn’t have many fears and knew we would live to a ripe old age. Sure, there were drugs, weapons, abuse, alcohol, vehicles, etc., but certainly not like today. Bullying existed too, but there wasn’t the power of social media and anonymous user names to hide behind.
There weren’t cell phones to capture every moment that might haunt us forever. There wasn’t Photoshop and other tools to edit pics to make them something more than they were. There wasn’t texting, sexting, online predators, nor as much pressure to keep up with others. There weren’t video games, YouTube, or other things keeping us glued to a chair. We could play for hours with a can, a ball, a sled, sticks, chalk, bikes, basketball, etc.
We had more family dinners, kids weren’t immersed in tons of activities and we used our imaginations like crazy. We are all under more pressures between work, money worries, carpools, taking care of elderly parents, finding daycare, keeping our kids safe etc. So, when do we find time to talk when young and old are not glued to a phone, video game or endless work?
I have found one of the best times is when I take my son to school. We have 25-40 minutes to have quality conversations. Sometimes, they are lighthearted, sometimes silly, sometimes tough. They may only take 10 minutes, but as long as they are quality talks, I will take that over quantity. It’s also asking open-ended questions, not just how is your day or how is school. And, there can’t be any fear of any topic: drugs, bullying, alcohol, sex, peer pressure–none of it is off limits and none of it should be brushed off with an answer like “don’t do it”. If you read the other categories here–they are just words. Sex talks should not scare you (because you should also be having those talks with your spouse or partner on a different level–that’s a topic we will cover later). If you aren’t comfortable or don’t know some of the things they are concerned about–read, read, read and don’t be afraid to ask a friend. This should never be a shame type conversation–we are all in this together and it takes a village truly! The same is true for those other difficult topics. A wise (a few years older also) friend once told me, “Always be friends with people who have children a few years older than yours. They are a wealth of information from schools, teachers, and what the kids are talking about and experiencing.” Best piece of advise ever!
So, grab the time wherever and whenever you can; be it 10 minutes or an hour. Even if it seems like a chore to them, they do listen and one day, they will thank you for being so caring, “nebby”, and open.