I might have mentioned it before, but some of my best conversations with my soon to be 16-year-old son are our car chats. They may be only 5-7 minutes, they might be several hours. All I aim for is quality; since most of the time; I am not his first choice of people to hang out with.
This week, it was about music. Normally, I am strongly suggesting “turn that crap off.” If you don’t know, I can’t stand most of the rap ‘music’ out there today. So much wrong is with the lyrics, but that’s a topic for another day. But lately, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with his choices.
John Coltrane, Def Leppard, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, Guns N’ Roses, and even Howlin’ Wolf, and Seals & Crofts, just to name a few.
So I asked what is driving his interest in this music. The answer was quite simple yet most profound: “It’s just raw mom. The melodies, the bass, the harmonies, the lyrics. It just makes me feel something. Of course, I still like the music you hate, but this is just good stuff.” 🎼 I love that he isn’t afraid to share some of his vulnerable, emotional side.
He quit marching band after 2 years and chose jazz band this year (he plays trumpet). He is looking forward to playing a whole different style of music. We had many chats about this decision (many, many lol)! Certainly, it’s not about me but I have to admit I was a little disappointed at first, but I will always encourage him to follow his heart (and the beat)! I know he doesn’t share everything, but I love everything about our chats.
Sometimes, when the teens don’t talk, stop and consider what types of questions being asked. The closed-end questions won’t get us too far other than a yes, a no, or a grunt if we are lucky. Don’t stick to the “how was your day” type of questions either. I could have said “Why this music?” But switching it up a bit by saying “What’s driving your interest?” seems to beg for more information.
Of course in these often uncertain and chaotic teen years, striking a balance between using appropriate questions to get them to communicate versus us appearing like we’re nagging or pushing is not always easy. We definitely don’t want them to shut down. Here’s a few suggestions that don’t ask “ How was your day.” (Unless you want to hear “Fine”, “Eh”, or “ Ugh”.)
- If your school day was a movie, which one would it be and why?
- If you could teach a class, which one and why?
- Which class could you never teach?
- Who did you help today, and who helped you?
- What you change about the school lunches?
- Which classmate is funniest? The one most likely to end up in jail? The most likely to become famous?
- If your school day was an emoji, which one and why?
- What do you think the teachers talk about at the end of each day?
- What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?
- What’s one thing you would change about yourself and why?
- What’s the biggest thing adults don’t understand about teens?
- At your age, what do you think makes an ideal date?
- What is something you really want to do but won’t because you are worried about what others might think?
Give them a try! You don’t have to do this everyday; remember the key is quality, engaged conversations, not 100 “What’s Up?” chats.
Where do you have your best conversations with your family (especially teens) and what is a favorite recent chat that really tugged at your heartstrings? Would love to hear your stories! ❤️