Friday, July 4, 2008

Road Trips...

... are a great opportunity for parents of teens to connect and catch up. It may take a little time, but given enough space, a few open ended conversation starters, and usually your teen will eventually give in on the silent treatment and start to talk. Want them to talk more? Don't take over the conversation. Let there be some quiet between topics and usually, if you are patient, they will offer more. While your innate mother's instinct may drive you towards trying to solve whatever challenge or problem from their day they bring up - try to refrain! Have you ever wanted to just vent about your day to your husband or friend, and they immediately try to provide a solution, when you really didn't want a "fix" you wanted to whine, maybe even martyr it a bit, you wanted to get it all out, so you could let go of it? Same with your teen, they don't always want us to "fix it and make it all better." Sometimes they simply want you to listen. Shocking, I know. Once your teen is confident that you are completely vested in actually listening and perhaps validating their feelings here and there, you will be pleasantly suprised at the results. It is really hard in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, you will be amazed at all they had been holding in, and now are willing to share! Of course, you may need to institute ipod free zones. In our family, we ask that ipods not be immediately turned on - that we need to be on the road for more than 45 minutes. This rule graduated from the former rule (used more when they were younger) - no movies in the car until it is too dark out to read. If you can handle their music choices, try plugging their ipod into your car speakers, or in my case (I have an older van) - plugging into a casette enables their ipod to play on the car speakers. Whatever it takes, try to create an environment that enourages an exchange of conversation between you and your teens. This means, not chatting on your cell phone - which literally forces them to dis-engage, and when that happens, it will need to be a really long trip for them to re-engage. It also means, don't use that time together to lecture or whine about their dirty underwear on the floor- which literally translates to "wa waaa wa wa" to the teenager's ears. (Insert Charlie Brown's teacher sound bite). From my perspective, if you want to talk to a teen, you need to talk in a way they will listen, and more importantly, listen in a way so they will talk.

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