Many parents today are dealing with this huge communication barrier between them and their children. Technology has evolved and upgraded so fast in the last few years alone that, with so many things going on with their lives, parents can’t seem to keep up anymore (well, unless you work for technology company or got pregnant when you were 13!). Many agree that today’s exponential speed in technological advancement is the culprit for the ever widening generation gap between parent and child.
So how can you build an open communication line with your teenager amidst all the distractions? Here are some tips according to some parenting experts:
- Keep family time sacred - You don’t have to force your child to keep talking about their lives all the time, it is normal especially for teenagers to keep things to themselves and look “bored” with whatever the family routine is, but family moments are what he or she can look forward to as part of a basic unit.
- Limit screen time for younger kids - According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids 2 years old and up should not spend more than two hours a day on “screen time”, which includes computers, mobile phones, TV and other gaming consoles.
- Create a “special time” for each child - There’s family time and then there’s an individual “special time” with each child. This is extra important for big families with kids who can’t really open up about their innermost feelings to the whole bunch.
- Pay extra attention to their conversation openers - One way to show your kids your interest is by asking them questions about their topic of interest, especially if it’s alien to you.
- Avoid judgmental questions - When listening to your child’s stories, try to not to ask questions that sound “judging” or condescending. “Why” questions often make your teen instantly feel defensive and lead him to clam up even further.
- Don’t force unsolicited advice - Sometimes your child just needs to vent out his feelings to you like a friend and decide on a solution on his own. Giving condescending advice, especially without being asked for one can make him feel he is incompetent of coming up with a solution on his own.
- Try not to respond to your child’s negative reaction with anger - Anger will only escalate the situation into a fight, and this will drive your child further away from you. Instead of shouting or cursing, show him you were hurt by what he did by saying so and then keeping quiet.
- Be there when he needs you - Most adults have their days scheduled, so at times we try to squeeze in alone time with kids in between and hope they’d spill the beans whenever you press it out of them. But children, especially older ones, aren’t like that. They normally open up only when they feel like it. The challenge is being there to hear what they have to say when that time comes.
- Be understanding - Instead of demanding attention, give him his space and just let him know you’re there when he feels like confiding. If he says he doesn’t want to talk about it, respect his decision…your child is starting to learn how to solve his problems on his own. This is actually a good thing.