When babies are first born, we parents arm ourselves with cameras, phones, record books and all manner of recording devices to capture every developmental milestone. We know when our babes uttered their first words, tottered their first steps and started their first day at school, because we’ve captured it to be cooed over for ever more. So what happened? By the time our children reach the teenage years we’re struggling to keep communication lines open, let alone take some memorable photos of their path through adolescence.
By far the biggest challenge parenting teenagers is keeping the lines of communication open and meaningful. Teenagers often have things they want to say to adults, but finding the opportunity is often the problem. Creating space for your teenager to talk is one way to open up that opportunity for them. Here are some ideas to help you spend more time with your teenagers.
- Eating together – turn off the electronics, no phones (that includes parents) and sit down at the table for at least one meal a day. Having a conversation over dinner may be the best way to find out about your teenager’s day. If you can afford to eat out on occasion that’s a great way of creating a level playing field without the tensions that may be there in the family home.
- Family time – playing board games once a month, or teaching your teen a new card game is a great way to create a more relaxed family environment. It doesn’t have to be a whole evening marathon playing Risk. Just an hour playing a game can provide enough time for teens to talk if they need to.
- Do something active – suggesting a bike ride or a game of tennis can be a great way to spend time with your teenager and more likely to lead to a natural conversation.
- Giving your kids a lift – it may feel laborious being on constant call as taxi driver, but car journeys are a great place for kids to approach uncomfortable subjects as they don’t have to have eye contact.
- Plan a special day out together – a shopping trip, going to a football game, or a makeover with photos can be a really fun experience for both of you. Spending a longer than normal time with your teen might allow them the space to discuss something that is bothering them.
You are much more likely to have the opportunity to capture the teenage years, be it in memories written down, or photographs of family days out, if you have established a good line of communication with your adolescent. So, here are our top tips for communicating with your teenager.
- Listening is key – try not to interrupt when your teenager is communicating with you. By interrupting the flow you are shutting off the communication. Encourage your teenager to ask questions and don’t lecture. Try not to react. Most importantly, recognise the conversation openers and drop everything to respond. Brushing them off while you get on with something else can send the message that you’re not interested.
- Praise and positive feedback is just as important to teenagers as it was when they were toddlers.
- Independence and responsibilities are important milestones for teenagers. Adults, particularly parents, often see our kids as younger than they are. It’s a common misperception, which can frustrate and even alienate teenagers.
- Don’t take things personally – it’s not an easy thing to do and it takes practise, but when your teenagers’ behaviour provokes a strong emotion in you, it clouds your judgement and your ability to deal with the problem effectively and with support. Don’t expect anything from your teenager. Building an open and trusting relationship with your teenager won’t work if you need your child to react in a certain way so you can feel OK.
- Setting boundaries is still important, so don’t feel it’s all spiralling out of your control. Teens still need boundaries, so don’t feel you can’t have house rules. Compromising is a good way to negotiate and let your child know you are approachable and reasonable. Letting your teen stay out later on special occasions might be a good way of letting them know you can work things out together.
- Don’t over-react – teenagers need a calm response from adults. If teenagers are made to feel anxious by your response they won’t readily come to you again with another problem.
Dakota Murphey; BA (Hons) Marketing graduate, social media consultant and a one-time terrible teen. Working with London-based photography specialist Boggio Studios, probably sat in a coffee shop with a nice hot latte and browsing Twitter.
Until Next Time… Charlotte x