"Idunno" becomes the answer of choice for children from ages 14 to 18. You would almost wonder if perhaps they had lost the power of speech, but somehow they can communicate when they want something.
Most teens in a recent study indicated that they want to spend more time with their families and are grateful when their parents care enough to make the effort. However, from a parent's view point, the effort is frequently met with a cold shoulder, blank look or the ever ready shrug of the shoulder."
Parents get frustrated
There are a number of tough subjects that simply must be discussed in a rational, calm and cooperative setting. For instance; school, drinking, drugs, guns, violence, curfews, chores and attitudes are all necessary dialogs that need both sides to share in and listen to. Parents become frustrated and angry and tend to set down the rules, standards and consequences without discussion. If the only time your family talks is when there is a crisis, it will be hard to have cooperation and respect, both of which are necessary to build a true and lasting relationship. It is only through regular calm and open family dialog that parents get to know what their teens are feeling and teens get to know where their parents stand on issues.
Don't lecture, listen
This is the time in their lives when they are learning to be independent. When you are always ready with advice and answers to problems, you are training them to be dependent on you. You can assist young adults in brainstorming alternative solutions, without sarcasm, nagging or ridicule. If the problem is the child's, then allow her to solve it. It is only your problem when the behavior interferes with you. Express confidence to the young adult through words, gestures, and tone of voice.
Create teachable moments
Teens communicate best with food in front of them or when they don't have to look you straight in the eye. Use drive time to bring up subjects without being judgmental or trying to pry. If you see an incident of violence on TV, you may want to ask your child what they think. You then may offer different ways of solving problems. Play "What-if" and don't be surprised at their answers.
It takes a village to raise a child
If you are having difficulty communicating, be patient and enlist the assistance of other caring adults who want the best for your child. Encourage her to find a mentor and friend such as a grandparent, coach, teacher, clergy or older relative. Teens should not rely solely on their peers for important information, conversation, guidance and advice. They need you in their lives, so keep talking. Even though they say "Idunno", they do know you love and care about them. So, hug them when they will let you and most of all, listen to what they have to say, especially when they say, "I love you."
© Judy H. Wright, parent educator and author
Submitted by: Judy H. Wright *
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