4 Tips to Ease Difficult Conversations With Your Teen
Environment, Experience, Engagement
We often talk about the magic “3 Es” at Birth2Work … Environment, Experience, and Engagement.
- The first E is for the environment we want to create for our children.
- The second E is the experiences we want them to have.
- The third E stands for engagement, or important discussions about what they experienced and/or what’s going on around them that help them put their world into words.
While all three Es are important, engagement is by far the most important.
Engagement is also by far the most challenging … for parents and for their teens. Why? Because discussions about what goes on leads to the important discussions about actions we take, our beliefs, our personal relationships, the future, what bothers us, what we worry about, and more.
… And bad mistakes. I’ve made a few.
We’ve all made mistakes. … I know I’ve made plenty and continue today! But, I have someone I can share my innermost thoughts and concerns with whom I trust. Her name is Elane. It’s not always easy, but knowing that I can share makes life much more bearable and Elane provides me with insights, different perspectives, and help to put things into words that make sense. The more I engage with her, the better life is for both of us.
Our teens are the same way … making mistakes and learning every day. But they don’t always find it easy to share their mistakes and thoughts with their parents because they don’t want to disappoint, get yelled at, be judged, or feel any less a person.
So, as parents, it’s up to us to help get the dialogue going. But, opening the door is not always easy. In fact, it can be downright hard. So, here are a few tips to get the door open and the dialogue going.
- Remember this is not about you, it’s about them.
- Remember to listen more than talk. They don’t need a lecture, they need someone who will just listen to them.
- Have the discussion in private, away from their siblings, their friends … just you and them, one-on-one.
- Remember you may not like everything you hear, so be calm and patient and respond with thoughts that will help them. In a few years, they will be out of the house and on their own doing what they want to do. This is your opportunity to share your wisdom and perspective, so as they make their decisions, not only will they have the benefit of your mistakes but also the learning you went through.
For teens in their last year of high school, one of the conversations to get a good discussion going could be about their biggest fear about leaving home. A lighter topic might be about the best family vacation and why.
No matter what it is, the discussion is about keeping the door open at a time when teens have their own vision, their own plans, and their own set of issues and challenges. Having a parent willing to listen can open a whole new avenue as they transition from being residents at your home, to being visitors when they move out.
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Rick Stephens is a co-founder of Birth2Work. With 33 years of experience as a top-level executive at The Boeing Company and having raised four children of his own, he is able to support parents and grandparents by incorporating his knowledge of business, leadership, and complex systems into the family setting. In his “free time” Rick enjoys road biking, scuba diving, visiting his grandkids, and generally trying to figure out which time zone he’s in this week. Read full bio >>
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