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The right questions

Maria Fernandes

As a parent of a teenager you may have the same grievance as other parents – your child hardly engages in a conversation with you. You may find speaking to your teenager a herculean task. Your frantic attempts to have chats with your child could lead to a dead end because your conversation and communication can look like many things to your teen — a trial that tries hard to prove him guilty or you are giving unwanted advice and taking it one step further, it may appear as just plain interfering! This then makes him feel threatened and he goes into survival mode and fights back, escapes or disconnects from you.

So let’s take a moment and reflect. Are you doing or saying things that help you stay in touch with your teen? Or are you widening the communication gap between you and your teen with your words and actions? Without realising it, you may often continue to do the same things over and over again, mostly because you don’t know how else or what else you could do differently.

A good idea that could hopefully help you to soon have some amusing and compelling conversations with your teenager is:

Ask relevant questions. The normal, ‘how was your day?’ or ‘how are things at school?’ may not really work. To an active, lively and spirited teen, these questions sound lifeless, empty and dull. The kind of questions you ask are often the culprit that brings cracks into your relationship with your teen.

Some conversation starters to get your teen interested:

‘Guess what happened to me today?’ And go on to share some hilarious or startling details.

Pass a judgment on someone or something, this will surely get some response.

Share a problem in the home that needs to be solved; his creative and practical ideas may just be the answer.

Ask his opinion on a movie or news item.

Ask him to assess a particular decision you have made and listen attentively.

As far as possible, stay away from the all too common ‘why’ questions, because children can lie to hide information and to avoid getting into trouble. We want our children to share everything with us because we want to ensure they are safe and doing the right thing. We want to share our experiences and advise them accordingly. But they don’t see it like that. They want to be independent and don’t want, what they call, ‘interference’ from you.

What they want is for you to listen when they shares their candid thoughts, ideas and opinions. They are using you as a sounding board to test them out, to hear for themselves how they sound, to confirm them and to see which ones are off. Intentional listening is what is required from you as a parent.

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