If you’ve tried the tips in our ‘How to ask your teen about school’ article and the conversation is still not flowing, don’t despair! These tips will help you dig deeper into what’s going on.
Talk about when to talk
At the end of the school day, your teen has just experienced a full day of mental, physical and social stimulation. Some teens feel energised and chatty, but others are exhausted. The last thing they feel like is talking about their day.
If this is the typical pattern for your teen, find an opportunity when they seem happy and open a conversation about it. For example:
‘I notice that you don’t like me asking about school when you’ve just got home. It reminds me of my high school days – my sister was really chatty at the end of the day, but I needed some time to myself before I was ready to talk to anyone at home. Is that how you feel too?’
If your teen says yes, ask when they would prefer to chat with you, for example:
- after they’ve had a snack
- after they’ve had some time by themselves to unwind
- when you’re doing something else together – eg walking the dog, cooking dinner, driving to school in the morning.
Conversations like these develop your teen’s emotional intelligence by helping them to be aware of the relationship between energy levels, moods and feelings. It’s also great role modelling.
Take the pressure off
When a teen is not up to talking, even a simple greeting like ‘How are you?’ can feel to them like pressure. Try using a statement rather than a question – it takes the pressure off, while still showing that you care. Here are some ideas:
- ‘Hi, welcome home! I’ve put a snack for you on the table.’
- ‘Hi, it sure is hot isn’t it! Come have a cold drink to cool down.’
- ‘Hi, I hope your class presentation went well today. Tell me about it later when you’re ready.’
Do you feel awkward travelling with your teen if they don’t want to talk? There’s no need for you to stay silent! There are plenty of things you can chat about, even if you’re the only one talking. It may feel like your teen isn’t listening, but your idle chatter is still building your relationship, showing that you care, and role modelling conversation skills.
Sometimes your teen might join in the conversation, but don’t push for it. Just chat away about something like:
- your day – a meeting you had, something you read, a conversation you had
- family plans – what’s for dinner, what you’re going to do on the weekend, when your family are coming to visit
- thoughts, memories and conversations (especially about your teen) – ‘I saw a photo of a beach today and it reminded me of our first holiday at the coast. Do you remember that huge sandcastle we built? You were so excited…’.
If you don’t feel like talking, that’s okay too. ‘I’m exhausted today. Let’s listen to some music on the way home.’
Be an ‘active’ listener
When your teen does feel like talking, it’s important to make sure that they enjoy the conversation, so remember the ‘golden rules’ of listening:
- show your teen that you are giving them your attention (put down your electronic devices!)
- listen to and empathise with their feelings – ‘Wow, that must have been exciting!’
- avoid the temptation to tell them what to do – ‘That must have been stressful. How did it make you feel?’