As teens become increasingly independent and fill their schedules with extracurricular activities and outings with friends, you might have to invest a little more effort to keep the lines of communication open. Try these tips to help get your teen talking. The more you communicate, the more connected you're likely to feel to one another, and the easier it will be for your teen to come to you for help when they need it or just for a listening ear.
- Family message center. Everyone in your family is busy; schedules change from day to day, and sometimes communication can be difficult. Create a message center in your home with a corkboard and dry erase board or chalkboard to leave notes to each other. Jot quick notes, like "Soccer practice at 4:30 on Wednesday," leave longer letters to brighten your teen's day or suggest a family night. Add your own flair to your message center, and remind everyone in the family to always make a note of appointments, rehearsals, games and other activities.
- Teen and parent life seminars. If you're looking for a way to get your teen to open up or you have a specific concern, consider organizing a parent-teen life seminar. You could keep the subject matter light by discussing your teen's favorite movies, music or school subjects, or you could also explore more weighty issues dealing with religion, drugs, politics or philosophy. Either way, talking will give you and your teen a chance to better understand one another. Decide whether these seminars will include the entire family or just you and your teen, and be sure to agree on the rules before your first session. Rules may include the option of not commenting on certain issues and showing respect for each other's point of view.
- Family memory night. Every family has a collection of pictures, videos or other meaningful objects. Pick a night to review some of your favorite memories by simply watching family movies together or by getting organized and creating a family photo album, scrapbook or electronic family album. Relive some of your favorite memories as a family, be creative and have fun!
- Take your parent to school or take your teen to work. This can be a great way to teach your teen a little about your job and routine and introduce him or her to co-workers. Invite your teen to tag along for part or all of your workday, whether you work in the civilian sector or as a military service member. Give your teen the grand tour of your workplace and plan to show the highlights of your job. Leave time to go out to eat on your lunch break to discuss the day's events. Parents can also learn more about teens by offering to visit them at school to learn about their schedule, meet their teachers, and see their classrooms and locker. Make sure you get permission for either visit, be open-minded and make sure your teen is truly interested in the idea.
For more information about communicating with your teenager, visit the Parenting page of Military OneSource or call 800-342-9647 to speak with a counselor.