10 Simple Ways to Connect to Your Teen

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by: Lindsay Hutton
Let's face it — sometimes it seems as though teenagers hail from a different planet. While it's true that your teenage child still needs your guidance as a parent, many times it feels as though having a conversation with her might seem about as easy as scaling Mt. Everest with no equipment. The next time you're struggling to connect with your teen, try some of these simple ways to get her talking and help get the lines of communication open.
Father and son playing chess
Share His Interests
Does your teen love all things sports? Or chess? Or exotic sea creatures? Whatever your teen's interests and hobbies are, make them your interests, too. Start following your teen's favorite sports team, read the monthly car magazine he gets in the mail, watch his favorite sci-fi movie — anything to help you understand what piques his interest. This will make it easier to engage him in conversation if you are talking about something he is truly passionate about.
Mother and daughter cooking in kitchen
Do Something Together
Spending time with your teen doesn't have to entail hours at the mall with her and her friends. Teach your teen how to make your famous cookies that she loves, or rent a movie you've both wanted to see on a weekday night. Just hanging out together at home or in a relaxed environment can help draw your teen out of her shell.
Mother lecturing teen son
Skip the Lecture
Using accusatory words and lecturing your teen will only cause him to stop listening and shut down. Try to avoid using phrases like, "You never" or "you won't" and instead focus on conveying to your teen how you feel about certain situations. Once you state your case, calmly listen to what your teen has to say and keep an open mind. If you've discovered something about your teen that needs to be addressed, try to control your anger and state how you feel in a blunt and matter-of-fact way.

Also, watch your body language. Crossing your arms or standing over your teen doesn't make for a very relaxing environment. He'll clam up and all you'll likely hear from him is the slamming of his bedroom door.

Happy teen with parents
Keep it Simple
You don't need to have a deep, philosophical conversation with your teen to connect. If simply asking how her day was only elicits a shrug and one-worded answer, try asking a more specific question, like what she did in science class that day or how her basketball team is preparing for their upcoming tournament. Having simple, daily conversations will help give you insight into your teen's world and will help her open up about how her everyday life is going.
Teen girl reading book
Give Her Breathing Room
You don't need to smother your teen with questions to make it seem like you're interested in her life. Most teens value their space, and giving it to her shows that you trust her. If your teen knows that you trust her, she will be more likely to come to you to talk.
Family meal time
Have Family Meals
There are few things a teenager loves more than food, right? Eating dinner together as often as possible (try for at least three times a week) is a great way to get caught up on each others' lives. Ask your teen to turn his phone off or leave it in his room so he isn't distracted by incoming texts and social media. You'll be amazed what you can learn while sharing a meal together.
Father and son grilling outside
Chat While Working Together
Forced eye contact and face-to-face conversations can make anyone, especially teens, uneasy. Chat with your teen while you are both working on something or doing household chores like shoveling snow or raking leaves. You might find your teen becomes more talkative if he's keeping his hands busy or doing something else productive.
Teen girl on laptop
Connect Online
No, it's not the same as having a real conversation, but times are a-changing so you might as well go with the flow. While you shouldn't ditch face-to-face convos completely, you might find your teen is more open when you wade into her digital world. Start off with a silly, one-sentence email. If your teen bites and engages in the back-and-forth banter, you can sneak in a question or two about her day that might get you an actual response.

Wary of technology? Even better. Ask your teen to show you how to email or text.

Father and daughter playing basketball
Create a Ritual
Maybe it's getting a pedicure. Maybe it's indulging in your shared sweet tooth at your favorite cupcake shop. Maybe it's playing a pickup game of basketball. Whatever it is, try to have a monthly ritual that you and your teen always do together. Making it the same time every month (for example, on the 15th, or the third Thursday) will make your teen feel special and give her something to look forward to. She might not admit it, but your teen likes to have your one-on-one attention, so make it a point to schedule regular "dates."
Mother and daughter laughing
Talk About Your Youth
Reminiscing about when you were young will help your teen see you more as a person and less like a parent. While talking about anything illegal or dangerous isn't smart, letting your teen in on a few of your past adventures and debacles might make her more likely to tell you about some of hers. If she makes you privy to this information, remember — listen, keep an open mind, and don't lecture!