Communicating with Your Teen
Because the mid-adolescent is preoccupied with personal wants, social friendships, and worldly freedoms, it becomes significantly harder for parents to get the teenager's attention than it used to be. Parents have to be more persistent with their message, and when the message does get through, it is often not well received.
Protective busyness (“Not now, I'm on the phone!”), protective unavailability (“Not now, I've got a friend over!”), protective belligerence (“Not now, I'm in a bad mood!”) all conspire to give parents the same forbidding message: “Leave me alone!”
If parents wait until a “good time” to raise a concern or communicate a need, they will never get their say. During mid-adolescence, the best time they are often likely to get is a bad time being given a hard time for intruding into the teenager's life with an unwanted discussion.
Using irascibility to keep parents away is a time-honored strategy for avoiding parental communication during mid-adolescence. Parents need to brave the threat of unpleasantness, insist on civility, and feel free to initiate whatever needs to be discussed.
If your teenager complains that you don't understand because the world is different from when you were growing up, agree. Then say, “If you truly want me to understand how life is for young people today, then educate me, tell me about it. I want to learn.”
Sometimes your teenager at this age will refuse to talk with you about what is going on or about what manner of parenting response you need to make. If you are frozen out in this manner, you can tell your teenager that he or she is giving up power in two important ways.
Explain it this way: “It is not my job to make you talk with me, but it is my job to let you know the consequences of not talking with me. In the absence of any information from you, I am going to come to my own understandings of what is happening in your life — which may not be true — and I am going to make independent choices about how to treat you — which you may not agree with. So, if you want to inform my understanding and influence my decisions, you might want to consider talking to me about what is really going on. My ignorance is up to you.”