Commentary by Jim White
One of the most common questions I get asked is, “How can I get my teenager to talk to me?”
Today’s teens seem to always have their earbuds in, their computer on or their attention on their phone. In today’s world, to get some quality time with a teenager, parents have to be creative. Here is an idea.
You may have noticed that teenagers like to stay up late. You will also find that late at night they will be more likely to open up to you and just talk.
So here is what you do. Say goodnight at your normal time and head up to bed. Next set your alarm for 1 a.m. When the alarm goes off, wander downstairs. Announce to your teenager that you are having trouble sleeping and start making yourself a snack. Hopefully by now they have at least acknowledged that you are in the room. Offer to make them something as well.
Then look for an opening to ask a simple question. For example, if they are playing a video game, you could say “Who is winning?” Then just wait and eat your snack. The key is not to bombard them with questions. Just listen. Stay present with no agenda. Sometimes they will open up and share what is going on in their life. Other times they won’t.
If they start talking, resist the urge to offer advice or “fix” their problems. Again just listen. After a little while, say, “I need to get some sleep, goodnight.”
A few of these late night encounters can go a long way towards building connection and trust with your teenager. Who knows, eventually they may even talk to you during the day.