What are some tried and true methods for engaging your teens?

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Answered by: Gaila, An Expert in the Talking to Your Teenager Category
Engaging your teens can sometimes be a challenge, but the rewards of establishing a good relationship with them are endless. There is so much to think about when approaching them: their ages, maturity, and moods should all be considered when conversing with them. But there are a few basic, easy methods that always work in engaging your teen, no matter what their developmental stage. First and foremost, you want them to be open and honest with you, so it’s only fair that you are open and honest with them at all times. However, you are entitled to your secrets, and by no means do you have to or should you share your own personal tales of teenage trouble. Do not make the mistake of telling them that you snuck out your bedroom window on hot summer nights after your parents went to bed, or that you narrowly missed failing 10th grade with all D’s on your report card. It will only give them license to do the same if not worse.

If they ask you a question, answer it as honestly as possible without divulging these kinds of secrets. If your teenage daughter is overweight, and she asks you if you think she is fat, then by all means, tell her in the kindest way possible. It will show her that she can depend on you for the truth. I explain to my daughters that I rely on them to be honest with me, because other people might be too polite or too afraid of hurting my feelings. If I ask them if my skirt is too short or my lipstick too loud, I depend on them to let me know. When serious issues arise, like sex and drugs, by all means do not overreact. Keeping your cool will mean the world to them. You might not like it when your 16-year-old daughter says she is thinking about having sex with her boyfriend, but if you handle it well, you will gain her trust. Be conversational and genuine. My kids are my best friends; I love spending time with them and enjoy their company tremendously. I have always treated them as friends, sharing my thoughts, feelings, hopes, and fears, as well as what I did during the day and my plans for the weekend. They find me interesting, funny, and real. Because I talk to them, they talk to me. I confide in them, but know where to draw the line: they don’t want to hear about my marital woes with their father. And even though my kids are my friends, they know I’m their parent and respect me for that. We talk things through when we have conflicts, and because of our good relationship it’s easier for them to see my side of it. We can agree to disagree, and they know I’m fair and they trust me to guide and direct them. Maintaining your identity as someone other than parent will help to make you seem more interesting to your teens. My girls and I discuss everything from food and fashion, to nutrition and fitness, to sex and drugs and rock and roll.

Trust me on these two basic tried and true methods for engaging your teens. They’ve definitely worked for me. Your teens are independent people with unique personalities, but in engaging them you are helping to create the people they are becoming.

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