It’s an age old trope: teens, by nature, don’t communicate and it’s impossible to get them to open up once they turn 13. You hear rumors from other moms that raising a teen means accepting that he or she will clam up for the entirety their teenage years. When my kids approached their teen years, I braced myself for having to talk to them through closed doors and learning to decipher eye rolling code.
Thankfully, I am happy to report that my teens, for the most part, are pretty good about communicating. Mostly. However, we do have our challenges as they are declaring their independence and spreading their wings. We have had our fair share of days where one of my teens sits sullen silence in the car and it’s impossible to crack the ice.
Luckily, I have figured out a few ways to break the sometimes seemingly impenetrable teenage communication ice.
When I was a teen and I was upset at my parents, I used to put pen to paper to sort out my feelings. Somehow, writing my anger out helped me more clearly tell them why I was upset. Though my teens occasionally resort to digging out an actual pen, more often than not, my teens will text me when they are hurt or annoyed. If we’ve had an argument or disagreement, inevitably, one of us will open the lines with a short text that leads to a bigger conversation.
And, usually, after several texts, my teen will come out of his room with a cooler head and we can make up.
I know this sounds ridiculous but, the next time you are having trouble connecting with your teen, send her a funny meme on a topic you both enjoy. Whether it’s Dwight Schrutte hilarity from The Officeor a run of the mill Kermit the Frog funny, memes have been a way for my teens and me to connect during the day.
Sometimes, out of the blue, my son will send me a meme that makes me laugh out loud when I’m standing in the grocery store. It’s his way of saying, “Hey, Mah, I saw this and I know it’ll make you laugh.” And, when he follows the meme with a heart emoji, it makes my heart smile.
Meme conversations aren’t deep and they won’t change the world but sending your kid a little bit of humor now and again is always a fun way to keep the lines of communication open.
Harry Potter (or any other book series)
Though I read the Harry Potter books years ago when they first came out, I had a renewed interest in the characters and wizarding world created by J.K. Rowling when my teens devoured the series. We shared the books, often reading them chapter by chapter together so we could discuss, and, to this day, my daughter and I love to discuss all things related to Hogwarts.
Though Harry and his friends are fictional, the connection my daughter and I have found is very much based in reality. And, on days when she and I are not in sync with communicating, sometimes saying, “Wanna watch a Harry Potter movie with me?” is just what we need to be on the same page again.
Driving. Even if it means taking the long way home. Or driving to another state, if need be.
I don’t know what it is about being in the car but my kids will unload all sorts of information when I’m driving them around town. I don’t know if it’s because our eyes are focused forward and the onus to look eye to eye is diminished or if my teens know I can’t really yell when I’m behind the wheel, for some reason, the car is where we’ve had our deepest, most eye opening conversations. Whether on a quick trip to the high school or an hours long road trip, the car has been the catalyst for many a connection between me and my teens.
I am wistful about the days when my kids start driving because these days, the passenger seat is my gateway to their lives.
Washing The Dishes Together. Yes, by hand.
Let’s face it: when you live with teens, your kitchen sink is a disaster 24/7. You can never find cups or forks because they are all in your teen’s room and the number of plates they use in one day is mind boggling. Not to overstate but, at the end of every day, my kitchen usually looks like an explosion at a mattress factory. And, of course, I could yell and scream at them to be more responsible about filling the dishwasher, but the truth is that a dirty sink is my best secret weapon when it comes to talking with my teens.
I turn on some music we both like and I ask one of my teens to choose a task: wash or dry. And then we tackle the pile of dishes together. Some nights, the conversation is terse or perfunctory because they want to get back to texting their friends but, other nights, dish washing devolves into a full on dance party, right next to the sink. And, just like with driving, when you are both focused on a task, honesty and forthright communication flows.
I’m certainly not an expert on communicating with teens (Lord knows my kids have slammed plenty of doors with teenaged angst around here) but, at the very least, I’ve managed to find some pretty hilarious memes to send to my friends when my teens ignore my texts.