But, when he reached 14, I noticed a drastic change in this closeness we once shared. I wasn’t clear about what was happening.
He began to spend more and more time in his room or talking with his friends. I usually spot him by himself, going out with his friends, and so on.
However, I had read enough to understand that boys at his age needed their privacy and space. So, that’s exactly what I gave him.
Realising Our Faults When Approaching Our Teens
Little did I know that this also meant him pulling away from me. I mean, I knew that there would be some distancing. However, I also thought that the closeness and openness that we once had were enough. I believed it would last throughout his teenage years. Well, I was wrong, sort of.
I found myself longing for him just to spend a bit of time talking to me. It’s a weird feeling no longer being the centre of his life anymore. But it’s something he needed to grow into.
I needed to get used to it. It did hurt initially when I realised that he no longer wanted to share everything with me, but I guess that’s also what needing privacy means—privacy from certain parts of his life.
How Being Distant With My Teen Made Me Feel
I was once the centre of his life, and my world revolved around him. In truth, this still applies to me to this day. I was desperate for him to open up to talk and spend time together. I had a deep need to connect with him. Unfortunately, he was desperate to go the other way.
He needed his space and privacy to start a life of his own. A life which I was no longer a part of. However, I didn’t lose faith.
As I write this, he’ll be 17 soon. I’m still trying to manage through this whole teenage thing. However, I think I’ve figured out a few ways that have kept the communication going between us.
Get Your Teen to Talk With These Tips
Below are the methods I tried to converse with my teen. You can use it to get your teen to talk more comfortably with you.
Listen More, Talk Less
Conversations between us only happened on rare occasions. If he joined me, I would drop everything and pay full attention to him. Even if I’m in the kitchen, on the sofa, or while working, I dropped everything. As parents, we do this to get your teen to talk to you. We can’t help it.
I’m never quick to offer advice because I found out that it’s not what he wants. I eventually only offered my take on the opinions he shared with me by asking first.
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Most times, though, he just wants to share stuff about his friends and school. Additionally, he just wants to voice out his thoughts about all the things that are wrong in the world. In those cases, he just needs me to listen to him. That’s it.
What I learned through just listening and not being in a constant need to give advice is that I’ve been able to know him better as a person and where his journey might be taking him. It is truly remarkable how much you can learn from a person just by listening.
Make the Most Out of Car Rides
I LIVE for car rides with my son.
For some reason, we always have interesting conversations, even if it’s a 10-minute drive. Although, I must admit that sometimes, I plan all the questions to ask or topics to discuss when we’re in the car. I do this because I feel it’s the best time for him to open up to me.
Sometimes, he comes up with the most random and deepest questions about life that leaves me struggling for an answer! I don’t pretend to know it all, and he knows that.
But it gives me an insight into what goes on in that beautiful mind of his. It’s weirdly comforting to some extent.
The best part of our car rides? On some occasions, when we reach home and the car’s in the park, he still wants to sit in the car and talk. I love that.
Once You Get Your Teen to Talk, Don’t Judge or Criticise Them
I made a terrible mistake once or twice for passing judgements or criticizing his opinions or choices that he would make. But, of course, that would just end up in disagreements or him clamming up and retreating to his room. So I vowed to never again.
I realised quickly that it’s okay that his thoughts and opinions differ from mine. I would encourage it, and I would respect his opinions. After all, we’re all entitled to our own opinions. That includes teenagers.
During this time, he’s also started making his own decisions, and I’ve given him some freedom to do so fully believing that it’ll promote the independence that he needs.
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Sometimes, he makes mistakes, but I’m always supportive. I also stay away from criticizing especially if it goes against his original decision.
As a parent, standing by and letting him find his solutions to problems has given me more anxiety than needed. And as much as I’ve wanted to go in, help him solve all his troubles and give him a shortcut to everything, I had to learn to let go and let him do it on his own.
I do attempt to guide him, without him realising I’m guiding him, and I stay away from being controlling.
After all, making mistakes is an important part of the whole learning process, right?
He will have to learn to take criticism eventually, but maybe not right now when he’s dealing with a whole host of things.
Schedule a One-To-One Time
Making it a point to schedule one-on-one time works wonders. But I must say that ample warning needs to be given to him just in case he has something else to do or his schedule just doesn’t allow for it.
I always make sure it involves something he likes. So I always schedule a lunch or dinner at his favourite places – maybe twice or three times a month. It might not seem much, but it works without him feeling too burdened by it.
Being in a different environment, outside of the home, and enjoying a good meal together always opens up communication channels between us.
Have More Patience to Get Your Teen to Talk
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Having patience is probably the most important factor to remember to get your teen to talk. The loneliness can be unbearable, especially when your child drastically switches from this talkative, outgoing, noisy, you are their universe person to being a completely silent, secretive person, burying themselves in their rooms most of the time.
As much as we want to get them out of there and get them out of the funk that we think they’re in, don’t. You see, as much as we’re struggling to find our way around these teen years, they are too, with much more intensity than what we are going through.
The only thing to do is to back off, stop hovering and give them some space. Space to navigate what they are going through, space for them to discover who they are and try different versions of themselves, space to let them feel the emotions they are feeling, and space to figure things out on their own.
Be patient, and it will be rewarding.
I did my fair share of hovering when my son started hiding out in his room. I was met with annoyance on his face every time I asked him to come out to watch a movie or do something with me. It hurt. After a couple of those, I stopped. I needed to understand where he was coming from and what it meant to him to have some space and time to be on his own. It wasn’t easy and still isn’t.
I gave it some time, and by ‘some’, I mean a LOT.
Eventually, I came to terms with having to trust the process. He sits with me now and then, and we talk. One thing is for sure, I savour every moment.
My Realisation After Talking With My Teen
What I know for sure is that my son will never be the same 4-year old or 8-year old or 12-year old. He is 17 years old, and I am so very proud of him. He still has a long way to go in discovering himself (at 48, I’m still discovering myself!). However, I’ll be standing by him every step of the way.
Navigating teenagers requires a skill set of its own – intelligence-gathering through undercover ops in stealth mode. And just like them, we will figure it out.