You need to do whatever you can to keep communication open. Here are some general ideas that might help:
1. Make time to talk
This is an important use of your time. The more you talk together, the more you will find you need to discuss. You can have great discussion when you are driving together or even when you are just puttering around the kitchen.
2. Listen to the little stuff
If you listen, more will come. This is true on the heavy issues such as sex and drugs or everyday things like schoolwork or what is he planning to do with the rest of his life. When your teen knows you are listening, he is more likely to trust you enough to talk about more things in his life.
3. Listen between the lines
For many teens, it is difficult to talk to parents about things that really matter. Pay attention to the subjects your teen struggles to talk about. See if you bring up some of the tough things help him talk about them.
4. Ask his opinion
Few things please children — or anyone else — more than being asked their opinion. Ask your teen for his opinion on both little and big things. Take his opinion seriously. Be sure to talk about he says for a period of time and to not dismiss it too readily. He needs to feel you take his opinions seriously.
5. Pick your battles
You want to try to avoid having too many battles with your teen. Don’t make a big deal about the music he listens to or how she wears her hair. Share your thought about more important issues, such as drugs or alcohol or grades. Unless you see signs of trouble, respect your teen’s privacy.
6. Don’t interrupt
In a national survey, more than half the children said that when they talked, their parents often or sometimes didn’t give them a chance to explain themselves. Give your teen enough time to explain his opinion or desires, even if you think you know what he is going to say.
7. Talk on a regular basis
If you want him to want to talk about things with you, then it needs to be a regular part of your lives. What are you doing to make sure these conversations will take place?
8. Your child is still listening to you even when you don’t think he is
He is still imitating you even when you think he is rejecting you. So let him see you reading. Let him see you talking out problems and solutions. Let him see you being fair. Let him see you being concerned about others. His family is the primary model for how he will live his life.
Do something special with your teen. Set aside some time to spend going for a drive, going out for coffee or breakfast or something else that you and your teen enjoy. You need to have time together that is enjoyable and fun.
This is a time when you are not asking him to do something or are unhappy about anything. It is just your time together.
These special times together are special presents over the holidays or for any day.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. To reach First Teacher Executive Director Patty Waite, email email@example.com or call 360-681-2250.