Toronto Zoo

How to keep teens talking to you during the school year

Around this time of year many parents are concerned with the school year and ask themselves: Will my kids be motivated? Will they make good friends? Will they develop good habits for? Will they talk with me and tell me what is happening? Here’s how to keep those lines of communication open.

Tip #1: Partner with your kids, avoid taking over
Most parents want their kids to be confident, responsible, reliable and independent. If that sounds like some of your goals, it’s important to partner with your kids without taking over. I see many parents who over-function for their teens – waking them up in the morning, reminding them to do school work, doing their laundry, picking them up from school, nagging them to do things that are their responsibility. When parents over-function, they create a child who is dependent, irresponsible and, at times, demanding. The trick for teens to function more is for parents to function less.

Tip #2: Remember To Have Fun
Sounds simple but it’s so important. Many of us get so wrapped up in the daily life chores and responsibilities that we forget to have fun. At my annual parent/teen event Lifeboat, I included a series of interactive and fun activities that parents and teens had to do. The purpose and content of these activities had nothing to do with the rest of the day. Their sole purpose was to get parents and teens to laugh and play together. For children, play is part of their everyday world and culture.

Tip #3: Avoid bashing ex-partners – Your teen will defend them
We’re living in a culture where divorce and separation are extremely popular. How parents respond and treat each other through a divorce plays an important roll in the emotional wellness of their children. My simple rule: say something nice about your ex-partner or say nothing at all. When children hear negative comments about their parents, the child will often go to the defense of the parent who is not present. Staying neutral allows them to make their own decisions.

Tip #4: Avoid sarcasm
From my experience, sarcasm is a type of humour that does not go over well. When parents or teens are sarcastic, often the other person gets ticked off, feels belittled or made fun of. Be selective and able to discern which jokes are funny and which ones are offensive.