Yes, it is possible to communicate with teenagers — in fact, I believe most of the time they really want to invite us into their world.
But what happens when they do?
When they want to share their ideas about music, clothes, activities, do we call it stupid or let them know how much better our way is?
Three ways to build bridges instead of walls with teenagers:
- Get with text. For teens and young adults, their primary mode of communication is the text message. Yet all too few parents are willing to adopt this quick, efficient mode of communication. Instead they complain that it’s silly and ask, “Why don’t you just call?” Instead of dismissing it because it’s less familiar, join them. Many times my girls texted me in situations in which they’d never have called, when they were out with friends, or even dates. They would let me know where they were and just chat about how things are going.
- Music. There has to be something you can find to like. When I was a teen (in the ‘70s), my parents hated all of the music I listened to except Simon and Garfunkel. My dad had derisive nicknames for rock and disco and constantly let me know how awful he thought it was. The only positive comment either of my parents ever made about my music was when I played Bridge Over Troubled Water for Daddy. He loved that song and I thought it was fabulous that he liked something I played for him. These days, much of what our kids listen to is remakes from the 70s. It’s so much fun to sing along and watch them wonder how I know the words.
- Social Networking. Yes, they spend a lot of time on Facebook and, increasingly, Twitter. It’s not stupid and it’s not, except in extreme cases, a waste of time. They are preparing themselves to live in this technology-saturated world, they are learning to network and to embrace technology, which is a positive thing.
One question I get asked a lot as many parents begin to join Facebook, “Should I friend my kid?” I say no. Let them friend you. Don’t make it a requirement or an obligation. My policy has been not to friend folks my kids’ age, so they don’t feel obligated or uncomfortable, however I’ll certainly accept their requests if they friend me, which they generally have.
As for monitoring their postings on social networks, as long as they lived under my roof, I had the password or the account was closed. Complete and total access. No exceptions.
If you want to communicate with teens, you have to do it on their terms, come into their world. When they invite you in, be a good guest.