Teenagers and young adults hear so many different voices and opinions and it may feel as if your voice is lost in the noise, but it is SO important to continue working toward good conversation that promotes a deeper relationship. You are one of the most important people in your teenager’s life. Both small talk and long, meaningful conversations are important! Here are some tips for engaging in conversation and encouraging deep relationships with your older youth as they transition to adulthood:
When engaging in conversation with teenagers, we have to be careful of expecting them to be vulnerable and honest with us without being vulnerable ourselves. You don’t have to share every little thing about you (that may not even be appropriate!), but we must allow our teens to get to know us and we can build a relationship by sharing our embarrassing moments, our dreams, and our fears. Sharing our own feelings and experiences can open the door to our youth feeling as if we are a safe place for them to share in return.
Active listening is an important tool that parents can use when engaging their youth in conversation. Active listening is consciously listening and retaining the information that is being communicated. Paying attention to what our teens are saying, maintaining eye contact, and showing them we hear them and understand them can go a long way in building a deeper relationship.
Finally, one of the best ways to engage our youth is to ask questions! Questions can keep the conversation flowing. In addition to this, asking questions can help youth think through their situations and decisions while helping parents better understand them. Asking questions and then lecturing or giving our own opinions immediately shuts down conversations and can make our youth feel invalidated, while actively listening to their response can help build a deeper connection and lead to longer, meaningful conversations.
Connecting with your teen starts with being approachable. Being approachable means that the soon-to-be young adults in our lives feel as if they can approach us without being lectured or starting an argument. This may require us to understand our own emotions and triggers and work on responding in a healthy way. It also means that even though schedules are filled and to-do lists long, an active effort is made to be an important part of your teens’ life and they feel as if they are an important part of ours.
Spending even ten intentional minutes a day, without cell phones and social media, with our teenagers can have a big impact on the relationships that we have with them. These ten minutes can be spent enjoying something they love, including them in our life and daily tasks, or sitting and visiting over a cup of hot chocolate. Ten minutes of intentional connection may be what your teen needs to survive their final teen years and it may lead to opportunities to offer advice and encourage them.
To foster connection with your teen make asking “How can I help? a habit. When they share a good experience, ask them how you can help them find more experiences like that. If they are struggling, simply ask them how you can help them before jumping in with your own solutions.
Ask your teenagers what they dream of their life looking like outside of high school. Encourage your child to share about both their dream job and life and their fears surrounding adulthood and independent living. Ask them how you can support them on their journey to adulthood.
The transition to adulthood can be frightening as it is a world filled with unknowns. We have experienced many of the same fears that our young adults have. We can help ease these fears by letting them know that what they are feeling is normal. This is a great time to be vulnerable in an appropriate way with our fears and anxieties and let them know that they are not alone.
This season of life is difficult! Teenagers and young adults are making really big decisions while being surrounded by so many different opinions and pressures. Encourage your teenager and let them know that they are not alone. When you watch the teen in your life strive to make healthy decisions or when you watch them work hard at something, let them know that you see them and encourage them! When you see them struggle, stand alongside them and let them know that you are right there beside them. This is a great time to let them know that you will always be there for them moving forward, even as they enter adulthood!
Take the time to sit down with your teenager and plan their transition to adulthood. This can include talking about health care, money, graduation plans, credit scores, and future schooling and careers. We’ve created two helpful checklists to help spark conversation and to help you with transition planning.
If you know a foster care youth that is in Georgia or Texas and they need someone in their life that is willing to let them know that they are not alone, then connect them with a support system through Connections Homes! We will connect them with a loving, supportive mentoring family and a support system to help with their transition from the foster care system to adulthood.