(Inside: Every mom wants to get their teens to talk and share. Our hearts long to know our growing big kids. Here’s one strategy that works…)
Teens shut down. They deplete their words by 7th hour and have no information left to share when they get home. Or they’re just natural quiet kids, and the teen years have exaggerated that.
If you’re a parent of a teen going through a shut-down season or a naturally quiet kid, your soul so desperately longs to know your babies, you will do anything to get them to talk.
This is true for one of my sons.
Years back, my kids would get home from elementary school, and I’d give them one potato chip per thing they’d tell me about their day. Goodness, I’m not even sorry about the bribery – I know you moms of quiet kids see me.
And, yes, we know the ingredients to communication: creating one-on-one time, being open-minded, inviting through intentional questions, and really listening. But that just sets the stage, it doesn’t guarantee our teens will crack open words.
However, over the years, in my roller coaster pursuit of my quiet kid’s heart, I’ve found one thing that works. It’s not always easy, but it is effective.
Page flip after page flip, I finally heard what I was waiting for…
The magical sound of the garage door signaling my two oldest teens were home.
They crashed into the house, talking and laughing about the late practice they’d just left. I asked what was so funny. They plopped down in the living room and words poured out like I’d lifted the faucet handle.
For a full hour.
I heard an analysis on practice.
A reflection on which sports season was their best.
About their lunchtime conversations.
Random things they’d learned in history class.
Which person in their circle said this, did that.
School, sports, classes, friends, life.
On and on.
It was spectacular because the word dump was not normal for one.
Our quiet kids long to be heard and known.
They just have this one barrier: they don’t always feel like talking. Like, a lot.
But I’ve figured out that if I’m strategically around, I just might be lucky enough to experience the lightning-strike chatty moments.
Which was why I was sitting on the couch when my tired body instead longed to microwave up the rice pack heating pad I’d gotten as a gift, slide under the covers, and drift off to 90s reruns. Yet, I knew if I did that, all I’d get was my kids hollering up a good night.
However, if I chose to be in the living room, they just might be in the mood to talk.
And – bingo – it worked.
That aha discovery has impacted how I parent these increasingly independent kids. Because I can work within that framework.
After I get home from my job, I operate from the kitchen-living-room space: emails, paying bills, laundry, relaxing. I’ve tried to (within reason) keep my commitments lower so I can be home around their hectic calendars. I show up at their games, concerts, and parades. I volunteer when their activities are asking. I offer to drive them to shop or ref soccer. I fix food because that always gets them out of their rooms. I welcome their friends. Whatever. Just the best I can with my schedule, be around for their lives.
I’m not a machine, of course, I don’t seize every moment, perfect is impossible, and sometimes I DO need to go to bed early for my own health.
But, not that night.
Instead, I was up later than I wanted.
Trying to learn about my big kids – their thoughts, their hearts, their dreams. THEM.
Knowing with my kid-of-few-words, I need to be around a lot to catch that goal.
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Cheryl is a mom of 3 boys, wife, speaker, high school teacher, and author of Empowered Moms & Kids. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is passionate about learning and teaching. On www.empoweredmomsandkids.com you’ll find inspiration and encouragement for moms raising tweens and/or teens. Read more in the “about” section of this page.