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One of the toughest parts of parenting ― especially with teenagers ― is getting kids talking to talk to you. You want to know what’s going on in their life, and in their head. But, sometimes they seem to just shut down and shut you. out

Teens can be going through one of the toughest times of life. They have conflicting thoughts and feelings. And sometimes, they just don’t know where to start. They may have feelings they’re not proud of ― feelings and thoughts they’re convinced you won’t approve of. And it’s difficult to talk about your feelings when you’re not even sure what they are.

It’s hard to get kids talking about what’s going on in their lives. That’s not entirely a bad thing. They’re learning to think things through before discussing them with other people.

As much as you’d love to offer your advice, if they don’t open up, you can’t. You may even find yourself trying to guess what’s going on in their heads. And you just feel lame and foolish when you find out you’re completely off the mark.

There are a few ways to get kids talking about themselves. Conversation starters should focus on neutral subjects. Taking a non-personal approach helps your kid engage with you on an equal footing. Parents can become so focused on steering their kid in the right direction, they forget that at some point, they have to turn over the wheel.

Here are tips and icebreakers to get the conversation going. Once your teen knows that you’re interested in their thoughts on non-personal issues, they’ll be more open to talking about personal issues.

Ask questions that require a straight answer, not an essay.

Instead of asking your kid how their day went, ask them something specific about it. Give them a question that requires a solid answer.

1. How did their favorite class go?
2. What school projects have they been working on?
3. What would they teach in class if it were up to them?

Ask questions about people you both know.

A good way to know how your teen is dealing with the stress of growing up is to ask how their friends are handling it. They’ll reveal a lot about their values and priorities when framed as a third-party observation.

4. Who is your best friend dating?
5. What do you think of them?
6. Do you think they’ll stay together after high school?
7. What do they think of your teen’s girl/boyfriend?

Ask their opinions about the entertainment scene.

Teens are voracious consumers of media and entertainment. It’s almost impossible to stop kids talking when you get on the subject of their favorite shows or YouTube channels.

8. What is your favorite TV show and why?
9. Which one is your favorite character?
10. How do you think that show will solve a plot thread?
11. What movies are you looking forward to seeing soon?
12. What appeals to you most about your favorite band?
13. If you had a YouTube channel, what would you vlog about?

Ask their opinions about current events.

Again, keep it non-personal. You can learn a lot about your teen just by asking them what they think about a political issue or school policies.

14. Do they know who they want to vote for when they’re 18?
15. What do they think of a new law?
16. Are there any local political issues they’ve been following?
17. Is their school implementing new policies they disagree with?
18. What do they think of the prom/yearbook committee?
19. How do they feel about the dress code?
20. If there was something about your school you could change, what would it be?

Join @findingvoices on Saturday, October 21st, at the Solana Beach Library as we host a Panel Discussion about the Teen experience including Stress, anxiety and Depression. We hope this will be a very honest, candid and empowering discussion to help parents and teens through what can be difficult years ~ especially when teen stress, anxiety, and depression come into the picture. When is everyday stress no longer everyday stress and something more serious? What resources are available? What resources are available outside of school? What are some positive techniques for negative situations? This movement sprung from a local tragedy and was started by local residents of #SolanaBeach. We are inviting teens and community members of Solana Beach, Del Mar, Carmel Valley, Cardiff, and surrounding areas to come take part in the discussion or just come to listen. Student Panelists: Carson Fassett – Current Torrey Pines Student Natalie Salgado – Former Torrey Pines Student Adult Panelists: Lisa Salgado – Parent Karena Fassett- Former Torrey Pines Student More to come… If you are interested in being a part of the panel discussion, helping with the event or have questions, please contact Shawn at shawn@youthcampaigns.org. Learn more about Finding Voices and the event at http://findingvoices.org/events/5/teen-parent-panel-discussion/ #FindingVoices #teentalk #sandiego #solanabeachca #solanabeach #cardiffbythesea #Encinitas #delmar #torreypineshighschool #canyoncrestacademy #solanabeachlibrary #teen #teenagers #teenyears #teenexperience #teendepression #teensuicide #teendepressionawareness #teensuicideawareness

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Let them into family decisions.

This is especially true if the decision affects them in any way. Are you considering a new job? A new paint color for the house? Children want to feel like their voice is heard when it comes to how the family lives. Just day-to-day questions can help your child express their feelings:

21, What kind of flowers/vegetables should you plant this year?
22, When do you think dinner is most convenient for everyone?
23. What should you buy to eat this week?
24. Where should your family go camping for vacation this year?
25. Are there any house rules they feel don’t work anymore?

Ask their advice.

You may not want to follow it, but if you have a minor dilemma on your hands, why not ask them? A great way to get kids talking and revealing their inner selves is to ask them how they’d solve a problem. Get them into the habit of sharing problem-solving ideas. That way, they’ll reciprocate when they have the dilemma.

26. Which shoes should you wear with this dress?
27. What should you make for a holiday dinner?
28. Your friend wants to go shopping on Saturday, but you’re not sure you want to. What would they do?
29. What band or singers are good right now? What songs should you download?
30. What book should you get next from library?
31. What do they think about some Groupon you saw for a new hair color?

More important than just starting conversations, is how you continue them.

Make time for them to talk.

Like any relationship, your connection with your teen requires regular maintenance. This means taking time to connect with them every day. Even if there’s nothing important to talk about, make sure you spend some one-on-one time with them. Get into the habit, so they know at the deepest level that you’re there for them.

Don’t take it personally.

Your teenager is learning to think for themselves. It’s important not to let yourself be offended or hurt by their ideas or feelings. You may not agree, but responding to their openness with negative emotion will just teach them to keep quiet.

Refrain from offering advice.

Sometimes your kid just wants to vent. If you really want to get your kids talking, let them talk. Don’t try to solve all their problems for them before they’ve had a chance to work them through. Everyone appreciates a good listener.

Start with yourself.

Be a good example by talking about your own feelings or thoughts. Avoid emotionally charged personal issues, though. This is not the time to dump your aggravations on them. Talk about a friend at work. Mention a TV show you saw or book you read. Give your opinion and the reasoning behind it. Not only are you sharing with them, you’re teaching them techniques for polite conversation.

Parenting is the hardest job I've ever had. This new season of parenting teens is even harder. Motherhood {parenting} is truly sanctifying. It really does take crazy strength and resolve to let our kids suffer both the natural consequences and implemented consequences of their decisions. It's so hard to see our kids hurt – even though we know sometimes they will only learn from making the wrong decisions and suffering those consequences. We've had a few hard weeks in the Lott house and today's message at church was a sweet reminder we aren't alone. We've been repeating to our kids for the last few weeks – we're on your team, we love you and we are for YOU – and today that was reiterated in the sermon with these phrases -we're behind you, we're with you and we're for you! Thankful our church is for our kids, too! That even though this season is feeling very lonely – that our church is coming alongside us and pouring into our teens (kids). #motherhoodissanctifying #parentingteensishard #thelottofus2017 #thelottofus #thelott8 #northpointcommunitychurch #npcc #parentingisnotforthefaintofheart #insideout #unchartedwaters #teenmom #ittakesavillage

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Sometimes, dealing with a teenager means learning all about a completely different person you’ve never met before. As they develop, they form opinions and ideas about things they have no experience with. You may be tempted to counter that with the experience you do have. But it’s important that they learn to assess issues before they become relevant.

Teens are learning to think ahead. They’re learning to develop strategies for situations ahead of time. So, their ideas might seem a bit implausible or impractical. That’s okay. They still have many years before they’re out dealing with the world on their own. Even then, they’ll be calling you for aadvice and insight, now that they know you’re on their side.

The best way to get kids talking about the big issues is to get them in the habit of talking about the little ones.

Featured Image: CC0 Creative Commons by Tyrone Daryl via Flickr

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