Your daughter was once one of your closest companions, your shadow, your little helper. Now, you’re lucky if you can get a few words out of her. It’s not that she’s rude or dismissive, maybe — it’s just that she doesn’t really share much about her day-to-day life, and between a busy school schedule, after-school activities, possibly a part-time job, and a social calendar, you don’t really see her enough to learn about her day-to-day life from simple observation. What’s a parent to do?
During the teen years, it’s especially important to maintain a healthy parent-child bond, but if there’s little communication between the two of you or primarily one-way communication, maintaining that bond isn’t exactly easy. So how can you get your teenage daughter to open up to you? Here are a few tips.
Position yourself as an ally, not an enemy
If you’re wondering how to talk to a teenage girl, you’re not alone. Today’s teens deal with far more struggles and more complex lives than most of us ever did. That’s why it’s so important to not become an additional problem atop the problems your daughter already has.
What do we mean by this? Well, your child is dealing with their own set of problems that you may or may not know about. School pressures, relationships, worries about the future — they all add up. So if you become yet another problem for your child to deal with, you’re not exactly going to be the one they trust or go to in a crisis, or even to talk about day-to-day struggles.
Avoiding becoming an enemy is easier than you think, though (even if you hardly know what it is you’re doing wrong at any given moment with a teenager in the house). You need to show that you sympathize with any problems your daughter does share. Meaning, if she’s complaining about a boy problem, don’t minimize her worries by saying there’ll be other guys or that there are bigger problems in the world; likewise, don’t ask her why she isn’t paying more attention to school than she is to guys. You also need to rein in your emotions, even when it’s difficult. Getting angry or upset is just a sure way to put her on the defensive.
Get interested — and actually mean it
You can pick up on your child’s likes and dislikes. Whether it’s a favorite television show, a book series, a band, or a hobby, you can pick out at least a few of your daughter’s interests with just a little observation, no talking required. Go out of your way to actually show interest in those things she likes — and mean it. If you’re faking interest, she’ll be able to spot it a mile away.
Better yet, come prepared to have a conversation with her. If you intend to ask her about the show she’s been watching recently at the dinner table, at least Google the show and see what pops up. Then, you can ask a follow-up question to better engage her, even if it’s just a simple, “Hey, did I see some drama with that actor recently?” When she answers, make sure you’re listening, too.
Your schedule is likely as busy as your daughter’s, but don’t expect her to always be the one to make time to talk whenever it’s convenient for you. If you’re only available after dinnertime and that’s when she normally catches up with friends or her after-homework hobbies, she’s unlikely to want to cut those things for an awkward catch-up with mom or dad.
Make yourself available to chat on her time. Maybe you see her unloading the dishwasher or doing another chore, so you chip in and help out while starting a conversation. Maybe you ask her if you can drive her to her next activity, versus her catching a ride with one of the other parents. Take time out of your schedule for her, so she’ll be more likely to take time out of hers for you.
The effort is well worth it
Your child is quickly becoming an adult, so treating them like a child isn’t the way to get them to open up to you. Just like you would when trying to win over a new colleague, you’ll win far more flies with honey than vinegar when it comes to your teen daughter. That’s not to say that you should let her walk all over you and smile sweetly all the while, but you should realize that she’s becoming her own person — she doesn’t necessarily owe you a conversation. Instead, it’s time to work on making her want to have those conversations with you. Putting in the effort is well worth it when you begin to see your daughter start to open up more and more, little by little.
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