Loving Your Teenager (In Spite of Themselves) Part 4 of 7 - Make a Date (this works best for daughters)
by © Judith Tramayne-Barth
With all the hormonal changes going on in your teen's life, sometimes they get "owly" for no good reason. This is the time to make a date. And say it exactly that way, "We are going on a date". The first time you say this your daughter will think you are a little nutsy or whacked out of your mind. So, what else is new.
Just explain that you are taking her out to dinner (if you have more than one teen daughter, do not include the others — this is one-on-one time). Pick a place where you are sitting in a booth or at a table with very little background disturbance. Make sure it's a place her friends or yours don't frequent. It has to be neutral ground to allow one-on-one relating. That's right, this means only one parent and one teen. Your teen will never open up and talk if both parents are staring her in the face. The whole idea is for your teen to have your undivided attention for an hour and a half or longer.
The next step is the hardest, listen attentively to what your teen is saying. Don't allow your eyes to glaze over, don't yawn and above all else, curb your desire to preach. In fact, curb your desire to speak. This is her time to ramble on about everything going on in her life. Only talk enough to keep her rambling.
You'll be amazed at what you learn. This teen you thought was an "airhead" has a very good head on her shoulders. All those lessons of right and wrong you didn't think was sinking in over the years are actually embedded. By your second or third date, you'll feel a lot more relaxed with your teen's value system. Trust is being established.
A word of caution: Do not betray this trust by speaking to anyone else including your spouse about what you discussed on your date. This is strictly between you and your teen.
If you listened attentively when you were carpooling and made a point of remembering the names of your teens friends, you can insert a comment like, "Oh yes, Stacey. Isn't she the one who collects penguins?" Your teen will be so impressed you remembered, they'll even tell you more. Pretty soon you'll really look forward to these "dates" and be glad your teen gets "owly" at least twice a month.
Which they will because your teen has more pressures than you did when you were their age. Our so-called information society has seen to that. Your teen is constantly being bombarded by media related garbage, teachers who think they have only one subject so assign way too much homework and you, the parent who expects them to excel. No wonder they become frustrated.
By sitting quietly and allowing them to vent or talk about this frustration without offering any pearls of wisdom (preaching), you become a safety valve. Also, when a really big problem comes up in their life, they will feel comfortable coming to you for advice.
This part is tricky. Even though your teen might be seeking advice, do not be an enabler. In other words, don't immediately jump in and solve their problem. You have an opportunity here to teach them to go from A to B and arrive at C. In other words, training them to make responsible decisions. This is where you ask questions, giving your teen the opportunity to come up with their own solution. If they can't, only then do you offer advice -- not preaching -- but advice, remembering to say this advice in a non-condemning way.
You might want to relate a story in your past where you handled a similar situation wrong and what you learned. At the end of your story, you assure your teen you are sure they have the good sense to do what's right. It is still up to your teen to make the decision. All you've done is point them in the right direction.
Next blog MAKE A DATE with Sons.