Parents always fondly remember the time when their sons and daughters spoke to them incessantly when they were little. The children would habitually talk a lot, tell the parents about their day, about their friends and their school and play. Parents often the joy in such interactions, recalling the time when such chats were fun, informative as well as learning experiences, when they could teach, explain and correct these little ones in clear words.
But, once these kids enter teenage years, all this comes to a halt. The incessant chatter turns into monosyllables, interaction becomes rare, conversations are a thing of the past and the talkative child suddenly transforms in a sullen, non-communicative teenager.
Parents dream of imparting worldly wisdom on their newly blossoming child is shattered, their wish of having heart-to-heart chats with their children to exchange world views, impart life lessons and hopefully protect the son or daughter from repeating errors which they (parents) had committed, remains a pipe dream.
Where once their child would share every little detail of his/her life with the parent, he/she is now replaced by a grunting teenager who replies to long questions with a non-committal, monosyllabic 'hmm'. Simple questions are also hard to get answers to.
Q. How are you?
Q. How was school today?
A. It was Ok
Q. What do you want for dinner?
Being shut out in such a manner comes as a rude shock for parents, since the same child will talk or text constantly with his/her friends. While the parents want to engage in meaningful conversation, the children want nothing more than jabber with friends on non-issues. The emotional involvement and enthusiasm are reserved for peers, not so much for parents.
Non-communication is part of growing up for teenagers. Studies on adolescent behaviour have found that teenage years are a time when an individual forms an identity and discovers oneself, which may be different from the collective. Hence, this phase is nothing to worry about.
The shutting out is also part of a teenagers need for independence and for separating their family life from their social life. In case your teenager is the ‘non-communicative’ type, there are many ways you can keep the bond intact. Here’s what you can do:
- Continue to keep the communication channels open.
- Try to avoid turning conversations into interrogative sessions.
- Take interest in their areas of interest, whether it is K-Pop (which you can’t stand) or football (which you may not follow). Make food videos, puppy videos, gossip columns, shopping sprees a topic of conversation.
- Find common grounds besides academics, career or routines.
- Allow them to express opinions about issues which may be controversial or contradictory to your own points of view.
- Listen without commenting, or belittling their understanding or thought process.
- Let them know that in certain areas their knowledge is superior. Seek their consul, opinion in such matters as often as possible
- Always remember: the objective is to communicate and build a bridge between you two, and not win a debate.
As teenagers march onto young adulthood, their need to communicate will wax and wane with time. As parents, we can at best ensure that we are always available to them, waiting at the other end.
(This column hopes that parents can benefit from using alternative approaches and find comfort in the fact that almost all parents of teenagers are going through the same trials and tribulations. Feel free to send in your comments, questions and observations at firstname.lastname@example.org)