Teen Talk: How to Talk to Your Teenager – And Get Them to Talk Back

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You ask your teen how her day was. She thinks it’s an attack on her privacy and refuses to talk. Peter Sheras, author of “I Can’t Believe You Went Through My Stuff” reveals how parents can inspire conversation, keep it going, and build a better relationship with their teens.

Your fifteen-year-old looks listless and spends lots of time lying in bed. But when you ask what's wrong, you get no response. Or she says, “I'm fine, leave me alone.”

What's a worried parent to do? How can you keep communication flowing during the adolescent years?

“Most teens experience personal questions from parents as an attack of some sort,” says Dr. Peter Sheras, author of “I Can't Believe You Went Through My Stuff” (Fireside, $13, http://www.ParentingPossibilities.com ). “You think you are starting a conversation in a polite, civilized manner, but that's not how it seems to your teen.”

The father of two twenty-somethings, Sheras is a licensed clinical psychologist who has spent more than twenty-five years counseling adolescents and their families. He is a professor in the Curry Programs in Clinical and School Psychology at the University of Virginia and has his own practice.

Here Sheras suggests six tactics for getting your teen to open up so you can learn what you want (or need) to know about their life:

1.    Drop a secret of your own from “way back.” This suggests that maybe you won't recoil in horror if your child shares something personal about his private life.

2.    Listen first, speak second. Speaking first can stop all conversation cold.

3.    Consider what's not being said. How is your child acting? Has anything changed?

4.    Ask “open” questions. Questions such as “What happened when . . . ?” compel your child to offer a more detailed reply.

5.    Maintain a supportive tone. This conveys that even if you don't condone what your child has done, you're at least going to try and understand why she did it.

6.    Quit while you're ahead. It's far better to solicit frequent small bits of information than to force long “confessions.”

Above all, be patient. Focus on building a relationship with your teen, and remind yourself that you are probably doing a much better job at being a parent than you think.

Need to repair a relationship with your teen? Get the free report “5 Ways to Rebuild Trust between You and Your Teen” or purchase your copy of “I Can't Believe You Went Through My Stuff” at http://www.ParentingPossibilities.com.


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Peter Sheras, Ph.D.
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