Preteens are at a developmental stage where they tend to become reserved and reluctant to initiate conversations or even share what’s happening in their lives. It is challenging for parents, caregivers, educators, and even peers to get kids to open up and share their thoughts and feelings, especially if such a relationship has never existed before. However, communication is a crucial aspect of building trust and fostering healthy relationships.
We will discuss nine strategies that can help you as a parent, or guardian encourage your preteen to talk more and engage in meaningful conversations. At DPS Warangal, we stress the importance of building friendly conversations with your teen since it sets the tone for their early adulthood. Creating a nurturing environment where your teen feels comfortable, accepted and safe is the foundation of a good adult’s emotional regulation, communication style, and their perspective on life overall. An accepting home environment also makes teens less susceptible to being influenced by other external factors and instead seeks trust from known sources, including parents, older family members, and can confide their fears or worries.
- Build trust –
Building a trusting relationship with your pre-teen or teen is the foundation for any meaningful conversation. It helps a child feel safe and confident to express themselves without judgement. or criticism. Although it’s ideal to establish this at an early age, it’s never late to start creating an environment of open conversation. As adults, we can build trust with them by being reliable, honest, and non-judgmental. We should be empathetic and demonstrate in words and actions that you understand and accept the preteen’s thoughts and feelings, even if they disagree.
- Use open-ended –
Asking your child open-ended questions can encourage them to provide detailed and thoughtful responses. Open-ended questions require more than a simple binary “yes” or “no” answer and require one to think more deeply about their thoughts and feelings. For example, instead of asking a preteen, “Did you have a good day?” try asking, “What was your favourite part of the day?”. This can spark many threads or topics which you can use to have a meaningful conversation and get details which would otherwise not emerge.
- Show genuine interest –
Showing genuine interest in your child’s life can go a long way in encouraging them to open up. Actively actively listen to what they’re saying, by treating them like adults, and offering responses that are rooted in wisdom rather than panic, fear, or anxiety. . For example, if your child talks about a hobby or interest, you can inquire about it and show interest in learning more. This positive reinforcement can encourage them to share more and feel valued.
- Find Common Ground –
Talk to budding child about common interests, such as music, movies, or hobbies. USe the opportunity to also share personal stories about your own experiences at the age, which can help establish a connection and create a positive dialogue. Those stories can showcase your own vulnerability, mistakes and most importantly, your positive attitude towards handling life. This gives you an opportunity to provide the right role model for your child.
- Use humour –
Humour can be an effective tool to make anyone feel welcome and disarm them. By bring humour into conversations, as a parent, you can take the sting away from embarrassing situations or anything that makes your child uncomfortable. . Light-hearted and age-appropriate humour can help them relax, feel more comfortable, and open up. Humour can lower their guard, making them more receptive to sharing their thoughts and feelings.
- Use technology wisely –
Preteens are digital natives and often prefer communicating through technology. Adults and peers can leverage this preference to encourage preteens to communicate more openly. For example, texting, instant messaging, or email exchanges can encourage preteens to initiate conversations. However, adults and peers should ensure that these channels are used in a safe, age-appropriate manner, and conversations should be monitored from time to time.
- Avoid being judgmental –
Preteens may not be forthcoming with their thoughts and feelings if they think they will be judged or criticised. At this stage in their life, they’re already overly concerned with others’ perceptions. While they value and need validation from their peers, providing them a non-judgmental environment where they feel respected, loved and understood is key to building a lifelong loving relationship.
You can help them understand what a healthy disagreement looks like –offer an explanation without losing your calm, and seek to understand their perspective too. Of course, as a parent, it’s easier to switch into parenting mode, and state you know what’s best but treating your pre-teen or teen like an adult is necessary. Provide them guidance, and let them make decisions. Help them evaluate situations and their consequences, especially in scenarios where you disagree with them. Not only will this create a calm atmosphere, but it also provides them with much needed experience of disagreeing with someone respectfully and also being able to evaluate the consequences of their decision making.
- Be mindful of nonverbal communication –
Nonverbal communication, such as eye contact, facial expressions, and body language, can profoundly impact preteens’ willingness to open up. Your nonverbal cues while talking to your teen tells them more than your words might. . Use positive body language, such as leaning in, nodding, and maintaining eye contact to show interest and engagement. This can help preteens feel valued in a way that words cannot explain. Non-verbal cues can be very powerful especially since kids pick up on our energy levels, and anxiety, too. Exposing your child to your fears means you’re indicating you don’t trust them to do the right thing. This essentially undermines their developing sense of autonomy and causes them to view you in an adversarial light.
- Make daily casual conversations a way of life –
Lastly, adults and guardians should engage in regular, daily conversations with preteens or teens to help build trust, foster relationships, and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings. Even small talk can be an effective way to encourage preteens to communicate and feel comfortable initiating conversations.
Building a consistent dialogue with a teen takes an iterative approach, immense patience and sustained efforts. If you have previously never employed any of these tools, you can start today,