A person in his or her teens. Generally found in groups of more than one teenager. Has many confusing romances. Finds solace in friendships. Eats more pizza than humanly possible. Worries excessively about school, social life and whether anyone really does notice the giant zit in the middle of his or her forehead. Communicates with members of peer groups via thumbs (commonly referred to as "texting"). Prefers to solve problems by asking friends, but may turn to parents if the moment is right.
That definition above? You won't find that in any dictionary except the one I keep in my head. But that is a typical teen - or at least my typical teenager. The part that's most difficult for most parents (and by that I mean, me) is the last part. After years of having parents kiss boo-boos, help with friendships and assist in the t-shirt choice for the day, many teens turn to their peers for advice rather than their parents. Of course, if the moment is right, you may actually be able to discuss life, t-shirts and pizza with your teen.
The key is finding that right moment. Between school, work, home life, social life and whatever else all of us are doing - finding five minutes to help your teen solve a problem is frankly difficult. Heck, finding five minutes to eat dinner together is difficult, let alone solving a problem.
For me, dividing and conquering is the answer. I take my teenage son to dinner, just the two of us. Even if it's something quick, we have a few minutes in the car or at the table to just talk. Most of the time, if I'm quiet and don't offer any opinion, my son will spontaneously talk about his day, his life, even his Spanish homework.
I am very careful during these talks. I don't lecture. I don't tell stories about the things that happened when I was his age. I listen. Sometimes I ask a question. But mainly I listen. And sometimes he asks me for advice and I give it. Sometimes he doesn't ask, so I don't give any advice.
His father does the same thing. Oh, they may not go eat, but they will to the sporting goods store. Or his dad will let him drive his car, a convertible that our son loves. And in that brief moment, our son opens up in a way that he doesn't do when all three of us are together.
It's not a perfect communication method. But it works for us.
What about you?
How do you communicate with your teenager?
Does your teen open up to you?