I have never had trouble talking to anyone! My family is amazed how I can strike up a conversation with a total stranger on an airplane or in line at the grocery store and know their life story in short order. I’d rather eat a bug than play the “silent game”. My mom said that all my elementary teachers wrote the same thing in the comment section on my report card … “Beth is a wonderful student, but she talks too much”. Mom would joke that they should have created a stamp and just passed it to the teacher in the next grade level to save time and ink. (haha Mom! Still not funny!) So, choosing a profession that involved talking was a perfect fit for me, but I realize that not everyone has this gift or wants it. However, talking to teens is something all adults need to do cause TALKING TO TEENS leads to TALKING WITH TEENS.
When an adult talks “to” a teen, they are just starting a dialogue. Most teens will not initiate a conversation with an older individual, so it is up to us. Once engaged, teens rise to the task and you will find yourself taking “with” that teen. I propose that our society needs more of this.
In the olden days, before people became engrossed in electronics (tv, radio, internet, social media, etc.) and thought all information should come from these sources, humans talked. The elder taught the youth. The youth would seek advice from elders. Some cultures still honor and revere the older generation’s wisdom (i.e., Japanese), but in the U.S., I’m not see this enough. I challenge all adults to change this. Teens benefit socially, educationally, professionally, and we benefit too. Talking with teens keeps you abreast of what’s “hot” currently. They have a unique and fun sense of humor and kind hearts … despite what they are wearing, have pierced, or the hairdo they may be exhibiting.
I suggest you ask questions that aren’t intrusive or accusing. Start with small talk (they need role modeling to be able to do this themselves) and move to questions that allow them to share their views, interests, and activities. Here are some examples:
- What’s new at school?
- What’s your favorite class? Why?
- What do you like to do in your spare time? (avoid judgement here)
- Do you have brothers and sisters? or Tell me about your family.
- Do you like to watch or play sports?
- What are your after high school plans? (depends on age, of course)
This will naturally lead to more in-depth conversation and a comfort zone that will bring a teen to you when they have questions or need help with something. Remember to use humor and share some of yourself, but let them do the majority of the talking. Sensor unsolicited direct advice or preaching (something I struggle with), but find ways to work soft “suggestions” into your chit-chat. I like to “plant seeds” of advice and hope they grow in a teen and/or bring them back from more fertilization.
Make the most of your day!