"Parents of adolescent boys will likely experience many parenting challenges during this life stage chiefly among them, communication. This comes as no surprise. Adolescent boys are undergoing a natural process of developing independence, and communication with parents looks different during this period. Understandably, parents often mistake their son"s silence, or reluctance to divulge personal life details, as a request for disengagement. This is a myth adolescent boys need engagement from their parents as much as ever. Here are some suggestions for how to continue to engage with your adolescent son, in a way that might work for both of you:
Find the right time to talk with your son. Kids are often exhausted right after school, so be sure to give him a break. Bombarding him with questions like "how was your day," won"t be likely to yield great results, especially when he"s tired. Talk to him about the best time to check-in, and consider devising creative strategies so that he can give you a glimpse of how his day was, without having to launch into a long-winded explanation.
Setting can also play a big difference in yielding effective conversation with your son. Many boys don"t feel as comfortable in a seated, face-to-face conversation. Going for a walk, talking in the car, or conversing during an activity, are all ways to take pressure off the conversation.
If there"s an issue you want to discuss with your son, work hard to understand his perspective, and avoid lecturing. Adolescent boys are likely to shut down if they feel they"re being talked at. Instead, be sure to invite his perspective and opinion on whatever issue needs to be discussed, and see if you can understand things through his lens. This will build trust, and allow him to feel more comfortable confiding in you.
Control your own emotional response. Talking to adolescents can be a trying experience, and you might feel like you"re not getting anywhere. It"s critical that you control your own emotional response. If your son senses you"re becoming angry or frustrated, he"ll feel less comfortable in the conversation.
Model behavior that teaches your son that emotions aren"t shameful. Our media, and culture, are filled with toxic messages about what it means to be a man. One such message, is that men who show a full range of human emotion are weak, or less manly. Work hard to dispel this myth by modeling good emotional expression for your son. Remember, he"s always learning from you, and from your behavior.
Promote your son"s connection with other adults. As the old saying goes, "it takes a village to raise a child." Don"t make the mistake of thinking you"re the only one your son can talk to. Many adolescent boys thrive on making connections with other adult role models. Coaches, family friends, and therapists can all make your job easier by providing additional opportunities for positive adult connection and role modeling.
Don"t get discouraged. Even if it doesn"t always feel like it, your son still needs you. He may not always want to talk, and may not be as forthcoming as he was when he was younger, but this doesn"t signal a problem. Shifting parent-child relationships are a part of growing up. It"s ok to grieve these changes, but do it privately. It"s important that your son know he can still talk to you, should the need/desire arise. Those moments may happen less frequently during adolescence, but when they do, they can be even sweeter, and more impactful."
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