Communicating with teens involves decoding their language and irrational comments.
Trying to understand what they are NOT saying is often the challenge.
My first-born attends college eleven hours away from home. Her first phone-call home was filled with tears and “I want to come home.”
After getting off the phone with her, I opened a drawer where I kept small things I sent her each week.
They were simple things I knew she would like. A bookmark, a hair-ribbon, a package of stationary.
Her love-language is “gifts,” so sending these things was a way to speak love to her.
In those early weeks, I also had her brothers write simple notes to her, though they protested, “Can’t I just just text her?” My answer, of course, was “No.” I believe in the power of words.
The next day, I grabbed a trinket, a note of encouragement, sealed it up in a flat-rate shipping box, and sent it off to her. Love in the mail.
I texted my daughter and told her to look for the special care-package in the mail.
She texted back, “Does is have a spoon?”
“Does it have a spoon?” I thought.
Then I remembered she asked me to send her a spoon a few weeks prior and I forgot.
The care package had lots of things, but not a spoon.
As a mom, I realized “Does it have a spoon?” meant other things:
- She was saying, “Will you take care of me?
- She needed something from home that connected her to her family (A plastic spoon from Walmart wan’t what she was asking for).
- Each child has individual differences. She was my child who feels love by small things, like spoons.
- Children speak in coded-language. We are wise parents if we listen to the things they are saying yet not speaking.
I told my daughter she could buy a non-plastic one at Target for a couple of dollars. She argued with me on the certainty of that and when I realized that wasn’t the issue for her, I told her I would send her one if she didn’t want to buy one.
Her response was one I expected, “Okay, send me one from home.”
She validated my my motherly hunches, and I sent a spoon in the mail.
Raising teens and young adults requires active listening, reading between the lines and understanding non-verbal communication.
Communicating with teens mean listening differently.
When strange statements or comments happen (like “Will you send a spoon?”), asking yourself, “What are they really saying? What do they need?” are questions that will help in understanding them.
My daughter has grown a lot in understanding herself from her freshman to junior-year in college.
She no longer asks for spoons, but is able to say, “Mom, can we set aside a time to call when I can ask you a few things?” As teens develop through each stage, their understanding of themselves and their needs increase, but not without some decoding from parents.
Communicating with teens means that the next time your Tween or Teen says something irrational, try listening with different ears, asking yourself, “What else are they saying?”
It’s part of the mystery of parenting teens.
What are lessons you’ve learned in communication?
How do you decipher your teen’s language?