Do you ever feel like your teenager is from another planet? They speak a language you don’t understand. They have interests that you’ve never heard of. It’s a common phenomenon. Teenagers are weird.
That being said, they’re your teenagers and there are steps you can take to better understand them and be closer.
1. Ask Questions and Listen
The first step to understanding your teen is to ask questions, but be strategic about it. Many teens give yes or no answers when you ask them a question. The trick is to engage them when they're more likely to open up, such as when they aren't with friends or running around. Driving in the car seems to be a good time, assuming that they don’t have headphones in.
When you ask questions, make sure to listen to the answers even if you don’t understand half of the words they’re using. It’s okay to ask for clarification. As you’re listening, take mental notes. This will also come in handy for step #2.
2. Google It!
If you have no idea what your child is talking about, Google it. Google the things they express interest in, the people, and even the language they use. The Urban Dictionary can be incredibly useful.
Seriously, one of the best ways to better understand your teen is to listen in on their conversations. True, most of their conversations are via text message so "listening in" isn't exactly an option, but you can snag their cell phone from time to time and read their text messages.
If this feels too invasive, try to be around them when they’re with their friends. Encourage them to invite their friends over, volunteer to drive them places, and invite them along to events or activities. Get to know your teenager when they're around their friends.
4. Get Involved
Start taking an active interest in your teen’s interests. Volunteer at local organizations or at activities that they're involved with. Keep up with the things that they post and share on social media.
Each generation has their own trends, language, and interests. When you were a teenager, your parents thought you were from another planet as well. It comes with the territory. It’s normal and totally okay to not be able to completely relate with your teenager. Do what you can to connect with them. Let them know that you’re interested in their lives and then relax. You don’t need to best friends with your teenager, nor do you need to share the same interests. It’s enough to just let them know that you care about what they're up to and that you'll always be there for them.