Youth Alternatives: having a conversation with your kids

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CHEYENNE, Wyo - In our bi-weekly series with Cheyenne Youth Alternatives, Brenda Schmucker gives us some advice on having a conversation with our kids.

Finding meaningful things to talk about with your child can be hard, especially when it comes to teens. A lot of the time we get short answers or feel like we just hit a wall, especially when they think it might be about something bad or something they did wrong.

There are lots of different reasons as to why they might be responding this way and they may not even have anything to do with you, but there are still things you can do to help your child lower the wall and open up.

-Be interested:
Ask them about things that interest them to get things started and get excited about it! If they open up and feel like they didn’t get the response they were hoping for, then they more than likely won’t open up as much in the future. Even if this means just pretending to be interested, that’s okay!

-Accept what they say:
This could mean accepting both what they are or aren’t saying. If at first they don’t reciprocate in the conversation, that’s okay. This kind of thing can’t really be forced. If they’re not used to it you may have to give them time, but remember to always be around when they’re ready. When they do open up even if you don’t agree with their opinions or it doesn’t make sense, accept whatever it is as true for them and go with it.

-Show them you are trying to understand:
Reflect back to your child what you think they’re saying to make sure they know you’re trying. Something like “So your friend said something mean and that made you mad” or whatever the case might be. You can always ask for clarification to make sure that is what they were meaning. This won’t hurt anything and can actually even be a good thing. It shows you’re trying to understand and also gives them a chance to really articulate what it is they are thinking or feeling.

-Find ways to relate
This can be tricky because we don’t want to make the conversation about us. We want to find common interests and opportunities to relate without taking the focus off of them. Have you ever shared something with someone and they rambled on about the time when they did this or saw that? It doesn’t really make you want to talk. So it’s okay to share personal experiences and things like that but pick and choose when you think it’s a good time to do so.