Once you’ve met your kids where they are and established their trust, they know they can come to you with anything they need to talk about.But you need to commit to time to talk to your kids and not rely on it happening organically. Even though this last step seems elementary, it is crucial in establishing an open relationship with your kids. Because most people view full-on face-to-face conversations as intimidating and uncomfortable (Think about the last time you sat knee-to-knee with someone else, looked them straight in the eye and talked. Can’t think of one? That’s because we avoid those situations), it’s important to create a talking environment that is relaxed.
3. Have dinner together. Yes, I know that this is difficult for a lot of people. Packed schedules oftentimes preclude getting everyone together at the same time. But you CAN prioritize so that this time is prized, untouchable even. You can have a later dinner after sports practice, for instance. You can insist that the family eats together, without TV, cell phones, or any other distractions. Family dinners have the advantage of gathering to do something else (eat) but because silence is uncomfortable, people will speak up. I can’t tell you how much I learned about my kids at the dinner table just by talking about my day and generating conversation. A caveat – rarely does asking about their day get them to open up. Instead, ask about something specific that will require more than “Fine” as an answer.
If, despite your best efforts, dinner just can’t happen, then make sure there is another time. It can be driving time or breakfast, but the key is that it should be uninterrupted, one-on-one or family time. Time in the car or taking the dog for a walk has its own advantages, because boys, in particular, tend to open up more when they are not faced with, well, their mother’s face. No, it’s not your looks. Research shows that for a lot of people, opening up is not easy when the listener is staring directly at them. Much more is revealed when the conversation casually unfolds as Fido searches for a fire hydrant.
So find time. Without it, believe me, your teen probably won’t make a great deal of effort to seek you out and talk to you.