We’ve all been there. Pre-teens and teens are prone to being emotional. It’s easy for them to take things to the extreme or out of context, which can make it difficult to have even a simple conversation. So whether you’re a parent who’s meeting your child’s new friends or a teacher welcoming students into a new year, here are some tips for working with and communicating with teens to establish authentic, meaningful relationships.
Start with Icebreakers
Immediately diving into conversation can be hard for most people, regardless of age. When you’re interacting with someone younger than you, it can be even harder. Where do you even start?
When it comes to pre-teens and teens that you’re just getting to know, try easing in and start learning about their personality, likes, and dislikes. You can ask questions related to:
- If they have any pets
- Their favorite types of hobbies
- Movies or TV shows they like
- Their interests at school
- New technology like the latest iPhone or video game
You may find that you have a lot more in common than you originally thought. And common interests are a great way to build a relationship.
Treat Communication as a Two-Way Street
Even though you may have the upper hand when it comes to experience and knowledge, letting teens and pre-teens voice their opinions and provide their own input is crucial to helping them develop confidence.
Ignoring their voice and shutting them down will only teach them not to speak up. Avoid interrupting the flow of conversation by listening and respecting their views of the situation at hand.
Also keep the conversation open! Once you’ve said your piece, ask them for their opinion. Don’t just end the conversation because you’ve spoken the final word.
Be Honest & Trustworthy
If a pre-teen or teen trusts you enough to confide in you, don’t break that trust. Unless it’s a life-threatening, emergency situation, you should honor their trust or risk them never confiding in you again.
It’s also valuable for teens to realize that adults aren’t perfect either. If you’re wrong, apologize. You’ll earn respect and the teen will trust you to be honest when you make mistakes.
Don’t Force Anything
Sometimes a teen’s parents or teachers are the last people in the world they would ever want to talk to. But even though it can be tempting to press them to open up, forcing them to talk to you isn’t going to make them feel comfortable.
If the teen knows that you’re not afraid to talk about anything, they will be more likely to come to you when the time is right. Let them know you’re not perfect either – they will be more likely to open up.
At VLACS, our educators work to establish meaningful relationships with our students to understand and support their academic needs. For more information about our program, feel free to contact us anytime.