Four simple ways to interact with your teen without being “extra”
Teens are an amazing, wonderful and strange species! Especially when it comes to connecting with them. One minute, they are full of laughter and want to hang out with you, the next minute, they’re in their rooms and you’ve suddenly become the enemy! Last week, they liked a certain video game or fashion design; this week, that design is “basic” (boring or simple) and the video game is dumb!
How in the world can we stay connected? There are some fairly simple ways to do just that without being “extra”. So, what does being “extra” mean? It’s a term used by young people to say that someone is trying too hard. Trying too hard to impress, to succeed, to be someone’s friend… basically anything. It usually results in that person becoming annoying or looking dumb!
Here are four simple ways to connect with your teen without them realizing what you’re doing. Before I share them, I want to emphasize this: You are trying to reach out to THEM, not make them connect with YOU. By that I mean, you enter their world to find out what it looks like, not drag them into yours. You need to be interested in what they’re interested in. You don’t have to like it or be into it, but in building that relationship you may have to endure hours of Anime and reading subtitles! Here, we go!
1. Become a detective: Find out what they are interested in. That can change by the minute, hour or week, literally. Spend some time just being observant; what are they watching, listening to, laughing at or wearing? Take note of hobbies, friends or things they mention frequently. Do this for about two weeks and jot down what you’ve noticed.
2. Make your move s-l-o-w-l-y: The next time you see your teen participating in a certain activity slowly try to engage, particularly if you’ve not shown an interest in it before. If it’s a show, casually walk up and start watching the show with him. Start asking questions about the characters, animation or the plot. But here’s the key, don’t be “extra”! If you ask too many questions or stand there too long you might become an annoyance instead of an interested parent. Just remember K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple Sweetie.
Another tip in your efforts to relate; try to not be too hip or overuse their slang or terminology, especially out of context! So you don’t want to say “yo, I’m finna bounce. I gotta go make that lettuce. I’ll holla atchou lata!”. Adult Translation: “I’m going to work. I’ll talk to you later.” That would be extra! and that’s not what we’re going for.
3. Do your homework: Now that you’ve done your detective work, pick one of your observations/subjects and do your homework. Thank God for Google! It has saved me from looking like a total idiot in front of some of the teens I’ve fostered and worked with!
Use your favorite search engine and research the heck out of your subject! For example, if your teen likes anime and you noticed there is a certain show he watches or book he reads, find out who wrote it, who created the graphics, and what the show is all about. The next time your young person is watching the show, you might say, “I thought your show was interesting, so I looked it up. It has a pretty cool story”. Or if it’s sports, you might say “Hey, I heard their best scorer retired. How do you think that will that affect the team?”
Seems pretty simple right? It’s all about letting them know you care about what they care about. Be consistent in your interest without… you know… being extra.
4. Admire and Appreciate- Admire their skills, talents and abilities, even if it’s their super awesome skills in playing Fortnite (video game) or the guitar. Appreciate their creativity or the focus of their attention. You might make mention of the details in the animation in his anime show, recognize the accomplishments of her team, or ask about that fashion designer. You might even ask them to teach you how to play their video game. Let them do the talking while you do the listening and learning. Even if you become knowledgeable on their topic, you remain the pupil and your teen the expert.
Ok, the process may not be as quick and easy as it seems in this article, but if you are patient, if you K.I.S.S and Connect Four, you will be well on your way to a great and interesting relationship. Let the journey begin! They are worth it.
Lesia is an author, speaker and resource parent for teens only. She is a coach for resource parents of teens, and for youth in foster care. Lesia is the author of Life in the Foster Lane; Practical Insights on Fostering Teens, and creator of “Loving, Understanding, and Fostering Teens”, a teen specific webinar designed to equip new and seasoned resource parents with tools to confidently foster teens. Lesia’s mission and passion is to eliminate the stigma and fear of the teen in foster care, and to empower resource parents to foster youth in a safe, loving and understanding environment.
To learn more about Lesia, visit: Lesiaknudsen.com