My teen son plops down next to me, pauses, and says, “Hi, Mom!” I know this is his way of expressing that he has something to tell me. He doesn’t want to share his news, but yet he does. He knows it will be a big deal to me that he’s sharing some tidbit, but I don’t let on. I take a deep breath and give him my full attention.
This is the recent art of communication I’ve learned to embrace with my eldest, now 13. Like any step on this journey of being a mom, I take advice and guidance from those who have gone forth before me.
Do not come at them at warp speed. The more verbose you are, the less they will share. Let them find their words until they say need your help.
Be prepared to meet them where they are comfortable. You’ll want to ask ten follow-up questions to every sentence or thought they share. This is not their preferred way to hold conversations. They are processing how they feel even as they speak, and it takes courage for them to do so.
They are learning things you might already know. Hearing my son express thoughts about events, current and past, has surprisingly taught me new perspectives. When this happens, acknowledge it.
Give them space. Yes, I long to know and understand all the elements of his day. Or if he’s upset, the ins and outs of why. However, sometimes it’s okay for them to figure things out and think things through themselves. That’s where growth as an independent thinker comes into play.
Know where to expect communication with your teen and make it their safe zone. On some occasions, we are in the car when this happens.
Recently, I picked my son up from baseball, he got in and decided to turn on an old Miley Cyrus song, and I went with it. While my ears got blasted out hearing Miley croon about landing in LA, I knew if I stayed patient, he would probably give me some insight into his day I would not otherwise have been given. I didn’t get any stories, but I did get a rendition of the song sung for me that made me laugh. And he loved seeing me laugh.
I don’t claim to know it all, but since I have the attitude of us “all being in it together,” I’m glad to share any successes I’ve had. I wish I had the wisdom years ago to be more vulnerable about what I didn’t know and to surround myself with moms who were open in the same way. Opening myself up to parents with similar styles has given me the skills to parent more confidently.
The rollercoaster ride I’m on is not new. The push and pull starts when they are toddlers, trying to gain their sense of independence. But the tantrums are a different language now.
He is my son, I’m his parent, and we are not friends. He needs me to be the adult and to guide him. There are ramifications for breaking our family rules, such as getting home past our agreed-upon time. But he knows he is loved and has a safe space to communicate. And as my mom always told us, I’ll always love you even if I don’t always like you.