Parents whose teenagers talk openly to them- any tips?

(29 Posts)
looseleaf Sun 12-May-13 21:01:40

The teenage years are years away still for us but I'm so conscious I had little relationship with my parents during them- I still wouldn't talk to them about anything important despite loving them v much but their parenting was fairly remote and I was sent away to school at 7 etc.

Am I being paranoid this will happen again with our DC? I long to always be there for them and to know they're ok without being overbearing. Dd is only 6 but when she tells me about friendship stuff at school etc I always make sure I have time to listen, ask her how she could deal with it etc. I've also told her really normally about periods so she's 'always known' rather than how awkward it was when my mother tried,

Does anyone have important things / ways you are as a family I can learn from? We're a bit rubbish at talking properly at mealtimes etc as rush, and if you're close when your children are young does that sometimes inexplicably change? I think it's very healthy for children to become independent and I'll always encourage them in their plans and give them space so it's more the teen years that i feel anxious about even now as i felt so muddled / depressed/ alone.
Or just reassure me please smile

I feel similar OP. My relationship with my parents was terrible as a teen. I left home (ran away) at 17 because of them.

I worry that the same will happen with my DDs. They are still small. But I do think of it. My aunt has a great relationship with my teen cousin and I hope I can emulate it.

I think the key issue with my parents was that they were too overbearing. Too judgemental. I was their child, not a real person with real thoughts and feelings. Its still a bit like that now (I am 25) but I ignore it.

I hope to listen to my DDs. Not judge them or dictate to them. Rather, support them and guide them but ultimately be following their lead.

I havent a clue if that will work. Just wanted to say you arent the only one who worries about this. smile

LoganMummy Sun 12-May-13 21:15:18

I always felt able to talk to my Mum (in my 30s now) and I hope my DC feel the same (under 3 at the mo so a while yet).

I think it was because she always listened to me, didn't really judge and allowed me (to an extent) to make my own mistakes. I always felt independent and trusted and not smothered or treated like a 'child' in my teens, unlike many of my friends.

Does that help at all?

looseleaf Sun 12-May-13 21:16:58

Thank you. I wish I'd stop worrying but I went through such dark times and they didn't even realise or get to know me really- I still become quiet/ feel a different person when with them. Dd meanwhile (and DS too but he's smaller) are confident people we always have time for and try to build up.
I feel better already that you understand. And like your idea of always listening so they know their voice is important, I think mine wasn't.

I try to talk about stuff when we're both calm, i.e. not in the middle of a disagreement. I wouldn't put myself forward as an expert though; my eldest is only 13.

looseleaf Sun 12-May-13 21:19:52

LoganMummy that does help too. I think DD knows she's respected deeply and trusted. I just wish I could shake off this worry as we've parented our children so differently but I still feel so unsettled as some families just have a natural ease etc- we do but DH and I aren't naturally that chatty always so I try and make an effort!

CatelynStark Sun 12-May-13 21:33:18

I've got two, nearly three, teens and it sounds to me as if you're completely on the right lines, OP.

I think the key is to always be available for them to approach you when they want to talk about something (even if it's shit boring, like when my girls chatter away to me about bloody Marvel comics or some sciencey theory or random facts) but to leave then alone when they're off in their own little worlds.

My own mother NEVER had time for me so I still feel uncomfortable talking to her. I vowed that I would be a different parent to my mother as I was so lonely as a child, I felt that the one person who should have loved me most in the world was always slightly miffed that I existed.

So, I listen to my girls and show interest in what they're doing or feeling, even if Eastenders is on and it's a really good bit smile. That way, they know that I will give them my full attention when they have something difficult to say.

Also, when giving advice I suggest to them different options and tell them it's up to them to decide what they should do but path A might have X consequences etc.

I then ask how the situation went and if they're happy with the outcome, praising them for the way they handled it, if they coped well.

I know this sounds like smuggery & boasting but we're really close and I don't have any problems with them, apart from the occasional hormone driven showy off silly half hour (usually from me smile)

Shodan Sun 12-May-13 21:37:49

I think (based on my limited experience of one 17 year old boy) that showing you trust them is key. Also that you listen to and consider their opinions and ideas.

I left home at 17 (as did ALL of my 5 siblings- actually one or two were less than 17) because of my relationship with my mother. She always treated us like we were ... well, stupid is the closest I can come up with. Our opinions were dismissed, our feelings were not discussed- or if they were, mocked somewhat.

I have always listened to ds1's ideas, even the daftest ones, and tried not to be dismissive of them. Behaved, in fact, as though he were an equal. That sounds a bit 'I want to be your friend, not your parent' ish, but that's not what it is. There are clear rules and strict consequences for breaking them. And yes, we've had one or two strops, of course we have. But on the whole, it's been fine.

Also I've never gone ballistic when he's been later home than planned from a party! (One of my mother's specialities). A word reminding him that I worry has been all that's been needed.

Bowlersarm Sun 12-May-13 21:41:00

I have teen boys and treat them all the same but they vary in their degrees of openness. One tells me everything, a bit too much information much of the time (!), one chats about his day to day life but isn't interested in girls, drinking, staying out or anything controversial yet so it's all easy, and one is like a closed book.

DH and I hope that they have had a happy fun childhood with lots of lovely memories with lots of laughter. I think that's important. We also have always kept the line of communication open if there have been difficult times or topics of conversation, and let them know that they can talk to us about anything -nothing is taboo- and we will do everything in our power to help or advise.

1. Eat dinner together
2. Drive with them in the back - they really talk in the car
3. Allow them to share their life with you - pretend interest in One Direction or whatever it is
4. Model the behaviour you want - easier said than done when you want to call your dh a twat wink
5. Have routines and boundaries - they need them more as teenagers than toddlers
6. Always do what you say you're going to do
7. Back your partner up - argue later

(Am a carer to troubled teens)

looseleaf Sun 12-May-13 21:45:25

This is really cheering me and giving me food for improvement- I often don't really listen to a lot of DD's (nonstop) chatter but I think it will be good if I turn it into more 2-way conversation rather than just pretending to listen if I'm busy/ don't have the attention span!

That is exactly what I needed.

Thank you all smile

Theas18 Sun 12-May-13 21:52:07

ita to driving with them in the back I always do as I when they seers smaller itwas to have them in thre front and it's so much easier to talk about difficult stuff one to one like that .

Also yes to family meals as often as possible.

put yourself out for them-show then that they are hugely important to you. by picking them up late at night, or shifting work around getting them to an exam etc I'm sure you give them a big message about how you feel about them. dd1s best mate really felt second best as she never got lifts anywhere but her brother did ( he's special needs so crabby really use the bus but still)

BackforGood Sun 12-May-13 22:51:46

Def. what Laurie and Theas18 said.
Driving them around is great - when it's just you and one of them, you can have 'chats' and when it's you and a bunch of their friends, you hear all sorts of interesting things smile
Eating together every day, and listening to them even when it's pure drivel they are talking it's not a subject you are particularly interested in.
Having opportunities for 1:1 chats (ie, not in front of siblings) every few days - again, 99% of it will not be important, but it keeps the channels open for that 1 occasion when it is.
Talking about situations that happen in the News, or in a film or TV prog, or even a made up situation you have heard about a friend's dc going through, so they all get chance to talk about things that might be embarassing if it were about them, but is OK when that little bit removed.

Course, it could all go terribly wrong from here on in, my eldest hasn't quite turned 17 yet, and the next one is just 14, so feel free to ignore me grin

musicposy Sun 12-May-13 23:18:19

My DDs are 13 and 17 and I'm lucky enough to be really close to both of them smile
The 17 year old in particular tells me anything and everything. She's been extremely easy to parent so far but I'm confident our relationship would come through even stickier waters fine.

Throughout their childhood, I've always been interested in their crazes and interests. From Teletubbies when DD1 was a baby to Pokemon and Skylanders for DD2 now, I try to really listen and appreciate what they like and why.

When they were young I always answered anything they asked, without judgement or embarrassment. Friends often used to clam up if their DCs asked something a bit near the knuckle in public, used to say "I'll tell you later" or "when you're older" or "ask your dad". I never did that. DD1 asked about periods very loudly in a public loo at only 4 and asked what a prostitute was in front of family at 8. I always answered as if she'd asked me why the sky is blue. I think this gave her the impression that there were no "no-go" areas and it's something which has continued to this day.

I make a really big thing never to act shocked, even if I feel it. DD1 once told me she was planning to cheat in an important test. It would have been easy to launch into a lecture but instead I just said "OK...but just make sure you've thought it through. How will you feel if you are caught? How will you feel if you aren't? Which would make you happier, getting full marks by cheating or 2/3 marks on your own?" She worked it through in her mind and in the end didn't do it. I always let her think her decisions were hers - and in the end she seemed to take the right ones.

As they get older, the opportunities for being shocked get greater (!), but I still think that being unshockable is one of the key things for a close relationship. As a result DD1 tells me all kinds of things she openly says her friends can't tell their parents. I know who of her friends is having sex with who, who has tried drugs, who gets drunk on a regular basis. She tells me all her hopes and dreams and fears. DD2 today was telling me that she had been bitchy with one friend about another yesterday and how she regretted this a bit. I listened and let her talk it through, but didn't lecture. I figured she knew for herself she'd been mean or she wouldn't have been telling me. Somehow talking to me about all these thing seems to have kept them very much on the straight and narrow.

We always laugh that DD1 can only think of about 5 instances in her life when I told her off. Yet the funny thing is she's actually grown up with very firm boundaries in place. From 11-16 she had a monthly allowance (as DD2 still does) and I made it very clear that this would be stopped immediately at any hint of drugs/ smoking/ drinking etc. She's grown up with firm, clear rules and logical consequences to actions. I think they need those sorts of things for security.

I think letting go in stages and gradually giving independence are important too. Now DD1 is not far off 18, I really feel my job is done and all those kinds of decisions are hers to make. That's a good feeling smile

musicposy Sun 12-May-13 23:23:33

OP, it sounds as though you're doing all the right things, by the way. smile I found the teen years not to be the great mystery I feared they would. They're just a continuation of everything you do and have now.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Mon 13-May-13 00:29:15

I am sure you will be on good terms with your teens OP, it is a balance of listen and give advice - suggestions - if asked. Face to face can be awkward so as already mentioned, it's often easier to chat if one of you is occupied eg driving, ironing, washing up.

Better to have a pile of other teens' trainers dumped by your door and them eating all your snacks and bread and taking up house room than worry about which park or bus shelter they're sitting in.

Don't let your DCs know if you compare notes or share gossip with their friends' parents. You're not best mates you're the adult so don't be afraid to implement house rules but don't let them feel unwelcome in their home.

The only time it is wise to say Okay let me just ring round and ask is when your teen super-casually mentions some exceptionally late night or hair-raising event or far off jaunt and throws in for good measure,
"Everyone else's mum/dad says it's okay"

Celticcat Mon 13-May-13 08:00:21

One thing I'm pleased to say I picked up on mn and am practicing is 'pick your battles'.
This is excellent advice. My own mother was incredibly overbearing and I never felt heard, was not an individual entitled to make own mistakes, was simply an extension of her, her own words...
I've always tried not to nitpick, bite my tongue regarding levels of tidiness in ds, 15, room, etc.
Yesterday was Mother's Day (we live in continental Europe) and my ds hugged me and thanked me for loving him unconditionally, mainly in reference to letting him roam the house in boxer shorts, or bathrobe!
still wiping small tear from eye

Helpyourself Mon 13-May-13 08:08:03

All good advice here. I think mine are open with me. Top tips are make time for Kardashians and growing up Amish or whatever this weeks crap is and don't gossip or judge in front of them. If they've heard you judge their peers for something, they're not going to discuss the same with you. That's not the same as oking everything. Eg 'starting smoking as a teenager is particularly bad as your lungs are developing and it's so hard to stop. It's a social release though, do you find having your phone a bit like a comfort blanket?' Vs ' did you see that Caitlin up the road smoking? Wonder how she can afford it, mind you her mother hardly looks like the type to care.'

cory Mon 13-May-13 09:42:09

Sounds like you're doing all the right things. Also, remember that the practical tips given by posters above are about the kind of situation that helps teens open up, rather than "you have to provide exactly this situation. I don't drive so no cosy chats in the car, but we do have them in front of the telly instead.

The advice about not judging their peers is excellent. When dd phoned home from a party to say her friend was drunk and could dad please come and take her home to her parents, I knew we'd done something right. Dd felt confident enough with us to choose the safest option. I had lovely parents but I would have gone for the option that did not shock them, and that would have left her friend considerably less safe.

ChubbyKitty Mon 13-May-13 10:36:11

It sounds to me like you're doing the right things. I can give the other side of this because I was the teenager who was close to her mum just two years ago now!

As PP have said, always have time for her to chat about utter bollocks anything she likes. Thanks to me and what my mum would consider utter bollocks she now knows way more Pokemon names and types than any 40 year old woman should. BUT she also knows more about me and what I do when I'm out, etc, and trusts me to make the right decisions I life. As a result of this she didn't do the whole dramatic mum thing when I moved out. She cried but not when I could see because she didn't want me to think she was trying to keep me at home forever. If that makes sense?confused

Now we can talk about just about anything that springs to mind, which is really helpful ATM because I'm ttc and have all manner of worries and concerns and because she's already had a baby she tells me to man up and stop worrying all about it.

Fwiw you sound like a brilliant mum alreadygrinwine

looseleaf Mon 13-May-13 13:02:05

I'm so touched and cheered and still learning- what a brilliant idea too musicposy to not let any subject be awkward or embarrassing- I've already fallen into this by explaining periods as private so not usually discussed openly, I actually think I'll rethink this as without realising this is in a way continuing the type of awkward upbringing I had. Although I don't want DD to get into trouble introducing grown up words into the playground- one of her friends used the word vagina and also tampax and I was a bit taken aback!

I will be over the moon if continue our relationship the way yours sound. And ChubbyKitty your post moved me as my mum never minded when I left and has always made me feel she doesn't really want me there that much . And I can already guess how emotional I'd ever be when they're grown up which hits me all the more. Anyway I'm so grateful for this amazing advice as won't forget it

Cooroo Mon 13-May-13 13:47:02

Haven't read the above...

My DD 16 still tells me stuff, but less than even at 15. It's a delicate balance. You have to let them have privacy but be there when they need to share.

Meals are not good at our house - she usually eats separately. We grab chat time in the car, while brushing teeth (seem to end up in bathroom at same time!), whenever.

Just keep it up, let your DD know you're interested, listen to the long tedious dreams, don't judge too much.

ISingSoprano Mon 13-May-13 16:17:50

Definitely agree with the following:
Family meal times. Chat about all sorts of stuff and show you respect their opinions.
Driving in the car. I love the conversations I overhear in the back of the car. Sometimes I join in and sometimes I don't.
Open house - well, not exactly open all the time but usually if they want to ask a friend over I say yes unless there is a good reason not to. We have family meal times including the children's friends. A house full of teenagers is a lovely thing (really!).
Homemade cake - I know, sounds corny but if I know there are going to be extra teenagers in the house homemade cake goes down well and they will sit around in the kitchen and chat.

whitecloud Mon 13-May-13 18:00:45

Agree with what everyone has said. When they get to 13 or 14 they will grow away from you and start making you feel that you are in the way. A shock if you have been close. But they are finding themselves as individuals and part of that is arguing and saying the opposite to what you have said, just because you are their Mum and have said it!! You just have to hold on and stay interested - always be ready to talk or listen. I used to check my dd was OK by just happening to be taking her clean washing into her room - she might talk to me then!

Anyway she is now nearly 18 and we have a lovely relationship. She says she knows she can always talk to me.

wordfactory Mon 13-May-13 20:00:15

I have teens who still tell me a lot about what's going on. DD tells me the inside bloody leg measurement TBH!

I think one of the key things is that I'm usually interested.

I also talk to them a lot about what I'm up to, what I'm feeling and thinking.

Jimalfie Tue 14-May-13 09:23:26

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

amumthatcares Tue 14-May-13 13:01:30

My own experience has been that DD (now 18) and I have always had a pretty close relationship and she has always talked to me. Every day from the age she could speak I would ask her how her day was and what she had done (whilst I was at work). This established the 'talk' avenue. I also agree with a previous comment about always uniting with DH and then telling him he was a complete prick after when there was any disagreements. But as they get older they value their privacy more and more and are more selective about what they choose to talk to you about. DD is always telling me about a friend that didn't tell her parents this or another friend who lied to her parents about that and whilst I don't think she makes a habit of lying to me, I am also under no illusions that she doesn't tell me everything that goes on in her life. But she knows that if she wants to talk, she can and I'm happy to say, she does smile

mummytime Tue 14-May-13 13:17:24

My kids talk to me, they don't talk to DH as much.
It started early. I listen to them, they learnt early that even if I don't have time to listen at some point I will make time later. But on the whole I make time, and I listen even if it is boring drivel (eg. the details of minecraft etc.).
The car is a good place to talk. Making time for each child to talk to you. I even stay up quite often so I can switch out the lights, and have some time alone with the eldest.
Family meal times help, as sometimes things come out from one when talking to another.
Doing things together.
If one becomes isolated, then drawing them out for a shared activity: cooking, board games, shared computer games, walks (even if they whinge about coming), drives.

It is also good to talk about issues before they are likely to be relevant, shared TV watching can help with this, eg. teen pregnancy etc. Try not to be too judgemental.

But I think lots of talking from a young age, and a lot of interest in each others lives, leads to openness.

The other very key thing is to encourage them to have outside interests, and to interact with other adults you trust.

I have teen DDs. I echo all that previous posters have said.

We eat together as a family whenever possible.

I speak to my DDs when in the car taking them to dance class. They would often "save up" stuff to talk to me about - rather than squeeze in a quick talk at another time.

DD1 is away at Uni now but when she is home she stays up later with me and we chat about anything and everything.

There are things I wouldn't want to know about - I don't discuss my sex life with them so wouldn't expect them to tell me about theirs. Talking about what is good in a relationship is IMO different to knowing the intimate details. They are both open about health, body and image matters and I welcome their friends.

That said DD1 has blocked me on Twitter blush but given the amount of shite she can spout in 140 characters I should be relieved.

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