Which is harder to communicate with: a teenager or a brick wall?
If you chose “teenager,” you are correct. These almost-adult humans seem made to frustrate and madden other humans who are far beyond the awkward years. How is it, then, that speaker like Jacob Mitchell Levinson in Chicago prefer to speak to teenagers? Is it magic? Do they know something the rest of us don’t know?
It’s not magic. It’s merely a nuanced understanding of how to reach the teenage brain. With a little practice and these tips, you too can communicate with a teenager.
Chances are good that at some point your teenager will need a ride somewhere. With just yourself and the teen in the car, you have an automatic private space for conversation. Don’t try to force a discussion on any topic. A better approach is to merely comment on the world around you and wait for your teen to respond.
Use Your Television
Teens love screens. If you can persuade your teen to watch the nightly news or other television program with you, you can use the commercial breaks as a time to create conversation. Comment on the previous news segment, or on the commercial you just watched.
Live in Their World
Take the initiative to learn about your teen’s interests. Maybe you never really wanted to understand LARP (live action role play,) but if that is your teen’s weekend activity, it’s in your best interest to learn about it. Then you can ask informed questions and create a safe space for your teen to open up to you about their life.
Mind Your Face
A teenager’s superpower is the ability to generate a reaction from a nearby adult. When you are able to control your knee-jerk reaction to a teenager who is pushing your buttons, you are able to understand the real reason for her or his behavior.
Be the Grown Up
Part of being an adult is knowing and admitting when you are wrong. Show your teenager that you are a decent role model by apologizing when you make a mistake. Not only are you modeling appropriate adult behavior, but you are also building trust and open communication.
Keep a Secret
If you do somehow manage to get a teenager to open up to you about something meaningful, do not betray that trust. Keep your conversations confidential. If you feel that you need to share the information with another adult, tell your teen first.
With these tips, you too can communicate with a teenager. After time, you may even understand why Jacob Mitchell Levinson in Chicago and others choose to work almost exclusively with teens.