By Teresa Carnes
If you've ever done any gardening, you know what a time consuming and tedious task pulling weeds can be. It's one of those jobs you'd rather not take part in, but you know you'll never reap the benefits if you don't! One learns that weeding the garden becomes a daily task. Sometimes it appears as though the weeds might outnumber or even overtake the plant. But, if you take the time and care to remove those weeds one by one, the plant begins to grow and eventually bears beautiful fruit (or veggies).
So it is when talking to your teenager! Liken the weeds to small talk, or day to day communication. Questions like "how was school," or "who'd you eat lunch with today," are not just 'small-talk,' they provide the doorknob for which to open the door. Your teen is not going to just one day decide to share her most intimate thoughts with you unless you've prefaced these more personal conversations with daily communication.
Of course, you may grow tired of hearing "I don't know," or, "Oh, you know Mom, the usual" over and over. But, like the numerous weeds you must pull in order to produce the fruit-bearing plant, these daily attempts at conversation eventually evolve into meaningful discussions. If your teen believes that you truly are interested in his daily, mundane routines, he will more freely begin to open up and share deeper, more personal thoughts and feelings with you. And these are your opportunities to mold and shape your teen.
Not sure how to begin? Why not try having a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies ready when she gets home from school? (Yes, teenagers still enjoy warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies!) Sit down at the table with her, pour you each a glass of milk, and just talk about her day at school. Drive time is also an opportune moment for talking. Turn down (or off) the radio for a while and make small talk. Come on, you can do it with your boss, or the ladies at church, you can do it with your teenager too! Or, do the dishes together after dinner. Ask him how football practice went, or what period in history she's currently studying. Ask what book he's reading or what play the English teacher has assigned. The important thing is to make the effort to communicate. The subjects we, as parents, see as trivial or unimportant, are sometimes those that are most important to our teen. Daily activities are what comprise life. And, once you've mastered small talk with your teen, that's when the dam breaks and the river runs free!
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