First and foremost – listen to them! While many young people value their privacy, there are definite opportunities to connect with them. When a teen wants to share, even if it is something you deem innocuous, do stop what you are doing and listen to them. This shows that you value what they have to say. And actually listen. My daughter and I had a 40 minute conversation today about a book she had just finished. I listened to her discuss the protagonist and complicated plot in excruciating detail. But you know what? She appreciated it, and quickly forced her copy of the book into my hands. I will begin reading it after this post, and she and I have a book club date next week so we can discuss it together.
Trying to connect with your teen (either your own child, student, client, etc.) is essential. Have something in common with them. You love Gossip Girl reruns? Well, so do I! How about we discuss the drama of the Upper East Side over our declared passion for chocolate milkshakes? Find a common thread and build from there. As an Independent Educational Consultant (IEC) and as a parent, I believe it is imperative we understand a bit of their teen/young adult culture.
Finally, young adults occasionally struggle with their budding independence. While they frequently believe they know best, there are other times when they still want to be coddled. I make every effort to empower my young clients to make their own sound decisions. “Well, how would you like to see this situation play out? What steps can you take now to make that happen?” As parents, be their sounding board (see above – listen!), and guide them in discovering how to handle a situation independently, be it a low test grade, requesting a teacher recommendation, etc. Assist them, offer advice when asked, but provide them with the tools to make their own best decisions.