By: Vanessa Van Petten
Was there ever a moment when your teen said something snarky or gave you a dirty look and you thought to yourself, “Who is this person living in my house?” There seems to be a time for many parents where they realize their once loving child has turned into an adolescent, moody, quasi-stranger.
I often hear parents saying things like, “I swear, she woke-up and it was like I didn’t even know her anymore!” or “When did my son turn into a man?” These statements are usually tinged with both regret and nostalgia as parents realize their child is not only growing up, but turning into what seems like a new person.
Even though this can be disconcerting for parents, many adults do not realize that there is a flip-side to this knowledge for your teen as well. Teenagers often tell me that they also have a moment of apprehension when they realize their parents still think they are children—and they no longer feel like children. They say things like, “I liked the Simpsons when I was in 5th grade, my parents don’t realize that I have changed a lot since I was 11!” or “My parents think they know everything about me, but they don’t, I’m not a kid anymore!”
Both parents and teens are going through their own confusing ‘aha’ moments of their own adulthood. I find one of the best ways for teens to feel like their parents are accepting them as adults and for parents to feel like they still know their children is to ask some character defining questions. Here are my favorites, feel free to expand this into some great get-to-know-each-other conversations:
Conversation Starters to Get to Know Your Teens:
1. What is the hardest thing about your life; what do you worry about most?
2. Is there something that you wish I knew about you?
3. What are three words to describe you?
4. What do you think is the most important quality a person can have?
5. How were you different five years ago from who you are now? What do you think about five years from now?
These questions are meant to not only help you get to know each other, but also help get your teen thinking about their own identity. By discussing these issues with them in an open-minded fashion, they know they can come to you when they are trying to figure themselves out…and when you want to figure them out as well.
Here are some more: 20 Teen and Tween Conversation Starters (http://www.radicalparenting.com/2008/06/02/table-topics/)
Vanessa Van Petten is one of the nation's youngest experts, or 'youthologists' on parenting and adolescents. She now runs her popular parenting website, RadicalParenting.com, which she writes with 120 other teenage writers to answer questions from parents and adults. Her approach has been featured by CNN, Fox News, and Wall Street Journal. She was also on the Real Housewives of Orange County helping the housewives with troubled teens. Her next book, "Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I'm Grounded?" is being released in September 2011 with Plume Books of Penguin USA.