Friday, October 22, 2010
As I was teaching my Intro to Psych class yesterday at Curry College, I shared a personal story with my students that seemed both pertinent and entertaining. At the end of class, one of my students (there are 30 in this class) came up to excitedly share his own personal connection to my story. Honestly, I had never heard this student speak before. He sits in the back of class, hunched over, avoiding eye contact, more out of shyness I think than disinterest. We chatted after class for 15 minutes, sharing more connections and having a delightful time. He seemed like a different guy, animated, and engaged because we were on common ground. It got me thinking about so many parent/teen relationships that get described to me by parents who are feeling disconnected from their teen. "We don't seem to have anything to talk about except homework, chores, laundry, room, and schedules." I don't know about you, but if that's all you are talking about, I'm guessing everybody is feeling a bit bored with each other. My student reminded me how important those personal connections can be, and how easily they can get lost. When your teen was a youngun, they couldn't wait to come in from school and tell you every teeny tiny morsel of minutia about their day. Of course now as teens, few details about their day emerge, and interrogations of gargantuan proportions are required to even eke out the smallest clue about their life. Here is the disconnect. Your teen is completely uninterested in that minutia, and doesn't understand why is it so important to you.With one word grunts, he/she hopes they can discourage you from asking any more questions. Like my student, most teens are turned on to talk by something that feels meaningful and connects with some part of who they are. So rather than spending the precious little time you get with your teen asking a litany of questions you might never get answered, try connecting with them on something of interest to them. If your kid is into reading sci-fi or comic books, or watching South Park, or Gossip girl, or plays video games or computer games, here is where you should be..without judgement (as in this is the stupidest show I've ever seen). This is your homework! Read the book, watch the show, play a video game, and then connect with them on common ground. If you are totally not into clothes, but your son/daughter is, rather than judging them for being superficial, ask them to help you with a makeover. Engage with them in something that excites them. This is where connection comes from so that when you need to get to the other stuff, the daily grind stuff, your teen feels that your interest in him/her is not just about what they have accomplished, but who they are becoming.