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“Do You Have Homework?” How to Communicate with Your Teenager

Does this after-school conversation sound familiar?

Hi Honey . . .
Hi Mom (or Dad) . . .
Do you have homework?

If so, it may be time for a different approach. “Many teenagers are upset with the first line of questioning. They walk in the door and they get a barrage of questions. The first thing their parents do is ask about homework, cleaning their room, doing the dishes, and so on. Teens often feel that the whole parent teenager relationship is about updates on completion of tasks and assignments,” explains Cleveland-area psychologist Dr. Trysa Shulman.

Connect with Teenagers First

There’s another way, says Shulman. Take the time to connect with your teenager before getting down to after-school business. “The first time you interact with your teen after a long day at school is a really sensitive time. Use that time just to connect,” she explains. “How are you doing? How was your day? Tell them about your day. Just check in and be present with each other. Have a snack. Let them unwind. And connect for however long it takes to actually connect.”

Then, and only then, go ahead and talk about the responsibilities. Ask about homework or tonight’s piano lesson or next week’s exam or whatever else, says Shulman. Those conversations will be easier if you’ve allowed for this process. “Of course, there are things that have to be discussed. There are also things to checked on. But in the context of a strong relationship, those conversations become less stressful.”

Notes Shulman: “In general, try to minimize the interactions when you ask your teen to do something, correct their mistakes, or criticize them. Step back and figure out how to change the balance so there are plenty of interactions that are just about connecting.”

And if you’re stressed by a schedule that doesn’t allow for this all-important activity with your teenagers, then perhaps it’s time to reassess. “If you have trouble keeping up with all the things they’re doing or if they don’t have time to just relax, then they may be over-scheduled,” says Shulman. “It’s okay to let up on some of those things. The health of your relationship is more valuable than whatever you may have to give up.”

Diana Simeon is an editorial consultant for Your Teen.

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