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Communicating With My Teenaged Son: How I Got Him to Open Up to Me

Teenagers are confusing creatures. They love you, they hate you, they ask for your opinion, they are annoyed with your opinion—and that’s within 30 seconds.

They feel such inner turmoil, which is terrifying for everyone to experience. As the mother of two sons, I work hard to find ways to connect with boys.

My oldest is a communications champ. He speaks clearly, listens well, and doesn’t lose patience when I try to hash out issues. My youngest? Uh, he’s not there yet (and may never arrive). He has a tough time articulating his thoughts, and while I try to guide him by asking lots of questions, many times he just gives up on making his point.

Now that it’s just the two of us living at home, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to have a real conversation, one that goes beyond school, work and friends. When I try to start a conversation with teenage son #2, he’s brief with answers and quick to exit.

How About Dinner and a Chat?

Frustrated, I decided to try a new approach, so one evening I told him I was really hungry for Thai food and asked if he would he be interested in joining me. Now, this child of mine never misses a meal and it’s a bonus when Mom is buying.

Even on the way to the restaurant, I noticed he was relaxed and chatty. Things were going great. I told him he could order what he wanted, including appetizers and a soda—and then he was on to me. He was very good-natured about the whole deal and we had a good laugh over my thinly veiled strategy.

But it worked. We talked, we really talked.

He opened up about his frustrations with his best friend and the stress that impending college was having on him. He shared that his original plan of studying engineering was changing.

I did my best to listen, relate, and encourage. I was able to sneak in a little advice (I couldn’t ignore an opportunity) and he was very open to my opinions. Together we came up with some ideas of careers and alternate college majors. The relief on his face was palpable.

A Win-Win Solution

Taking him out of the house and treating him to restaurant food made him feel a little more important and in turn, he gave back in spades. I’ve kept this practice up every couple weeks and I always get that “Wow, this really works!” feeling.  Sometimes simple solutions do work the best. He gets good food, I get good conversation. We both leave the restaurant content and satisfied. High fives all around!

Renee Brown lives in Minneapolis with her two tall sons—Sam, 20, and Zachary, 18—and three obstinate felines. She is a senior account executive working in advertising and an avid reader, wine drinker, creative writer, and yoga enthusiast.

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