A couple of years ago, I suggested to each of my three teenage daughters that we spend some time every day one-on-one, talking about anything and everything they wanted to. Things didn’t work out quite the way I planned.
One daughter agreed to one-on-one time in the car, but we kept getting interrupted by frequent texts and calls from her friends. Another told me she liked the way it was already, with her talking whenever the mood hit her. My third daughter flat out told me, “You can’t force me to talk to you!” So much for my desired mother-daughter Hallmark scenes. My teenage daughters won’t talk to me!
Hurt by their rejections, but not enough to give up on getting one-on-one time with them, I forged ahead with my plan. I noticed it wasn’t talking to me, per se, that my daughters found offensive because they still did that quite a lot. More likely this was just a case of, as any self-respecting teenager knows, the parent’s ideas are, by definition, lame.
I also noticed that when my daughters felt like talking, they often rattled on about their favorite TV shows, leaving me at a disadvantage. I found it hard for me to engage in those conversations because I watched almost no TV and it was difficult to pretend to care about characters and actors I didn’t know.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Our schools switched to all online classes, and my husband got laid off from his job. Suddenly, we were all spending massive amounts of time at home and were under a lot of stress.
My husband, thankfully, found a new job after a couple of months of intense job applications, networking and interviews, and that relieved some of the tension in the house. But a major stressor remained. Our “You can’t make me talk” girl, despite not wanting to talk much to me, is an extrovert and the social isolation was extremely difficult for her. Our occasional mother-daughter conflicts increased in frequency and intensity as the pandemic stretched on. We couldn’t keep living like this.
I Needed Help Connecting with my Teenage Daughter
Oddly enough, the key to turning things around with our “You can’t make me talk” girl was TV. Can you believe it? TV! The same activity I thought was a mindless, time-sucking activity now became an essential way for me to connect with my distant daughter.
We discovered we both love doctor shows, and we binge-watched them: “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Good Doctor,” “Night Shift,” “The Resident.” These shows all featured a regular cast of characters, plus a continuous parade of patients dealing with not only medical problems, but every type of social and personal issue known to humankind. While the stories unfolded, my daughter and I naturally made comments.
Soon, our conversations flowed effortlessly for the first time in a while.
They were fictional stories, yes, but they centered around real-life issues and I got to hear what my teen was thinking about them, and when I gave my own opinions, she actually listened. And while my daughter wouldn’t talk much about her own dating experiences, if I asked her about the intricacies of Meredith and Derek’s relationship, she could go on for hours.
Later, we branched out to comedy shows, proving without a doubt that laughing with your teen is a lot more fun than fighting with them. (Thank you for your service, officers of “Brooklyn 99” and staff of “Superstore.”)
I still can’t force a conversation with my daughter, even after all this time watching shows together. But that’s okay, because our conversations now are more frequent and deeper. Can TV really be a gateway to better communication with our teenagers? Here we are, living proof.