Andrew Matthews, best-selling author of self-help books like Being a Happy Teen and public speaker to sell-out audiences, is no stranger to parents lamenting their daily struggle to communicate with their teenagers, as everything tells them — from the media to social media to other self-help books.
“Here’s the mistake that many parents make: The moment they see their teenagers after school they ask, ‘What happened at school today?’ To which the teenagers reply, ‘Nothing.’ End of conversation,” says Matthews.
Here’s how Matthews says you can do it more easily:
1) Watch your body language
You can make your kiddo feel important the same way you make other adults feel important. Matthews notes, “Children are very smart. They know when their parents are disinterested or judging them.”
He advises parents to practice sharing gentle eye contact with their children while asking them how they feel and letting them know that it’s okay to agree to disagree (on the small stuff, anyway). “We should let [our children] know, ‘I may not agree with your point of view but I love you because you are you.’”
Most importantly, do not interrupt when your kid is talking and remember to put that phone away!
2) Help your teen expand their horizons
Think of adolescence as the “adventure” phase of your teen’s life. There are a myriad of activities that can facilitate character building or exploration, Matthews urges children and teens to try out the ideas contained in:
Joining a debate club or public-speaking course. He says, “If you can speak in public, you have a massive advantage in the workplace and in life. Public speaking is an art that you can learn. Public speakers aren’t born.”
Volunteering to coach a peer or younger child. Not only will teens get to experience the joys of helping but doing so can also help “consolidate their own understanding” of a subject — for school or simply out of interest.
Doing charity. Whether it is volunteering at the pet shelter or spending an afternoon at the old folks’ home, getting out and about in your own community may just give you some ideas about how your life can be a force for positive change. Matthews offers, “It’s a funny thing — we are happiest when we are helping people.”
Going offline. If staying at home or being alone is something your child prefers, staying off the Internet and not watching TV for a weekend can do wonders. You can find yourself rediscovering the art of conversation, reading books, playing a board game or playing a sport!
3) Do stuff together as a family
“A family that eats together, stays together.” Matthews says most teens open up about their thoughts “when THEY are ready”. Thus, parents should aim to spend enough time with their children while making conversations a natural part of family life — such as sharing chat about their day over a meal.
There’s no need to plan the conversation; start by talking about movies, music, friends, politics and their grandparents — all can help get your children to share their own thoughts and feelings when the time is right.
Don’t set the goals for junior, set goals WITH them. Click next to find out how…
4) Help your teen build up their self confidence
Remind your child that always striving for total perfection is unrealistic (= not to mention impossible). Matthews says, “People who worry about perfection get paralysed with fear. Successful people don’t worry about failing, they just keep trying and improving.”
Parents can also urge children to use positive affirmations; simple acts like repeating to themselves “I am confident and relaxed” or “Every day I am getting better and better”. Introducing your teen to the self-help genre can encourage them to be proactive in pursuing personal development. Matthews’ Being Happy Podcast , which touches on topics like happiness, confidence relationships and career success, is a good place to start. Most importantly, your kid needs to understand that a mind functions much like a magnet, “If you are about to give a speech and worry about forgetting your lines, you will forget them. It is how the mind works. What we imagine, we create.”
5) Set goals with your teens
Goals, short- or long-term, play an integral role in ensuring that anyone stays motivated. Matthews counsels parents to remember these five qualities for successful goal-setting — other than remembering to involve the child. It’s their goal, not yours.
Remind the little one to always start small — even cinematic giants like Steven Spielberg started by making home movies when he was 12. Ed Sheeran spent years performing on street corners before filling stadiums! Successful people start anywhere they can. They just start…
Small steps build to big goals
Divide and conquer is the way to go to complete a big task. Matthews says, “You are more likely to finish jobs that can be completed in 15 minutes. Divide assignments into little chunks and do them one at a time.”
Ask for help when you need it
Reassure your little that if people can see that they are putting in genuine effort in reaching their goals, people will be more than happy to offer their help. It’s no point just sit there and not trying and complaining. The other catch is that they must speak up when they need help.
Love what you do
Matthews urges parents to help their teens find a way to fall in love with what they do, “When you love your studies – and your work – you become a magnet for people and opportunity. So you flourish.”
Picture your success
Coach junior to be the star of the mental “movie of success” that plays in their mind, “People like Richard Branson, Serena Williams and Taylor Swift visualise their success,” emphasizes Matthews. “They play the movie in their minds.”
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