Communicating with teenagers isn’t always easy.
In order for homeschooling high school to go smoothly, it’s important to have a stable communication pattern with your teen, so you can discuss curriculum choices, scheduling, etc. That means creating an atmosphere in which everyone feels comfortable.
Here are my best tips — after raising five teens and living to tell the tale — for keeping communication lines open.
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This episode is sponsored by CTC Math.
Teaching math to your kids can be a dreaded task, and so is finding the right curriculum. CTCMath helps your family succeed in learning math at home. Their short, concise, easy to understand lessons have won multiple awards, including the prestigious Cathy Duffy award.
It’s the only math curriculum where all lessons and every grade level are included in one low family-friendly price. Plus, you get a full 12 month money back guarantee. Because they believe in homeschooling, you actually get a half price discount.
Episode 81: Communicating with Teenagers
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Ann Karako: Hi. This is Ann Karako, and you are listening to Episode 81 of the It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School podcast.
Welcome to another episode of It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, the podcast for real people, so that you can confidently, competently, and yes, even contently provide the high school education that is best for your teen and your family. I’m your host, Ann Karako from notthathardtohomeschool.com.
Hello, everyone, and welcome. It is currently 10:34 AM on Friday, July 1st. Why am I telling you that? I woke up this morning and started to think about how it’s Friday and how normally I publish content on Fridays, whether that be first and third Fridays, for the podcast, or second and fourth Fridays for the blog. I realized that it’s Friday and I have no content scheduled to publish today. Then I realized even though it’s July 1st, it is the first Friday of the month. Normally, that doesn’t happen on the 1st. Normally, I have a little time to realize, “Oh, the first Friday of the month, I better plan ahead for that,” but for some reason this week I didn’t even register that Friday would be the first Friday in July.
So here I am at 10:34 in the morning recording this podcast. Then I will frantically edit it and prepare all the other materials that go into getting a podcast episode published, and it will all be done by the end of the day.
I have to say that right now, I have about 25 minutes to record this and then I have to leave for a prescheduled lunch with a friend, which I am not going to miss.
While I’m going to work my hardest to get this ready in a timely fashion for those of you who are subscribers, so that you can see the new episode in your app, it may be that the episode itself, the audio, gets published before the show notes on the website. Be prepared that if you click on the show notes button, or you try to go to the website and look for this episode, you might not find it early afternoon on Friday, July 1st, but certainly, by early evening, I’m hoping it will be there. Certainly by Saturday, if you’re coming on Saturday or later, everything you need will be in place for you to find.
What is kind of fun is that anybody who actually listens to this on the first will know that I literally recorded it just hours earlier. There you go. Hello to all y’all!
What are we talking about today? Well, I want to talk about communicating with your teen today. Remember that in between the guest podcasters, we are doing a series loosely called the Care and Feeding of Homeschooled Teens. A lot of this is obviously applicable to any teen, homeschooled or not, but since we are mostly homeschoolers listening to this podcast and there are certain aspects of each topic that are things that homeschoolers tend to experience more or exclusively, that’s why we are calling it that.
Today’s topic is communication. How can we communicate with our teens in the way that will serve them and ourselves best? I want to admit that, true confessions, most of the information that we are going to talk about in this episode comes out of my book called, Save Your Sanity While Homeschooling High School. There’s an entire chapter in there about communicating with your teen. I’m going to be drawing from that in this episode, but as always, you know me. It’s not like I script these things, so I’m sure there will be added excitement as we talk about this, that you won’t find in the book.
There are, though — just for a quick moment of salesy nonsense — there are other chapters in the book that are definitely worth reading, such as how to interpret your state homeschool law, what are the things that you really have to do, what are the things that you don’t really have to do that even though other people say you probably should… Remember, I don’t deal with shoulds. We want you to be able to make choices that are best for your family, not based on somebody else’s list. I clarify for sure in the book what you really have to do and what you can choose whether you want to do it or not.
So many other topics too, like, what to look for in a college, how to get your teen started on independent learning, or continue with that and progress. Those are the ones that are coming to me off the top of my head. I know there’s more than that. I hope you’ll check it out. I will definitely leave the link in the show notes, or you can find it on Amazon as well. Let’s get started.
The thing is, when we decide to homeschool our teens all the way through high school, there is much that will need to be communicated about. Logistically speaking with schedules, we will want to talk about curriculum, obviously, we’ll need to talk about whether they got done their work that day — and all of that just goes that much smoother if the communication habits and relationship are already running smoothly themselves.
That’s why we take the time to talk about this because any relationship can have its ups and its downs, and our teens will tend to push the boundaries of the downs further than we ever expected them to. That means that we as the adult, as the parent, need to be thinking about this proactively, not reactively. Here are some tips, if you will, some advice from, not just a veteran homeschool mom, but a veteran mom who raised five teens and has seen them on their paths, their adult paths.
1) Be available
Number one, be available to talk whenever that might be. I know, it feels like we just got over that period of our parenting where we were up at night dealing with diapers or feedings or messes in the bed or bad dreams. Now, we tend to be up at night, not necessarily being woken in the middle of the night, but we may want to realize that staying up as late as our teens do can sometimes yield the best conversations with them.
Now, I confess that I didn’t do this often because I conk out at about 9:00 PM where I’m just no good for anybody for anything, but if you are the type that is able to stay up later, this is one of the prime times when teens relax and are willing to talk. Maybe make that a time when you’re available, not forcing it, but just being around.
When else? In the car, or as you’re making dinner — if you have family dinner at the dinner table, ask your teens what they’re thinking about things. Find out about their day. Be available to talk and then listen when they do, and if they initiate something, by all means, put aside what you’re doing and pay attention. They might not do that often, and we want to be there when they want to tell us about the little things so that they know we will be there when they need to tell us about the bigger things.
2) Allow them input
Number two, we’ve talked about this so many times. Definitely allow your teen input in the planning process, the curriculum choice process, the scheduling process. All of the decisions that have to do with their homeschooling are things that should be up for negotiation with them. Sometimes you have to pull the parent card, but try to make that few and far between where you can meet them halfway as much as possible.
I’ve got other episodes about, for instance, involving your teen in the planning process. I will link to that episode in the show notes. It’s something that we’ve talked about often though. By the time we get to high school, if we want our teens to learn independently, then we have to allow them to make some of the choices or to at least have input in the choices that we end up making.
3) Respond calmly
Thirdly, and this one’s a tough one. I don’t deny it. Respond calmly to whatever they may be giving you. Oh, this is so hard for me. Respond calmly. Show them respect even when they are not showing respect to you. Trust me when I say that having to apologize to your teen is one of the hardest things to do but very necessary, and that’s a tip within a tip, is be sure you do go and apologize when it warrants it, when you have behaved badly to your teen. In general, when they’re behaving badly to you, make every effort to respond calmly and clearly.
That’s something that they will learn to respect from you, even if they never acknowledge that openly, and it does help smooth things instead of turning them into a big blow-up. Instead, often it results in a productive conversation when we as the adults can remain calm.
Usually, when they’re behaving badly towards us, it’s because they’re responding to a situation that they’re frustrated or worried or scared about, and they don’t know how to deal with it. They need us to help diffuse that frustration or fear. If we talk back to them in a way that’s just as disrespectful or unloving or accusatory, we’re not helping them with this situation.
They’re teenagers. They don’t have emotional regulation yet. Although sometimes, I’ve got to be honest with you, sometimes my teenagers seem to have it better than I did and do, but for the most part, we’ve got the experience with maintaining self-control way more than they do. Let’s show them that and let’s help them through their frustration, not taking it personally, but trying to help them get to the bottom of it, so that we can solve whatever the problem is.
As always, I need to jump in here to tell you about our sponsor for today. Our sponsor for this episode is CTCMath. Teaching math to your kids can be a dreaded task, and so is finding the right curriculum. CTC math helps your family succeed in learning math at home. Their short, concise, easy-to-understand lessons have won multiple awards, including the prestigious Cathy Duffy award, and it’s the only math curriculum where all lessons and every grade level are included in one low family-friendly price. Plus, you get a full 12-month money-back guarantee, and because they believe in homeschooling, you actually get a half-price discount. Start your free trial at ctcmath.com. That’s ctcmath.com.
4) Nonverbal communication
Nonverbal communication is another — I’ve lost count, by the way, of how many tips we’ve done, so this one doesn’t have a number, and they won’t anymore until I go back over this, and I don’t know. Maybe I’ll put the numbers in the transcripts. Anyway, where was I? Nonverbal communication. Yes, that’s right. Nonverbal communication can be huge in setting an atmosphere.
Are you smiling at your teen? Seriously, do you make an effort to smile at the people around you? This is something I’ve just been realizing, even as I wrote the book a couple of years ago, but I still find myself not being a smiler. What is it about our thoughts that grab us so much that we can’t smile when somebody comes in the room?
Let’s start to think about the other person, not what’s in our own thoughts, and let’s start smiling more at our teens in particular and everybody in our family, obviously. People will respond to that. They’ll know you’re glad to see them, and that builds bridges right there.
Other nonverbal communication would be physical affection. Maintain that. Even though teens sometimes will be like, “Don’t do that” or whatever. Obviously, you’re not going to force anything on them, but every once in a while you can grab a hug, or you can play with the hair at the back of their neck. That was always my fave. You can ruffle their hair on your way by, or you can just touch their arm as you’re talking to them or give it a quick rub as you’re standing together at any given time, just nonverbal communication that shows them that you have affection for them, that you enjoy them, that you love them. It doesn’t have to be earned. It’s just there all the time.
5) Check in
Oftentimes, our teens tend to hang out in their bedrooms. In our house, we call this hamstering. It’s a verb. We hamster [laughs]. You can imagine a hamster going into the corner of his cage and digging under his little shavings. One of my kids coined that term and now it’s a Karako family term.
Don’t ignore them when they’re in there. Now, in our family, we had a rule that the door had to be open so that we could see, and if they were on any computer in the bedroom, the monitor had to be facing the door so that as we were passing by, we could see what was going on.
Then when you are passing by, maybe just quickly sticking your head in, “Hey, how’s it going?” You’re not after a hugely long conversation, you’re not trying to solve the problems of the world. You’re just checking in.
Just check in. Find ways to check in with your teen on a regular basis. How’s it going? How are you feeling?
You might get one-syllable answers. That’s okay. It’s just the idea that you are checking in, that you want to know. That’s really what we’re trying to convey here, regardless of their response. Don’t give up if they don’t respond, just keep doing it.
That’s one of the things about teen communication that we have to remember all the time. Don’t give up, no matter what response you get.
Another aspect of communicating with your teens is affirmation. I’m actually going to spend a whole podcast episode on that later. I won’t go into too much detail about it now, but you know what, catch your kid doing something right for a change instead of always being in correction and training mode.
“Hey, I like the way you did that.” “Hey, thank you for doing that.” Even if it’s something that seems really shallow, “Hey, your hair’s looking good today,” that’s important to teens when we can compliment them on that because they’re not getting those compliments at the public school like other teens are.
I mean, wasn’t that one of the ways we got a lot of affirmation when we were in public school was our friends telling us that our outfit was great or cute or our hair looked good or whatever. Granted, it’s outside stuff as far as being on the outside, and maybe it doesn’t reflect the heart, but still, when teens are in that phase of, “Man, I think I look like an idiot,” any little compliment we can give them can be helpful. Of course, we’re going to look for the inner qualities as well and compliment and affirm those when we see them.
7) Be in the same space
Sometimes, we don’t have to communicate at all. Sometimes just being in the same place is enough and maybe when we’re just in the same place, so maybe they’re playing a video game and you’re just sitting there reading your book in the same room. Maybe you’re in a car together on a long drive, maybe to go to athletic practice or some other such thing, you can try to initiate a conversation or you can use that time to check in on the whole, “Hey, birds and bees, any questions? Just want to touch base on that again. I know we talked about it before.”
I’ve done that, but in the car is a great way to do that, a great place to do that. Usually, they didn’t have any questions, but I still felt it was important to check in on that. That was my job as a parent.
Sometimes when you’re just together in the same space, then 45 minutes or an hour go by, and then they start to open up. It’s like you’ve provided this safe place for them for enough time that now they feel safe enough to open up. That’s when the real conversations might happen. “Real” as in the ones that seem to be deep and meaningful, but don’t neglect all the little conversations along the way that build up to that point.
Just some tips about communicating with teens, I hope these have been helpful. Sometimes it’s easier said than done, but maybe if we keep these in mind, then the atmosphere will be one where the homeschooling can run smoothly without a lot of tension and disagreement.
Next time, we’ve got a guest podcaster. I have no idea what they’re going to say. It’s so much fun to have these gals sharing with us how they did homeschool high school. That’ll be on the third Friday. Then, stay tuned for on the first Friday of the next few months more sessions in this series of caring for our homeschooled teens. I will see you then, thanks for being here.
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