Having trouble getting conversations started with your teen or pre-teen? Try these suggestions offered by my friends Leslie Eicher and Seldon Short with your pre-teen or teen next time you are diving somewhere together.
Smart Talk Radio Ages 12 – 18 --While riding in the car (only if your teen is a passenger, not if your teen is driving,) turn on your car radio to a talk radio station you trust. It could be sports talk radio, a religious station, National Public Radio, or a political station. Your teen might balk at first and want to go to his own iPod but after a minute or so, before he can get his earphones hooked up, just ask – “What do you think about that?” Most likely your teen probably was not listening, so you can rephrase the question, “That man just said that Jerry Sloan, the coach of the Utah Jazz, is one of the best coaches ever in the NBA and now he is retiring. What do you think?” Don’t worry if you teen does not want to play along at first. My friend Leslie Eicher, who recommended this to me, said it takes a little while before your child warms up to the idea of a conversation like this and really believes that you are interested in their opinion. But keep trying. After awhile you will be amazed at how much your teen will volunteer opinions about topics – even topics that seem unimportant to them like the rebellion in Egypt, or a possible NBA walkout.
You can of course take turns selecting the radio station – which is a good way to learn what your teen likes to discuss. But do stick to talk radio for this activity, that allows you to engage in a conversation and provides a forum for your teen to express opinions.
WHY? Brain researchers now know that adolescence is a time when the brain goes through a second burst of development (the first burst in brain development occurs during the first few years of life). One part of the brain that is blooming during this time is the very tip of the frontal lobe. That part of the brain is essential for setting goals, thinking about the future, and thinking about other people. Expressing opinions on topics of interest builds that part of the brain and gives a teen a sense of the value of his own opinions. Laurence Steinberg and his colleagues at Temple University have found that teens who are encouraged to think for themselves are better able to resist peer influence and make independent choices.
“Name that Tune” Ages 8-adult –If you have a car with Satellite radio, this is a game I learned from my friend Seldon Short that everyone in the car can play. Choose a radio station that has the kind of songs everyone in the car might know. If could be songs from movies, popular teen idols, folk music, rock music, oldies, rap, show-tunes, songs from a specific decade, etc. When a new song comes on cover up the display and make a contest about who can name the song, the performing artist and (if you get really good at this) the year it came out. The check the display to check the answers if necessary. You can make the game even more challenging by trying to think of other facts about the song like the name of the album, names of other members of the band, or other songs by the same person or group.
WHY? Rapid naming is a skill associated with speaking easily and effortlessly. There are many naming games that can be fun on long car rides. I have suggested others in previous posts. But, when you play a naming game, especially one in which your child or teen may be better than you, it builds their confidence, trust and enjoyment.