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11 Ways I have improved communication with my teenaged daughter

Girls are hard! Harder than boys. I didn't know such a thing to be the case until she turned about 9 (going on 25)! I have a twentysomething son but he was NEVER a challenge to relate to.

    1. Love her like she likes to be loved

    It is very hard for me to hold back affection as I was raised in an affectionate family but my daughter doesn't like overt displays of affection (I think she has a bit of ADHD or is on the edge of a neurodiverse disorder ~ if I used that incorrectly someone please let me know in the comments). But through effective counseling I have come to see that I should not take this personally. Rather, I should allow her to define the hugs and kisses. And when I am smart and do not pressure her or push myself on her, she invariably comes to me wanting affection. It sounds creepy upon a second reading but I am being sincere about the relationship and nothing weird.

    2. Find any common ground

    She likes to draw, listen to music, & has expressed some interest in writing, etc. These things all interest me and I make it a huge point to look at every drawing in her 18(!) full sketchbooks! She loves my critique which is always positive even when I don't like something ("I like this character better than that one two pages ago"). I ask her to let me read her stories out loud and then I ask her to let me reread them out loud. This helps her hear where her thoughts were not descriptive enough and she reads my writing the same way. On music, up until a couple of years ago, she didn't know that adults could have taste in music or like something for the sheer pleasure of listening to a good song or album. Now, she can at least appreciate my music for music's sake even if she disagrees with my choices and vice versa!

    3. Listen, listen, listen

    Males are problem solvers and I tend to want to correct an issue instead of just listening to her talk about it. Which is really what she wants me to do, anyway.

    4. Let her play her music, etc

    I am a radio hog in the car and she LOVES it when she gets to play her crappy playlist (full of songs that I would not categorize as songs . . . .probably much like my parents felt about my teen listening choices). She has her learner's permit now & will get her driver's license soon. Her first question was if she could set up the car to her liking, putting her touches on the car and setting the stations to her preferences, etc. We said yes and this made a big impact. And, for my wife and I, such a little thing.

    5. Asking her to help me do chores or offering to help her do her chores

    We have had effective communication when doing the laundry together. I have made great inroads to gaining her trust when I offer to help her clean her bathroom.

    6. Stop judging her choices (at least out loud)! In music, clothing, friends, school, desires, career path, etc.

    SO hard to do!

    I have made one really good decision in my relationship with her and it is this: early on in our life together I praised and reinforced every career decision she made, talked about, or dreamed up, even if the change was multiple times per day. This resulted in her realizing that whatever she decided to do with her life we would support her and she discarded those choices that might normally make us roll our eyes (zoo keeper, makeup artist, artist-artist, cosmetologist, pet sitter, circus performer, actor, singer, busker, etc). Nothing wrong with these careers but sometimes they are too niche or require too much time spent on your feet or are hard on your body or have too much competition for too few spots. Plus, many don't have an educational path that we know how to direct or follow.

    7. Make eye contact and stay engaged. Smile and listen intently (see number 3 above). Nod appropriately and encourage the sharing.

    Very difficult to do all of those while remaining sincere. And not being distracted by life problems or events.

    8. Don't be distracted.

    When she begins talking the book goes down or the TV goes off or the music is turned way down or I put my computer to sleep. Those moments that she shares are rare and I have discovered I need to focus 100% on whatever she is telling me. Oftentimes it is why her best friend dyed her hair or what her reasoning is for buying this blouse over that one but I try to focus as if I am hearing life advice from Tony Robbins or something!

    9. Bring up previous conversations very often so she knows I was really listening.

    And reinforcing what she said or asking for clarification or expansion on her ideas. Oftentimes I'll bring up last night's conversation the next afternoon. We have more leisure time to talk about it and we've both had all day to let it simmer in our subconscious.

    This method of questioning her thoughts helps us to strengthen our bond and she can further think about what & why she thinks like she does. And it shows her that I value her input and opinions. Plus, I often learn something.

    10. Tell her that I value her opinions and input.

    If I say it to her it also helps to reinforce in my mind that her feelings, thoughts, & opinions are valid and that my way isn't the only way. I often steamroll my family with, "my way or the highway," & I need to learn & remind myself that this is not necessarily the best way to have a family and gain understanding of them as contributors.

    11. Hold family meetings

    At our family meetings everyone can say anything that they want and no topic is off the table. I always have a specific agenda for the meetings but there is no rule that says we cannot deviate from it or make the meeting about anything else. We don't have family meetings very often (maybe once a quarter or just twice a year) but when we do they always feel productive. We usually hold them after dinner or during a meal & they mostly involve a trip or vacation destination as a topic. If everyone has something to play with in their hands I find that we are more productive and if someone has hurt feelings they don't have to make eye contact this way.

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