In part 2 of my series (WYKAR2) I mentioned a way to make time for your kids –if only to discuss books- and how that could impact their lives for the better. But if you have older children who are asserting their independence a different route may become necessary.
HOW CAN YOU USE BOOKS TO LEARN ABOUT YOUR TEENAGER?
I was considered a rebellious teen. And before you think I snuck out of the house to drink, do drugs, or mess around with boys, you can think again. My doting parent freaked out if I wanted to wear skirts above the knee, date boys, go out with friends for karaoke or dancing, and reading the Harlequin novels.
Because my every action was met with lectures and yelling and grounding and more rules I found absurd, I did not feel like I could talk to my parents about anything and didn’t bother trying. I found myself with no one to turn to for reasonable and responsible conversation, and that could have turned out rather badly… but thankfully I buried myself in books, and learned a lot more that way than my close-minded parents could have taught me.
Other teens like me could feel it impossible to discuss things with their parents, or find themselves too embarrassed to voice their concerns face-to-face, or they just may think it “uncool” to talk to their parental units. What you need to do is find a way you and your offspring are comfortable with to keep an ongoing dialogue. Plenty of kids have an obsession with the Internet, so you could use that and consider writing emails to each other or even suggest that they start their own book blog! Just be open to whatever they have to say and be willing to discuss it reasonably.
If your kids are starting to distance themselves from you don’t pester them, but leave their special time (see WYKAR2) free for when they are ready to come to you. Just let them know you truly are always available when they need you, and keep the airways open by asking the right questions.
If your kid doesn’t respond or gets mad when you ask things about them, like “how was school?” or “how did soccer practice/debate club go today?” or “how were things at your job?” it is time to try something new. Try finding a way that they can help you so they still feel a part of your life without feeling like you are invading their privacy.
“I need a new book to read, what do you suggest?” is a pretty decent question to ask and can tell you a lot about what is going on in your child’s life.
If your kid refuses to answer:
(a) They are still mad at you for the fight you had recently.
(b) They have interests outside of books, and can’t believe you’re ignorant of that.
(c) They don’t have a favourite book because have trouble reading.
If the answer is Option A you and your kid have obviously left something unresolved and a discussion about that is needed. Yes, teens are far more likely to think their parents are being unreasonable, but teenagers need to know the why behind your decision, and not just a “because I said so”. If you do, your kid will feel you’re being hypocritical for various reasons. First, because they have to explain their actions to you but you don’t feel like you need to explain yours to them. And if you’ve ever pulled out the “would you jump off a bridge if they asked you?” in regards to peer pressure, well, what about parental pressure? You’re essentially asking them to do something they think is crazy because you haven’t taken the time to explain it with them.
Option B means you need to take the time to discover your child’s likes and dislikes, so they know you care enough to learn about their preferences. That way you can give them the encouragement and support they need, rather than making your kid feel like you are trying to force them into being someone they are not. Also, try to find a way to share that interest with them in a non-invasive way. If they like athletic activities you could attend their games, competitions, or recitals. If they are into cinematography, let them hold monthly “screenings” in your living room for their friends and family. If they want to be an author, take them to book fairs and author signings.
Or with Option C, you can subtly take the time to discover if a reading impairment is the reason they dislike books, are slower then their peers in class, why they are getting failing grades. A lot of literacy issues go unnoticed because no one takes the time to find out why youngsters do or act the way they are. Then, if your kid has a difficulty you can find them the help they need to overcome it and support them through it all.
NEXT WEEK: How to Discuss Books with Your Troublesome Teen (WYKAR4)