Just Say Something: How I Talk to My Teenage Son

My daughter and I have this communication thing down pat.  She’s 18-years-old, she’s female, and she’s an open book.  We have a natural rhythm going, (even though we hit a sour note every once in a while).

My son and I are in sync too but in a more modern way.  You see one day, right out of the blue, our iPhone data inexplicably merged.  Now, I have been renamed “Momma” on my own phone, he sees my calendar reminders, and I see every single freaking app he downloads.  

The talking part, however, isn’t so seamless.  Don’t get me wrong, we do have conversations, but I usually have to start small.

“Hey Bud, how was your day?”
“What was good about it?”
“I don’t know.”


So if I can’t get anywhere with general questions, I get super specific.  And I don’t even fuss if he looks at his phone the entire time.

“What did you eat for lunch?”
“What’s your homework situation?”
“How many wins do you have in Fortnite?”

That last one usually gets the ball rolling.

Let’s be honest, I really don’t need to know about French fries and Xbox – I want to know how he is truly doing.  How is he navigating high school?   Is he still having fun doing the things he loves?  Is it time to try something new?

If we are in the car together, which is often, I will casually drop one of my heavier questions.  

A captive audience is always good, especially if his phone battery is below 5%.   I will ask him about the YouTube video he is watching, the song we’re listening to, or when was the last time he brushed his teeth.  Then I’ll slip in an “anyone cute at school?” and see how far I can push my luck. I know the rules –  some subjects I only get to negotiate one or two questions, and then time is up.  But thirty minutes of shooting the breeze is worth those 30 seconds of insight.  

Sometimes, I meet him halfway.  I’ll watch him play video games, or join him on the basketball court, or buy him a smoothie (there is no shame in my game).  If my questions aren’t working, then I’ll tell him about my day, or something I saw in the news.  Or, I will just sit next to him on the porch and say nothing, and just see what conversation occurs naturally.

Then there are the moments when I realize that I have beaten a dead horse, and the barn door is closed.  And I have to accept that I don’t get to know everything.  I have to allow for the possibility that sometimes, my son would rather talk to his sister, his father, his friends, or maybe no one at all. 

At a certain point, our kids are entitled to their private lives, provided there aren’t any red flags regarding their health and well-being.  That is a tough pill to swallow, but that is also what iPhone passwords are for.  ( I kid? …)

What’s your best approach to talking with teens?  Please share below!