Loughborough Echo - - HEALTH & LIFESTYLE -

Q MY 15-year-old son rarely com­mu­ni­cates in any­thing but mono­syl­la­bles and I have no idea what’s go­ing on in his life. What’s the best way of get­ting him to talk, and lis­ten, to us?

A JANEY DOWNSHIRE, a coun­sel­lor spe­cial­is­ing in teenage de­vel­op­ment and co-author with Naella Grew of Teenagers Trans­lated: A Par­ent’s Sur­vival Guide (Ver­mil­ion, £12.99), says: “This is a dif­fi­cult stage when the nat­u­ral sep­a­ra­tion from par­ents can feel abrupt, es­pe­cially with boys who can seem very with­drawn. Al­most overnight, your son seems to trans­form from an af­fec­tion­ate boy to a griz­zly, dis­tant teenager.

“Our im­pulse can be to be­come more de­mand­ing. The more we feel shut out, the more in­sis­tent we can be­come, and the more boys re­sist.

“What can help is to give him more space, but don’t dis­en­gage.

“Boys are bet­ter at talk­ing when they’re do­ing some­thing side-by-side, so try to en­gi­neer op­por­tu­ni­ties, like car jour­neys, cook­ing or walk­ing.

“Be in­tu­itive to his mood. Try rais­ing a ca­sual topic to get him talk­ing – even a few min­utes on an in­con­se­quen­tial sub­ject gets the in­ter­ac­tion go­ing.

“Get him talk­ing about things he’s good at and en­joys. Teenage boys can feel un­sure of them­selves and be­ing re­minded of their strengths will trig­ger good bio­chem­i­cals (dopamine) in their sys­tem, and not only en­cour­age them to talk but also build self-con­fi­dence.

“Gauge which sub­jects he’s un­easy with and tread care­fully. Don’t avoid them, but if he feels cor­nered into talk­ing, he’ll with­draw even more.

“Part of the rea­son boys com­mu­ni­cate less well is be­cause the bridge con­nect­ing their right and left brains is less ef­fi­cient than a girl’s, so they’re less able to put feel­ings into words, hence the grunts and nods.

“Fo­cus on be­ing ap­proach­able and emo­tion­ally warm. Boys need to make mis­takes and take risks, so avoid be­ing overtly crit­i­cal when he men­tions his friends’ an­tics. It’s a good way for him to test and see if he could share things with you. “Fun. Laugh­ter and spon­tane­ity trig­ger good chem­i­cals and a sense of well­be­ing that will trans­fer into bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

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