Chatting Routine for Building Intimacy Skills Program for Parents & Their Teens

© By Charles Emmrys Ph.D. L. Psych

Thinking Behind This Program

Teenagers are in an intense learning curve to acquire all of the skills they will need to navigate adult life. Their primary teachers are other teens but the parents can provide support to teens by putting aside times where friend to friend talk can happen. This routine also helps prepare the adult to adult parent child relationship that will develop after the teen enters adulthood.

The Technique

Choose a time once a week or once every couple of weeks to spend 90 minutes together. The amount of time is important since it takes 90 to 180 minutes for a person to person cycle of interactions to take place. This is a one to one experience. Parents should take turns doing the exercise with their teen.

Choose a place outside the house that will be the regular spot to carry out the exercise. It should be a place that the teen’s friends do not hang out in and should be quiet enough to talk in. A restaurant or coffee shop is most often chosen for the exercise. Parks have also been chosen. If you chose a spot where food is not served, bring something to nibble on. Food is important.

Once there, the parent chats with their teen as a friend. The parent talks about themselves, the things that they have done and how they felt about various issues in life and then invites the teen to do the same.

  • It is important that the parent talk about him/herself. They may talk about when they were young or about everyday things such as “I was at the store today and the cash lady was so funny”. The parent is modeling for the teen what it is to talk about one’s day. Talking about feelings is an important part of the program.
  • The teen is then invited to talk about their day and the parent should help if and when needed. Try and get the teen to mention feelings when they tell their story.
  • The parent must not talk about expectations, rules or what went wrong or what they should not have done during the day. This is not a time to teach lessons but to develop friendship and closeness skills.
  • It is important to practice the back and forth of conversation. So the parent should ask a question and then wait for an answer and then a question from the teen. The parent then gives an answer and then asks his/her own question. The parent should feel free to prompt but attention needs to be given to fading the prompts over time.

This is the kind of program that can become a ritual and continue until the teen leaves the home. For those that take this approach, communication about difficult things (when being able to communicate really counts) tends to be enhanced well into adulthood.

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