10 things kids wish they could tell you if they knew you were really listening

It is tough being a teen today, and it's just as tough to be the parent of a teen. Every situation is different, and there are no guarantees, but there are tried-and-true ways to connect with your teen. Here is what you need to know.

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  • Teenagers nowadays lead a complex life. You know. You were in that same position not so long ­ago. But it doesn't help that it can be practically impossible to get your teen to really talk to you. You also know that technology, social media and the rapidly changing attitudes of society create new challenges and responsibilities for teens and parents of today.

  • Are you wondering what is going through his or her mind? Here is what your teen wants you to know:

  • I want rules and boundaries

  • Jeannie Colvin, a licensed therapist who maintains the site FamiliesWithTeens.com, says your teen would tell you, "I need limits. I'm going to yell at you and react to them, but when you don't give me any, it makes me feel like I'm in charge. I may say that's what I want, but it really scares me."

  • Wiseman says that rules can also help your child get out of bad situations without losing face with friends: "I can't do that because my dad will kill me when he finds out."

  • I know I goofed up

  • Teens, even the "good" ones, occasionally do really stupid things. If your teen tells you about how she messed up, resist the urge to lecture or criticize. Patrick, a father and grandfather who volunteers with teens, says, "Resist the lecture and just listen. What they really need is unconditional love. They need to know you are there for them."

  • Your teen may shut you out if you lose your cool or say "I told you so." Listen calmly and communicate your support. Supporting your teen as she experiences consequences and finds her own solutions will be far more effective than any lecture.

  • I have a lot more going on than I am telling you

  • Diane, a mother of five, says her adult children regularly confess crazy things they did as teens that she knew nothing about. These were kids who got good grades and attended church and now have respectable jobs and college educations.

  • Even well-behaved teens are up to more than they share with their parents. Your child may not be involved in parties, sex, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders or other serious issues, but he probably knows kids who are. Keep in mind that you can't always identify a "good" kid by his appearance.

  • I want to trust you, but you need to earn it

  • You can't expect your teen to pour out her soul to you if your actions at other times show that she's not your top priority.Rosalind Wiseman, author of "Queen Bees and Wannabes," recommends scheduling a regular date with your teen. It might be spent in silence, but over time, your teen is more likely to talk to you about important issues when she knows you're available and willing to listen.

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  • I just need you to be there—when I'm ready

  • Getting a teen to share what is going on in his mind can be challenging and will happen on his own schedule. It will mean a lot, and likely yield more conversations, if you can drop everything and listen when your teen is ready to talk. Parents who have successfully raised teens report that their kids were often most eager to talk after midnight.

  • It's true that you were a teen once, and you probably have valuable experiences to share. However, most teens are naturally self-centered, and when they do talk, they probably want to talk about themselves and their issues. If you have a helpful experience to share, keep it brief, or you'll be quickly tuned out.

  • Please don't compare me

  • Beware of comparing your teen with his or her siblings or friends, your friends' kids or yourself. Your teen is desperately trying to figure out who he is and how he fits in, and hearing "Why can't you be more like..." is never helpful. Chances are that kid you want yours to be more like has more problems than you realize, and your teen knows it.

  • I think about important things

  • Teens are coming of age in a world that thinks lightly of serious subjects like faith, relationships and community involvement. That doesn't mean your teen thinks lightly of them, even if you can't tell. Young people can be highly observant and have surely noticed when friends or family experienced the consequences of irresponsible choices. They are also capable of deep spiritual feelings and a sincere desire to help others. Look out, they might just make you proud.

  • Looking for more? Free To Choose Network and David Robinson, a former NBA MVP and Olympian basketball player, talk frankly with teenagers about the issues they face everyday, speaking candidly about their life experiences, families, and what forces influence them everyday.

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Allison Laypath is an MBA, freelance writer and the founder of two successful blogs.

Website: http://tipsforfamilytrips.com

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