Your middle schooler gives you zero details about her life. Help! She used to be so chatty!
Volunteer for more carpool duty. When five or so kids are in a minivan, you, the driver, are absolutely invisible, and the free-flowing conversation can be very revealing. You may learn more than you wish to know, but you will learn.
– Phil Vettel
Play some music (in the car) that she and her friends like. Shift the balance almost wholly to the back speakers. Your daughter and her friends will talk louder while thinking their conversation is being covered up.
– Steve Johnson
Go in sideways conversationally; I find my daughter shares tidbits of her life and world view when I talk about my experiences or her mother’s misadventures. If I do it subtly enough – without sounding too interested – I can usually get a good nugget or two out of the conversation.
— Bill Daley
“The primary job of every middle schooler is to form an identity apart from their parents,” said Michelle Icard, author of “Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years” (Bibliomotion). “This is step one on the journey toward leaving for college, getting a job and moving into a place of their own.”
That doesn’t mean you have to check out of each other’s lives for the next decade. You may just need to adopt a different approach than the one you used with, say, the 8-year-old version of your daughter.
“Talk to her with what I call ‘Botox brow,’ ” Icard said. “A really neutral expression – no furrowing. By the time you say, ‘How was your day?’ she has already faced her worst fear – being judged – a thousand times that day. Kids misread their parents’ facial expressions as just one more person judging them for not doing a good job at growing up.
“Don’t act overly interested,” Icard said. “It’s like dealing with cats; the less interested you seem, the more they warm up to you. If they feel like your happiness rests on their shoulders, they’re going to shut down.”
Be willing to communicate via text messages and social media.
“Of course, there should be a balance, and you want your kid to look you in the eye and put down the phone during mealtimes,” Icard said. “But parents should have a diverse communication portfolio when it comes to their kids. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
It’s also a good idea, Icard said, to encourage your child to turn to another trusted adult for chats.
“You can say, ‘I know some stuff is going to come up that you might not want to talk to me about, but if you want to talk to your aunt or my friend so-and-so, they’ve said you can come to them,’ ” she said.
Have a solution? Your daughter, about to graduate, has never had a boyfriend. Is college going to be a rude awakening? Find “The Parent ’Hood” page on Facebook to post your parenting questions and solutions.