Keeping the lines of communication open with a teenager is no easy task. Teens assert ownership of their thoughts and feelings, especially those relating to adoption and their search for identity, making conversations a challenge for parents.
Some teens make it relatively easy to know whats on their mindsby asking questions or sharing their thoughts. Parents of teenagers who are less forthcoming may need some creative ways to keep a dialogue about adoption going.
The Big Picture
One way to encourage your teen to open up is to invite his critique of a movie with an adoption-related theme. Most teenagers love movies, and are willing to watch one with their families—in the theater or at home. Here are some suggestions to make the approach worthwhile:
- Hold an advance screening. Watch the movie on your own first, to ensure you are comfortable with your teen seeing it. You know your teen’s temperament and maturity level better than anyone, and you know whether or not she can handle the material. Try to imagine her reaction to the messages you believe the movie conveys.
- Allow her to watch it alone. If she doesn’t want to watch a movie with you, suggest the film and let her watch it on her own. Agree to share your reviews after you’ve both watched it.
- Don’t deny your intentions. Tell your teen up front that the movie you want him to see has an adoption theme. Letting him know this will prevent him from feeling caught off guard, which might upset him.
- Engage his curiosity. Instead of directly asking your teen to watch the movie, try to pique his curiosity with a comment like, “I saw this movie and I thought you might find the story line interesting. Some of it rang true, some didn’t, and I wondered what you would think of it.” If you think your teen needs more encouragement, you might add, “Janey’s son (an adoptee) told his mother to see this movie. I loved it, and I thought you would, too.”
- Keep the activity optional. Let your teen decide whether he wants to watch the movie. Respect his decision if he says no, and let him know he can stop watching the movie at any time if he feels uncomfortable. When you put this option on the table, it minimizes the chances that your teen will feel pressured and shut down.
Remember, using movies to open up dialogue is effective only if the teen buys into the activity freely and feels respected.