E. T.(een) Phone Home: 8 Tips to Get Your Teen to Call

by Juliette is a 15 year old high school student in North Carolina.  She is interested in pursuing a career in writing and in her free time enjoys volleyball, juggling, and photography.  She is one of my fabulous teen interns!

As teenagers mature and pursue their interests, they undoubtedly leave home for prolonged periods of time whether it be for a sports tournament or a summer camp.  Retaining communication with their parental units during this time is always a struggle. Parents want to talk to their child 24/7, their kid is involved in whatever they are doing and does not want to take the time to talk to their parents.

While it is stressful to have a child away from home and the parent’s desires are understandable, it is important that an argument does not arise from this situation.  As a teen who has experienced the “You have to call at least x number of times” myself and witnessed the stress that my parents feel if my siblings do not call as scheduled, I would like to offer a few helpful tips on how to help your teen make contact with you without making them think that you are a prison warden!

1) Forgetting Happens

Know that your teen is involved in activities that he/she may be enjoying very much or at least are sufficiently keeping his/her attention.  This means that while it may seem like forever since they called you, your child may not notice how long it’s been, and yes, they may forget to call.  This is even more true of male teens who are generally less inclined to communicate.  For example, my older brother is a teen studying in a foreign country and has called only twice, talking for about one minute each time (though this may be because it of price of long distance on his cell phone) in the week that he has been abroad.

2) Do Not Panic

If your child forgets to call, do not panic.  They aren’t dead by the side of the road.  Wait to see if they call slightly late, and if you feel the need, call them yourself and see what’s up.  Do not play chicken to see who will call first, as this will always hurt more than it helps and will not “teach your kid a lesson.”

3) Consistent Not Calling Is A Problem

If your child consistently does not call, then there is a problem.  Discuss it with your child calmly without allowing the stress of not knowing where they are/what they are up to interfere with the calmness needed for this conversation.

4) Have Contact Numbers

Whenever your child is away have contact numbers available to both you and your child.  Make sure that you have the numbers of people that your child is with so that in a worst case scenario, you have other people who you can try to call.  Also, make sure that your child has sufficient numbers available so that in the case of an emergency they can get in contact with you wherever you are.

5) Do Not Talk Their Ear Off

When you are actually on the phone with your child, do not talk their ear off.  This will increase the chances that your child will not call again/frequently.  You are probably feeling glad to be able to talk to them since they have been away, but remember again that they are involved in their own activities and do not feel as pressed to talk to you as you do to them.  Understanding this, it is still important to communicate with your teen, especially while they are separated from you.

6) Allow them to be the guide

Let them guide the topics of conversation more than you do in regular conversations.  Since they are the one who is away, they probably have a lot to say and things that they want to tell you.  Do not drone on about the ordinary things that have been happening at home unless they ask.

7) Do not be the Spanish Inquisition!

Understandably you want to know what’s been going on with them, but do not take it too far.  If you feel your teen drawing back from your questions, (you’ll notice this if they start answering with shorter and shorter responses until it’s down to just affirmative grunts) then start to reel it in.  Try asking more broad questions such as “How has the ___ been going?” or “What’s it like in ____?” Many teens feel intimidated when their parents start firing questioned aimed at specific details as soon as they get on the phone.  By allowing your teen to fill in the details and tell you what they want to tell you, they will feel far more comfortable.

8) Be available.

When your teen is away from home, they may turn to you as an outlet to talk about things that they don’t want to/cannot talk about with the people that they are with.  While you understandably have your own life, try to be available for as long (or as short) of a conversation that you teen wants in case there is something that they truly need to talk to you about.

This all hits very close to home with me because while rooming with my fellow teammates at a volleyball tournament in Florida, I watched one of my roommates be forcefully pulled into the hall by her mother where a yelling match ensued because her daughter had not called.

This mother was staying in the same hotel as her daughter and was watching her daughter play everyday for hours a day: hardly a case of being far away proximity-wise.  However, because of the stress of being away from her daughter, a small problem became a bigger one.  Hopefully, through patience in both you and your teen, such an extreme situation can be avoided.


No Responses to “E. T.(een) Phone Home: 8 Tips to Get Your Teen to Call”

  1. Suzette
    July 1, 2008 at 3:56 pm #

    Great Post Juliette! One question: how much time do you think a parent should wait before panic sets in? I’ve found that 15 minutes is my breaking point with my 13 year old.

  2. Jeanmarie
    July 2, 2008 at 9:33 am #

    WOW – excellent post, Juliette! Your writing is engaging, informative and mature!

    My kids don’t have cell phones yet – my 9 yr old daughter announced today that “any kid in 3rd or 4th grade with a cell phone is a SPOILED BRAT and I will NOT have anything to do with them!”

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