Use Music as a Vehicle for Parent -Teen Dialogue
Think of a teenager listening to music and the likely image that comes to mind is a solitary figure with earphones. Most adults appreciate the earphone part—after all, music that appeals to teenagers usually carries far less appeal to those who are older.
But think back to the role that music played in your life when you were younger. Think back to the song you listened to during your first date, or the prom, or when you felt sad or angry at the world. Even decades later, thinking about these songs from our adolescent years evokes a wave of emotional memories. That’s because music is intensely connected to emotions during the teenage period. Adolescents form an intense and meaningful connection with music.
Now if we put music aside for a moment and ask most parents about their teenagers, they’d likely say that they wish their son or daughter would be more emotionally open, more vulnerable. Although they can text and talk with their friends for hours, teenagers switch to a telegraphic mode when communicating with parents. It’s amazing how even the most complex of questions can be answered by monosyllabic words: “How do you really feel about everything that’s been going on this year?” “Fine.”
But what if, as adults, we step up and meet teenagers where they’re at? If normal verbal conversation doesn’t take us very far, maybe music is a better vehicle to get to the core stuff. There’s no easier way to surprise a teenager and catch them off guard than by displaying genuine interest in their music. “What’s your favorite song?” “What artist do you like the most?” Once your teen is convinced that this is not some sort of a trap intended to disparage today’s music, you’ll be amazed at how open he or she will get. Remember that lyrics are poetry, and analyzing and reflecting on them can lead to interesting conversations, especially when it comes to songs about love, angst, political issues, loneliness, or any other emotionally sensitive issue.
Don’t be afraid to compliment a song, or a lyric. And if you find something that you find powerful and share your thoughts and feelings around it, your teenager will often step up as well.