How to Speak Teen

You’ve always told yourself, “I’m the cool parent.” You knew who the latest bands were, what TV shows were popular, and you even prided yourself on keeping up with the latest slang. But then, as you start to listen to your kids, you slowly start to realize you might not be as hip as you think you are.

Once you’ve come to grips with this crushing revelation, the next, more important, question is how will I ever figure out what to give them this Holiday that they might actually love? Fortunately, you can hip yourself up without having to wear your pants slung below your knees.

Sarah on: “Seeing Them for Who They Are”

“Its one thing to get to know what you’re kids are watching/playing/listening to, but it’s another thing entirely to try and become a kid yourself. There’s a great scene in the 80’s teen movie “Better Off Dead” where a teenager’s father is trying to talk to his son in his vernacular. Reciting from a book entitled, “How To Talk To Your Teen” the dad tells his son, “Come on Lane, mellow off. You’re really bringing me over, man.” It’s a funny, fairly cringe-worthy scene, one that, as a kid watching it, was hysterical, but as an adult, seems actually pretty scary. Understanding your kids comes with spending time with them, listening to them, and knowing what’s going on in their daily lives. It shouldn’t take long to realize they’re people, just like your friends or neighbors, with different tastes in music, books, and everything else.”

Alicia on: “Embracing Idiocy”

“I have a good friend with a daughter who is 11 and, I’ll be honest, she used to scare the heck out of me. She was the coolest, hippest, most stylish person I knew, and I felt like a total nerd around her. The more time I spent around her though, and the more I feigned ignorance, the more she changed from constantly rolling her eyes at me to actually wanting to explain things to me. I became a project for her, as she broke down who was who in “High School Musical,” how to text message on my phone, and just who “Hannah Montana” was and why spending $300 for tickets to her concert was “totally worth it.” By admitting I was out of it, I became her perfect pupil, and she became my perfect teacher.”

OK. Put down that copy of “The Teenager Translation Manual.” Here are a few straightforward approaches to getting good gift ideas for your teenager this year.

#1: Brainstorm on the Internet

There’s so much on the Internet that your kids are watching and talking about, that just by setting up a few new bookmarks on your Internet browser, you can get a quick read on what’s going on in their world. One site to start with is YouTube, where you can see what all the fuss is about. While online, bookmark some sites that fit in with some of your child’s specific interests, be it extreme sports (, music (, or anything else (find it at

#2: Exchange a Mix

Just as it was when you were a kid, music tends to define who you are at every stage in your life. To avoid uttering that generations-old refrain, “What is that racket?” try getting to know what your kids are listening to by having a music exchange with your kids. Give them a mix of what you were listening to at their age, while having them make you a mix of what their favorites are. Granted, they may not start clamoring for tickets to the next James Taylor concert, but you may find you have more in common that you thought.

#3: Don’t Underestimate the Gift of Time

Always remember that, despite their protestations, quality time with a parent is a gift they will enjoy. After all, you’re still the parent and they’re still a kid. By paying attention to activities that interest them, you should be able to find an activity you’ll both have fun doing together.