There’s no doubt that life with a teenager can be tough, and sometimes the walls close in on the relationship you have with your beautiful child. Read our expert tips to help you communicate with your teen and transform the way you interact.
Being a teenager is a wonderful period of life where children blossom from childhood into adulthood. However, during this time, they experience many challenges on a psychological, biological, social, emotional and cognitive level.
This time of change also places a considerable amount of challenges on parents, as they try and cope with their children’s drive to separate from them and create their own identity.
During this time, it can be difficult to keep the channels of communication open. Teenagers often consider their parents to be old-fashioned, constantly nagging and criticising them, and frequently feel misunderstood.
On the other hand, parents can’t understand their teenager’s moodiness, lack of communication, and may be critical of their behaviours and decisions.
Connecting with Your Teen
In order to establish open communication channels with teenagers it is important to really get to know, understand and connect with them.
During the adolescent years, young people are very self-critical, may have low self-esteem and feel awkward – and they need their parents in their corner, for guidance and also to set boundaries to help them feel secure.
To help you better understand your teen, think back what it was like for yourself when you were that age. Try and recall specific events, and how you felt towards your parents and about yourself at that time?
Don’t forget to make time to show that you’re interested in your teen – it may seem obvious, but it’s so important. Ask about the TV programmes, computer games and music they enjoy, and suspend your critical judgement. Watch the programme together or play the game together, and show your genuine interest – it can really help to bring you closer.
Another great way to connect is to have one-to-one time with your teen. Plan it in advance and do something that you both enjoy. You can also plan for regular family time, where the whole family does something together. Take turns on who gets to have the final word as to what the activity will be.
Getting to know and connecting with your teen is not going to happen overnight. It will require consistency and patience, but it will lay the foundation for opening the communication channel with them.
How to Effectively Communicate with Your Teen
Parents are often unaware that most of the time when they speak to their teen it is about issues that they want to discuss, such as homework, cleaning their room, unsuitable friends or spending too much time on their phone/PlayStation etc.
This is perceived by your teen as a series of lectures and, as a result, they will avoid any type of communication with their parent. Some teens say that parents only talk to them when they want to give them a lecture about something.
Here are some great ways you can communicate with your teen:
Make Time for a Chat
Parents can chat to their teen about things the teen is interested in and topics that don’t carry a ‘message’. The teen will start to tune in and, when important issues have to be discussed, they are more likely to listen.
Use “I” Statements When Possible
Rather than saying “you always leave a mess in the kitchen”, try to say something like “I was a bit annoyed that the kitchen was a mess, as I spend a lot of time cleaning it. Could you please clear up after yourself next time, please.”
Practice Active Listening
Active listening means to stop what you are doing, give your full attention through eye contact and body language. Repeat what your teen has said, to show that you are listening and also to check that you understood what is going on, and occasionally repeat just the last word they have said.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
This type of question usually starts with who, what, where, when or how. This will encourage the teen to elaborate on the story being told and will show them that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.
When parents and teens are locked into a confrontation, the situation can quickly spiral out of control. Often things are said in the heat of the moment that later will be regretted.
Imagine a big red button that has “PAUSE” written on it and you can see yourself pressing it when things are starting to get out of hand. By pressing the “Pause” button, and walking out of the room, it will give everyone some time to cool down and allow for a calmer discussion, and hopefully help to come to a satisfactory outcome for all parties.
When things get tough, remind yourself that your teen is going through a huge amount of changes, which they don’t understand themselves. They need you as a parent to help them cope and get through it – and keeping communication channels open is one of the most important things you can do during this time.