Parent Communication | Teen Parent Communication
April 6th, 2010 - Category: Communication
Good parent communication with teens continues to diminish. Oftentimes, one of the most difficult and stressful stages in life as a parent is during your child’s teen years. Hormones run wild, preference for spending time with friends over family is almost always the case, bad influences from peers are ever present, and a host of other realities make it difficult to establish a sound level of communication with your teen.
Let’s see if you can relate to this scenario. Your teenage boy walks in the house. He’s just getting home from school. You ask, “Hey Jeff, how was school today?” He replies, “fine.” Jeff, without pausing for a second, heads straight upstairs to his room and locks the door. Has this ever happened to you in any way shape or form? If it has, congratulations, your family may be normal!
What Can We Do?
Though communication between teens and their parents is not as effective as it should be in many homes throughout the world, this doesn’t mean there is not hope and it definitely does not mean that you should give up as a parent and simply say, “It’s normal. He’ll get over it. There’s nothing I can do.” In fact, there are a number of things you can do as a parent to more effectively communicate with your teen and, more importantly, it is essential that you continue to try. By establishing and maintaining a good relationship with your teen, you may be able to notice behaviors and receive information from him/her that will enable you to protect them from potentially dangerous situations that always present themselves during these critical years of important decisions.
As a teenager, your child will inevitably want to become more independent. This is a normal stage of development and with it may come a decrease in the amount of information your child will want to share with you. You can help yourself during this stage by changing the way you think about your relationship with your child. Instead of being the “rule maker/enforcer” or “opposing force,” take a more friendly approach.
Show Genuine Interest
Make an effort to be sincerely interested in whatever your child wants to be involved in. Whether it by extracurricular activities, friends, homework, future career plans, or hobbies, make sure your teenager knows that you care about him and that your are ALSO interested in those things (even if you really aren’t). You ARE interested in your child so you, by default, need to be interested in what they are doing. For example, if Jeff likes to work on cars and loves mechanics, do some researching and find out about mechanics and cars so that when Jeff is ready to talk to you about what he’s doing, you’ll be able to respond and hold a meaningful conversation with him rather than just saying, “I wish you’d spend less time on that old clunker and more time on your homework.” This is not effective communication.
Avoid Power Struggles
If you are your teenagers friend, you will not engage in arguments where both sides are trying to gain control. Avoid these situations at all costs. Instead, talk to them as you would your best friend when you were their age.
Catch Your Teenager Doing Something Right
Instead of always looking for negative things that you can bug your teen about and tell him/her to get better at, look for things they are doing that are good and make sure they know that you notice it and are proud of them. Pessimism will never lead to good attitudes or happy lifestyles. By being optimistic and looking for the good in your child, you will help them increase their confidence and their likelihood of wanting to share their accomplishments with you in the future.
Look, Listen, and Don’t Talk Too Much
We’ve emphasized the importance of listening in previous posts regarding communication, and it is no different with teenagers. Listening is vital to establishing a relationship of trust between you and your teen. Look them in the eye, confirm that you understand what they are saying, and don’t respond with long drawn-out answers. Try not to solve all the problems. Sometimes just saying, “I’m sorry. That sounds horrible. I can see why that would make you upset.” is more effective than, “What!? Why were doing that in the first place.”
The bottom line is this: be their friend, don’t judge, make eye contact, don’t force, stay calm, and genuinely love your teenager. They are facing a tough world and are in an important time of transition in their life from childhood to adulthood. This can be a very exciting time and it can also be very scary. If you are their friend, you can enjoy the good times with them and help them through the hard times.
Please leave you thoughts on communicating with teenagers in the comment section below. I’d like to hear some success stories. Til next time… Happy parenting!
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