As a parent, you are already wildly aware that communicating with your teenage child(ren) is typically one of the most complicated aspects of developing a healthy relationship with your maturing kids.
When adolescence takes hold of your once adorable little boy(s) or girl(s), the more they wish to become independent. So it is natural that you develop a constant worry for what decisions they are making and what they are doing when they are not in your sight.
As a result of this, you tend to become heavily overbearing, adding strict rules and other aspects to their lives that teens are going to do anything BUT follow, at least that’s the most likely result.
Good Communication Means Healthy Relationship
Good communication with your teenagers is a vital part of a healthy parent/child relationship, and is many aspects.
Teens and parents’ alike wish that talking would be an easier part of residing together, and when 5,000 adults were asked what their parents or parental guidance could have done differently, these were popular and agreed upon ideas:
- They wish they had conversed with their parents or parental figures more.
- They wished they could have talked about how they felt about certain things more.
- They wish their parents would have listened more effectively.
Taking a step away from just the topic of communicating with a developing teenager, it is important to truly understand the root of successful communication itself. Tried and true communication that is effective is not understanding what the person is saying, or listening to particular words.
Proper communication is done by deeply and truly comprehending the feelings that underlie the words that people speak to one another. When people feel understood, they feel that people care ore than just the order of the words and/or phrases that come out of another’s mouth.
It is important to hone in on the emotions behind the conversation, rather than on the words alone.
Learn Their Values
To be an asset in the grand scheme of successful communication, you must take a sincere interest in what your teens are intrigued by, no matter what it is, and stem from the value of what interests them.
Teens, despite the fact that they tend to be complicated, are actually quite easy to understand, if you take the time to get on their level. Clues that lead to their interests can be anything.
For example, if they have a poster of a certain rock band in their bedroom, use that as leverage to communicate certain points across.
Communicate From the Heart, Not Just Your Head
As insinuated above, it is of utmost importance to learn how to effectively listen and communicate with your kids by ways of stepping into their shoes in some form or another.
If your child confronts you with “I dislike school. I am tired of being bullied and I would like to be home-schooled,” consider what they are actually telling you. Many parents jump to saying something along the lines of “So you are telling me that you do not want to go to school and would rather be educated at home?” But they have actually missed the entire point. Their real concern remains in darkness, as you have only pinpointed and directly reflected what they informed you of.
Being able to effectively communicate by utilizing your mind takes some skill and practice. What if you were to listen to your teen’s concerns by listening to their emotions that are hidden beneath their wording?
Instead, inquire by saying something like “Are you telling me that you feel ignored by your peers and your teachers, that you do not feel important or feel like you matter?”
This way, you will hit emotional heart strings that also inform your child that you are intensely listening to what they are saying. Tried and true communication that really works in both your favors is one that is spoken from the heart, not only from the mind. It is important to hear both the content AND the emotions within a conversation.
Learn the Ways of Non-Verbal Communication
For people that are great at communicating with others, it is no secret that successful communication skills are not just made up of verbal cues.
In actuality is that communicating effectively to others is only made up of about 7 percent verbal speaking, while the other 93 percent is made up of body language and non-verbal cues. These include facial expressions and gestures, eye contact and crossing legs, just to name a few.
Non-verbal communication is something that parents should start practicing and instilling in non-verbal cues, so they can communicate appropriately with their peers, as well as individuals of other age groups. Communication could be playing with another of your age, which helps in the development of emotions during playtime.
Non-verbal communication enhances all children’s communication skills. This is why kids who are kept at home and are not exposed to other people their ages tend to be shyer or find it difficult to verbalize how they feel to both their peers and parents later on when they get older.
It is important for parents to stick to certain body language cues when it comes to being open to communication, when it is time to lay down the law of punishment, etc.
Nowadays more than ever, both teenagers and parents have hectic schedules. Kids with school, homework, extracurricular activities and athletic practices and events, and adults with their jobs, relationships and attempting to keep up with their kids’ schedules.
Then, of course, is the distraction of technology that keeps us from being attentive to the other members of those that should mean the most to us. It is vital that you give your teens your focused attention, and you should require them to do the same for you as well.
Provide a Safe Space
It is important to give your teenagers an environment to grow and be themselves. It is also crucial that they feel safe as well. If you are constantly nagging at your kids, and start yelling at them when they make mistakes, they are not going to want to come to you when they know they screw up after making a mistake.
Instead, learn to breathe, and effectively explain to them why what they partook in or did was wrong, and encourage them to take another action instead. This way, they know they can come to you if they do happen to mess up in the future and will be willing to hear your advice and your input about a situation.
Stop going into lecture mode, it will only worsen wounds. Telling your kids “I told you so” is not going to get you very far in terms of communicating with them.
Your kids do not want your ego and need to be right or to be all over their actions all the time. You need to teach your kids that you GROW and mature from mistakes, not to avoid making them.
This will also assist them in better decision-making skills, keeping them away from making very bad decisions that could lead to great injury to them or others.
From personal experience, my family lived 30 miles from any given town, including the one I attended school at. I rarely if ever got to hang out with my school friends, and only interacted with them within a school environment.
My mother especially always made me feel as if it was “bad” to do things outside of school related activities. She did not trust me or my other siblings with our peers. Staying in town after school hours also involved them making a trip to town to get us, which is understandable.
But, the way I was raised, I was afraid to ever ask my parents about their opinions, or ask their permission to go out and do certain things.
I matured as more of a homebody, and besides being involved in youth activities such as 4-H, I was constantly ostracized because I did not understand my peers.
I matured, society wise, much slower than many of my friends. Thank goodness I was born an old soul, which assisted me in finding my way through brand new experiences when I entered the college world when my parents’ eyes were no longer on me almost 24/7.
I had to go through things that I should have already experienced during my time in high school. I wish I was able to better communicate with my parents to THIS day. I still sometimes want their permission for certain things, even though I am in my mid-twenties now and am living on my own.
Tips for Effective Communication with your Teenager
- No judgments
Always try your best to keep an open mind. If your child feels judged in any way, they will not feel comfortable approaching you about more serious issues.
- Intently listen
Learn to practice the rules of good communication. Lecturing does not function well if you want your teen to come to you if they need to.
- Encourage the development of personal solutions
As a parent, feel free to make suggestions when it comes to the terms of the decisions that your teenager should make, but make sure they end there. Step aside and let your child work things out on their own accord, only intervening if a situation is deemed unsafe to figure out on their own.
- Try new things
If the same lectures, tones of voice, or phrases continue not to work, try something new. You would be surprised at the difference a change of pace can make.
- Avoid yelling
Intimidating your adolescent by means of screaming will only give you short compliance times, which will not help either of you in the long term. Avoid unkind strategies at all possible.
- Speak positively and nice
Go out of your way to compliment your teen for their actions, whether you told them to do something specific or not.
- Inquire, but learn to keep questions short
Treating your teen as if they are on a trial with a selection of jury members is going to get you pretty much nowhere.
- Create bonding times
Making specific times during the week that your teen can count on to spend time with you means the world to them, whether your child likes to admit it or not.
- Less screen time
Ensure that you take some time away from the television, or at least watch a show or two together that interests you all, so you can take the time to discuss them. Television shows do have some very teachable moments within them.
- Ask their opinion
When doing so, ensure that you are not making a big deal out of hearing them out. You do not want your teen to feel criticized after you inquire about what they think.
- Take turns during conversations
Neither of you should be monopolizing any sort of conversation. Make sure that you both have adequate time to converse and do not interrupt them when they are talking.
- Ask for their assistance
Do not be afraid to ask your teenager for help when it comes to certain things, especially things that interest them and they have knowledge in, no matter their expertise level.
- Praise them
Make sure to conduct a series of compliments in front of others too, but do not embarrass them.
- Honesty is the best policy
If you do not wish to reveal information that your teen does not have any business to know, just simply say you are not comfortable with conversing about such information.
- Learn to not pry
There are certain things you need to know as a parent, and other things that you do not need to know. You really do not want to know absolutely everything!
- Share your own thoughts and experiences
Your children can take what you learned from particular scenarios and embrace their own situations and issues with what you learned. But do not overwhelm your teens with your adult issues. Putting too much on their shoulders can cause them unneeded stress.
- Take caution in the tone of your voice
Adolescents are extremely hypersensitive, so ensure that if you are super upset with your teens, take the time to calm down before talking with them.
- Be attentive of reactions
Pay attention to when you’re teen tunes out and when they pay attention. Allow proper amounts of time for them to speak, or pick a better time to continue certain conversations.
- Assure competence when having conversing
Do not attempt to have conversations while either you or your teen are drunk or high, or under the influence of any outside factors. One does not think clearly while under the influence.
- Address behaviors
Learn to practice effective communication through the means of using certain word choice.
- Manage moods
It is never okay to take out what happened during the course of your day out on your kids, no matter what mood you are in. Unless it is happy, then spread the happiness around!
- Keep up to date with ways of communication
Learn how to communicate via mobile devices, text messaging, instant messaging, Facebook, etc. You should also know how to keep your kid safe from making bad decisions online, including online bullying and such.
- Ensure regular check-ins
Do not obsess too much over this tip. Teenagers do not appreciate a bunch of calls from their parents while they are with friends or partaking in school activities. Discuss times that you both agree upon to check in with one another.
- Encourage more responsibilities
Reducing your role as your teenager’s “boss” as they get older and reach the point of graduating high school is your duty, so they will learn how to effectively take on more responsibility over time.
- Discuss personal issues in a different way
For example, if there is sexual type content within a movie or television show you both watch, learn how to discuss safe sex tips, not pry for sexual information that may be occurring in their current life. If you start to be too intrusive, your teen will avoid these types of conversations at all costs, and will more than likely not listen to you or absorb whatever you are telling them.
- Use “team-like” language
If you decide to bring up something from the past, ensure that you bring up only positive experiences rather than bad ones that you have already endured and healed from. Use language and emphasize that your family is a unified unit, and should always be seen and work as a team.
- Enjoy yourselves
Parents need to remember, that even on their teens’ worst days, which they need to enjoy their kids while they are still at home. Do not be hesitant in telling them that you love them, embracing them when you can. Just make sure they are comfortable with the way you show your affection.