How Parents Can Improve Communication With Their Teen

Communicating with your teenager can be one of the hardest aspects of parenting. As a parent you understand that the things they do and the decisions they make as a teenager will impact the rest of their lives. This leads you to be protective and caring and yet your teenager may think of it as overbearing. Understanding how to effectively communicate with your teenager can make all the difference in getting through these difficult years.

Bad Communication

Teenagers focus more on how you say things versus what you say. For example if your teenager comes home after curfew and the first thing you say is, “Do you have any idea how long I’ve been up waiting for you?” all they hear is guilt and anger. While you were intending to express your concern and frustration they simply heard negativity and will likely respond in a similar fashion. You and your teenager think very differently. While you’re focused on the big picture, their attention is on the here and now. This misunderstanding often leads to contention and mistrust.

How to Communicate Effectively

Learning how to communicate with your teen will improve your relationship exponentially. Once you learn how to approach your teen correctly, you will be able to express your thoughts and concerns and you teenager will understand and respect what your saying, There are six steps involved in learning how to best talk with your teen.

1. Come Prepared

Before you begin a conversation with your teen, first ask yourself the following questions. “Am I coming to this conversation with presumptions?”, “What will my teen’s response be?” and”What is my overall goal of this conversation?” When you ask and answer these questions with yourself you will be better prepared for a productive conversation.

2. Actively Listen

You need to learn to value the time that your teen communicates with you. When they talk to you, actively listen and try to retain 100% of the information that they are relaying. This means that rather than thinking about what you’re response will be, you forget yourself and listen to them completely. If they say something that gets you angry or makes you defensive, bite your tongue until you are able to regain your composure. While you may not agree with everything that your teenager says, it’s important that you respect their opinion and let them finish speaking their mind. A helpful tip to verify to your teen that your listening, is to repeat back what they say to ensure you’re understanding them correctly. For example, if your teen comes home frustrated and starts explaining how they didn’t do very well on a test, rather than responding with “Didn’t you study?” or “I thought you were ready for that test”, instead try, “You’re frustrated because you expected to do better on that test.” This statement confirms that you were listening and is free of judgmental comments. This response will encourage your teen to continue communicating with you rather than storming off angrily to their room.

3. Ask the Right Questions

When you ask your teenager the right kind of question, they will respond positively and want to continue your conversation. However, when you ask them a bad question they will become defensive and want to stop talking. Good questions always imply that you are interested in your teenager and their response for example, “What was the best part of your day?” This requires your teen to think about, and give an honest response. Whereas bad questions can make your teen feel guilty or accusatory, such as, “Your brother got an A in that teacher’s class, why can’t you?” Nobody wants to respond to accusation questions, especially teenagers.

4. Responding Correctly

It’s important to express yourself in an encouraging manner while communicating with your teen and then confirming that you understand what they’re expressing. To do this, use “I feel” and “you feel” statements. Your teenager needs to understand where you’re coming from so when you say “I feel like you’re avoiding me, is there something I did wrong?” They will know exactly how you feel. In turn it’s important that you practice active listening once they’ve explained themselves.

5. Come to an Agreement Together

When your teen comes to you with an explanation or a story, express your gratitude to them for coming to you. Make sure that you don’t lecture them or tell them what they need to do, instead ask “do you mind if I give you my opinion?” Then you are free to explain your thoughts and ideas and together find a solution that would work best for your teen. End the conversation by apologizing that they had to go through that experience and then ask if there is anything else you can do to help.

6. Always Validate

There are enough negative influences in your teenager’s life, what they need most from you as their parent is validation and encouragement. When your child opens up to you, validate them by saying something like, “wow, that must’ve been really difficult” and then offer your support by saying, “Is there any way that I can help?” Make sure that your teen always knows you think they are smart and capable, by saying things like, “This is a difficult situation, but I know that you can get through it.”

Once you incorporate these six steps into your daily conversations with your teen, you will quickly notice an improvement in your communication. However these steps can’t be mastered in one day, it will take time and practice to become fully proficient but the results will be well worth it.

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