It can certainly seem daunting to think about communicating with teenagers, but it can be done effectively. Some teens simply won’t open up and talk at all; others lash out angrily when you try to talk to them. Still others just seem to tune you out. What is a parent to do?
Here are some tips tips for communicating with teenagers effectively
Good communication is a natural outgrowth of a healthy relationship. Establishing a rapport early on in your teen’s life – before he or she is a teen – can make communication much easier when the teen years roll around.
If your child is already in the teen years, it’s not too late. Work on building a relationship and good communication should follow, and vice versa.
Practice Good Listening Skills
It’s easy for parents to get so busy that we just don’t really listen. We get wrapped up in our own musings and thoughts, and tend to tune out our teens and then wonder why they tune us out! One of my favorits tips for communicating with teenagers is to really sit down with them and try to listen. Mak eye contact and acknowlede what they say by repeating a summary of what your teen just said back to them. Teens are more open to communicating with us when they know they are are truly listening.
Good listening should be non-judgmental. Ask questions that show you are interested and really hearing what your teen is saying. If you listen, your teen will probably be more likely to listen to you. Thus, communication is enhanced both ways.
Delay Your Response
Sometimes parents respond automatically, without really thinking. These knee-jerk responses to what are sometimes less-than-tactful teenage comments tend to be defensive and/or corrective. This not only sends the message that you aren’t really listening (you are giving a “canned” or expected response), but it can also cause arguments and result in your teen shutting down.
Don’t Argue with Emotions
One of the most basic, helpful, and at the same time difficult things for parents to accept is that emotions are not wrong. It’s perfectly okay to have rules about what is an acceptable expression of emotion and what isn’t, but the emotion itself should not be criticized.
If your teen expresses strong feelings like hate, it may be tempting to react with shock, telling your teen that is not acceptable. Instead, ask your teen why he or she has such strong feelings and find out what’s going on. After you’ve listened, then you can discuss how hate is a really powerful and potentially destructive feeling.
Encourage Problem Solving
Ask your teen questions about what he or she is struggling with, and see if you can guide him or her around to a solution. For example, your teen may be extremely angry with a particular teacher or friend. Find out why by asking calm, non-judgmental questions. Then, ask your teen what he or she plans to do about it, and help him or her think of something if need be.
Don’t just tell your teen what to do; the point of this is to encourage your teen to think of the solution on his or her own.
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