Communicating with Teenagers

Effective communication is one of the most important skills yet when our children become teenagers, it gets more challenging. Communication may become more stressed, painful, frustrating, confusing, anger inducing, heart wrenching.

These communication tips are designed to help you open communication, resolve conflict, and reduce stress for you and your teenager.

  1. Put Yourself in Their Shoes. It’s a challenging time. Their developing bodies, brains, hormones, peer pressure, independence, and natural inclination to defy authority is in full swing. Think about it, would you want to go through puberty again?
  1. Build their self-esteem. It’s a time when they need it most. They yearn for parents to be proud of them and be accepted by others – even if they don’t show it. Low self-esteem is one of the most crippling diseases out there.
  1. Sleep is a Factor. Before we assume they are lazy remember, teenagers do need more sleep. Also, when overtired, we can’t think straight. A sleep depraved teenager and fatigued parent is not a good mix for effective communication.
  1. Be a Guide on the Side – not a Sage on the Stage. Most of us don’t want to be told what to do and how to do it. Educate means to bring out from within, not being a know-it-all.
  1. Reinforce Positive Attention. Attention is a form of reward. Acknowledge what they do well so they are inclined to do it again. Some kids behave horribly because any attention is better than none at all.
  1. Be Specific When Praising. The more general it is, the less impact it has. Acknowledge the specific behaviour or skill they used when praising them.
  1. Never Say Always. Accusing them of Always doing or being a certain way often triggers the shut down, tune out response.
  1. Avoid Saying Never. Never comes across as blame, accusation, or guilt inducing. You’ll be tuned out again and resentment will build.
  1. Be Aware of Stress. Under stress, we can’t think as rationally and may say things we regret. When you and/or your teenager feels stressed, it may be wise to delay communication.
  1. Listen. If you change the letters around, it also spells the word Silent. Hear them out without interruption. One of the best ways to honour someone is to listen to them.
  1. Ask for Specifics. If you don’t understand what they mean, ask for an example or something specific. In encourages understanding and avoids assuming, or getting it wrong.
  1. Don’t Nag. A teenager’s most common complaint with parents. Teenagers don’t always listen, they forget constantly, it’s mentioned in scientific/medical journals. Expect to experience the frustration of chronic reminder syndrome. Even when you’re right, they’ll resent it when nagged about it.
  1. Involve Them in Conflict Resolution. Ask them what they see in the way of resolution? What would they do if they were you? It encourages negotiation and accountability.
  1. Criticize in Private. Being criticized in front of siblings, friends, or in public is rude and displays bad manners. Losing face in front of others may only motivate your teenager to resent you and themselves more.
  1. Prepare In Advance. It is wise to take time to think and prepare how to best communicate. Forethought wins.
  1. Be Objective Not Personal. “By not providing your resume in time, you missed the opportunity to be considered for the job” is objective. “You’re so lazy, you didn’t even get your resume there on time” is personal.
  1. Change Body Language to Reduce Conflict. Standing over them, in their space, pointing your finger, or standing full-on face to face (especially father and son) can increase stress. Try sitting down, equal eye level, stand to the side so shoulders are closer than torsos, even tilting your head to the side implies your openness to listen and decreases their defensiveness.
  1. Be The Parent. It’s great to be their friend yet remember, they need you to be the parent. Call them on it when they go astray or too far. Reinforce what is right and wrong, talk to them, and lead through example.
  1. There is an End in Sight. Coach them through it and don’t be too hard on them or yourself. Provide a safe environment to grow and make mistakes. Sometimes we don’t realize how much we needed, respected, or learned from our parents until we become adults.

Having a child is when we truly understand and experience the depth of love. When they reach those trying teenage years remember, communication challenges are normal. You are not alone. Just do your best and trust the rest.

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