Couple Relationship

Tips to Communicate with Your Teen

Noemi J. Mullins

Teenage years share many similarities with the terrible twos. Both ages have a lot in common with the terrible twos. Our children are often doing new and exciting things but also pushing boundaries and throwing tantrums. Both ages have the same developmental challenge: children must learn to separate themselves from their parents and assert their independence. They can sometimes seem like they are the center of everything.

This can make parenting difficult, especially as teens begin to make decisions about real consequences, such as school, friends, driving, and substance use. Teens aren’t yet able to regulate their emotions, and are more likely to take risks and make impulsive decisions.

It is crucial to have a trusting and healthy parent-child relationship in the teenage years. It isn’t always easy to stay close. Teenagers are often not very open when they reject parental interference. Teens are often open to their friends via social media and text messages, but they may become silent when mom asks them how their day was. Even if the request seemed reasonable to dad, it might be viewed as a grievous outrage.

This may sound familiar? Take a deep breath, and remember that your child is in his teens. This is a normal phase and it will end. Your job as a parent is still important. These are some tips to help you navigate the new terrain.

  1. Listen. Asking direct questions may not work as well as just listening. If they aren’t under pressure to share their information, kids will be more open with their parents. Even a casual comment about something happened in the day is her way to reach out. You’re more likely to hear from her if you remain open and curious, but not intrusive.
  2. Be honest with them. We often try to fix problems or downplay our children’s disappointments. After a relationship failure, it can be dismissive to say something like “She wasn’t right for me anyway.” Instead, try to show your kids you are understanding and empathizing by reflecting back on the comment: “Wow! That does sound difficult.”
  3. Trust. Teens are eager to have their parents take them seriously. Find ways to show your trust in your teenager. You can rely on your teen by asking him to do a favor. You show your confidence in him by volunteering for a privilege. Your child will be more confident and likely to accept your offer of help if you show faith in him.
  4. Do not be a dictator. You still have the power to make the rules but you must be prepared to explain them. Teenagers are not afraid to push the boundaries, but hearing you explain why school nights should be avoided will make it seem more reasonable.
  5. Praise. While parents tend to praise their children more as they get older, adolescents also need the boost in self-esteem. Teenagers may act cool and not care much about their parents’ opinions, but they still need your approval. It is important to look for positive and encouraging opportunities in a relationship, especially if it is feeling strained.
  6. Be responsible for your emotions. Teens can be rude and it’s easy to get angry. But don’t react in that way. You are the adult, so he can’t control his emotions and think rationally when he’s angry. Before responding, count to ten or take deep breaths. You can pause if you are both too upset to speak until you have had time to calm down.
  7. Have fun together. It is important that children know they can be near you and share positive experiences without you asking them intrusive questions.
  8. Enjoy regular meals together. Having a family meal together is a great way to keep in touch. Every member of the family can have dinner conversations and chat casually about television, politics, or sports. Children who are comfortable speaking to their parents about the everyday will be more willing to talk to them about difficult topics. One rule: no phones allowed.
  9. Pay attention. As children age, it’s normal to notice changes in their moods, behavior, energy levels, and appetites. You should also be aware of any changes in your teen’s motivations or behavior. Ask your teen about any changes in his ability to function every day and offer support (without being judgmental). You might be able to help her, and this could indicate that she needs to see a mental health professional.

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