Raising Teenagers-Part 5: Improving Communication
Communicating effectively with your teenager can be challenging!
The most important thing you can do is listen.
Try to turn off that alarm in your head when your teen mentions something. If you jump on her when she says something, you may be missing an opportunity for a healthy discussion. Try to listen without judgement and reaction. When teens come to parents with concerns, it’s important to try to remain the calm, safe place she needs to work through her feelings.
Keep your opinions from being condescending. They will listen and consider your views if it means you don’t come from a perspective that makes them feel they should be defensive. Avoid lecturing. This is difficult as a parent, because we’ve been there and we want to guide our children to help them avoid certain mistakes, but we have to let them try for themselves.
Encourage your teen to develop their own solutions to problems. You can make suggestions, but often you need to step back and allow your teen to work things out. Do intervene if the situation is unsafe.
Don’t pry. You need enough information to help your teen stay safe, but you certainly shouldn’t expect to know everything. Trust me, you don’t want to know everything! Ask your teen’s opinion – then be careful that what you consider “discussion” doesn’t sound like criticism to your teen. I find that this is difficult, because if I don’t mean to come off critical sometimes, but they may feel that I’ve been.
You can for your teen’s help and expertise (for example, with using your computer on a project), then praise them in front of others, but not to where it’s overly embarrassing.
Today, I realized that I need to make an honest evaluation of the percentage of my communication with my girls that is positive, negative, or neutral. I really want to try to increase the positive things and decrease the negative.
I noticed that I also need to watch the tone of my voice. Teens tend to be hyper-sensitive, even if they don’t show it. It’s okay to take a few minutes to calm down, if necessary. I don’t want to be that mom who is irritated all of the time.
Pay attention to your teen’s reactions. If they seem “tuned out,” stop talking. Allow time for your teen to talk, or pick up the conversation later when they are more receptive.
Make sure that the teenager knows that your family is a team. Tell positive stories about the past, and find some common interests that will engage even a teen in the stand-offish phase, such as looking at family pictures or working on a project that will benefit the teen (like painting their bedroom or a piece of furniture for the teen’s use-which reminds me, we need to finish painting that desk).
Continue to show them affection, if they are comfortable with hugs, give them. They need to know that you love them, so make sure to tell them. One tool that I’ve found especially helpful is the book by Gary Chapman, “The Five Love Languages of Teenagers.”
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