Communication, in essence, refers to an exchange in thoughts, ideas, and information. However, parents who have teenage kids will know that these conversations don’t always feel like an “exchange” but more like talking to a wall. Communicating with a young child may be difficult at times but it feels like a piece of cake when compared to communicating with a teenager. At this point, it is important for you as a parent to remember that your teenager is finding out who he/she is and is seeking independence. So it will naturally be difficult for him to simply agree and do things your way rather than his own. Though it feels like a tiresome task, there are ways to be able to get through to your teen. You could use some of the tips given below to help build a better relationship.
1. Have casual chats whenever possible. Look for informal opportunities to talk about them like when they’re helping you with some household work rather than sitting down with them to ask what’s happening with them. This also gives them opportunities to talk to you if they think they really need to.
2. Listen. We all want to be heard but we don’t really take the time to listen to what others are saying. If your teen wants to talk, take time to listen to what they are saying, and look at their body language too. Give them your full attention.
3. Turn off your “parent alert system.” Listen without being judgmental and reacting quickly. For example, when your son says, “Mom, I like this girl” and you react by saying, “You’re too young for all this,” your instincts prevented you from being able to hold a meaningful discussion with him. Apart from this, it could also prevent him from talking to you about something similar in the future.
4. Be a guide, not a dictator. As a parent, the biggest mistake you can commit while talking to your teenager is saying things like “You have to do this because I said so”. Although this approach works with younger kids, it will only push teens to be more rebellious. Instead, discuss the matter at hand and help him/her come up with various options to tackle the problem.
5. Stay calm and keep it brief. It is best to avoid arguments whenever possible. However they do tend to arise occasionally. In such situations, remember to keep calm as your reactivity will further trigger your teen’s. Also remember to make your point and just stop there. Don’t go on by saying things like what they did in the past or by comparing them with other kids their age.
The key to connecting and sorting out communication difficulties with teenagers is to make them realize that they have people to talk to who will listen and understand what they are saying. We tend to pay importance on how we communicate with teens regarding important topics, but what really matters is our ability to connect with them on a day-to-day basis.