Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Opening Lines of Communication with Teens

Leave me alone!

As parents, I’m sure you’ve probably heard this often. And this statement usually signals 24 to 48 hours of silent treatment and tension both for the parent and the teen. But can parents avoid these times and find a way to really talk to their teens?

The teen years can be difficult indeed for teens and parents alike. One way to minimize the difficulty and tension that is associated with this difficult time is to find a way to really talk openly and honestly with your teen. It is possible to do this with a little bit of patience and a whole lot of love and compassion.

Most of you want your teens to be able to talk to you about things that they are worried about and experiencing. Yet, teens sometimes feel unable to talk to their parents. For some reason, there seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding between parents and teens. Teens want to be heard by their parents and parents want to be listened to as well. But it can be so difficult for both to really listen to each other, isn’t it?

Here are a few tips to open lines of communication with your teens.

1.      Try to be patient with your teens. Instead of always dictating to them, try listening to their side of things. Listen to their concerns and point of view. Then compassionately respond to their concerns. This doesn’t mean that you have to go along with what your teen wants all the time. However, it does mean that you will take them seriously.

2.      Don’t put your teen down verbally. This can backfire and work against you since by setting a back example you’ll not only be showing them how NOT TO deal with difficulties but you will also be undermining your teen’s self-esteem and self-confidence. This also stifles open and honest communication. So, instead, try to set an example as to how your teen can behave towards others by treating your teen with love and respect.

3.      Carve out some family time. Choose a time when the whole family is together each day, if possible. You may want to take an hour after dinner and really connect. Or, you may want to talk a bit before your teen goes to bed. During these times, sit down and really connect with your teens. Don’t talk over the television or be plugged into any technological devices. This is distracting and true communication will be hindered if not destroyed.  

4.      Give your teens your complete attention. You may want to meet with only one teen at a time. Perhaps Mom can talk to one teen while Dad the other. Or, you may decide to talk all together. However, make sure that every teen gets an equal time to chat. Favoritism will only make matters worse.

5.      Be compassionate about the plight that your teens are going through. Parents sometimes tend to undermine how their teens feel by saying things like: Oh it’s not that bad!  Or, This too shall pass!

Although this may be true, your teen is probably really struggling and you have to see their dilemmas on their terms. This can be difficult because you have to try to feel what it would be like to be in your teen’s predicament. You have to feel what it would be like to be in their predicament.

6.   Keep your discussion time upbeat and fun. If parents make this time negative and off-putting all the time, teens won’t want to talk. Or, if arguments result all the time, the same will hold. Your teens will do anything under the sun to avoid such times.

By following these tips, parents will be opening lines of communication with their kids. And this will save them from further difficulty later on.

The teen years are difficult. But they can be the best years for both your teen and you. Try and make the best of them, because these years come to an end all too quickly. Before you realize it, your teen will be entering university and moving out on his/her own. So, enjoy each day with them to the fullest. 

Irene S. Roth 

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