It is no secret that parents and teenagers often struggle to communicate effectively. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst times for communication gaps to exist since teenagers can benefit from the advice and experience of their parents during these important years. This gap can also make it very difficult to have important conversations about drugs, alcohol, relationships, sex, and, well, just about everything. Make sure you can communicate effectively with your teenager by taking this advice on how to talk to your teen.
1. Remember They are Adults in Training
This means that “because I said so” probably isn’t going to work anymore. But more importantly, In order to help your teen learn how to make adult decisions using logical thinking and problem solving skills, you have to treat them like people who are capable of doing those things. This is one area where many parents struggle.
2. Talk to Them, Not at Them
Another problem that can make communication difficult is when we talk at our teens rather than to them. Lecturing and scolding are examples of talking at someone. Rather than lecturing your teenager about the topic at hand, you will be better off engaging them in a conversation about the topic. This helps ensure you are talking to each other while also enabling both of you to see the issue from the other person’s point of view.
3. Be Authentic
If you don’t mean what you say your teenager will know. They know you and they know when the emotions you are expressing are real. If you are angry, be angry. If you are hurt, be hurt. The path to real communication requires authenticity on both your parts.
4. Remember Attack Leads to Defense
Even when you are angry, attacking your teen will never lead to the kind of communication you will both need to get through the difficult issues the teen years can present. This is because teenagers, like all humans, will become defensive when they are attacked. Once you each take sides against each other, you have lost the ability to communicate effectively until those barriers come down.
5. Be Respectful
Your teenager has their own view of the world. They have their own needs, desires, opinions, and dreams. Being respectful of your teen’s views and opinions and of their right to have views and opinions that are different from yours creates a firm foundation for communication. You can disagree with their views and opinions and still be respectful which models this behavior for your teen to follow.
6. Stop Talking
As parents, we often talk a lot more than we should. Make your point as simple and succinct as possible and then invite your teen to participate. Don’t satisfy the need to reiterate your points unless your teen asks for clarification. It is easy to stray from conversation to lecturing when you talk more than you need to and the more you talk the less likely it is that your teen will too.