Communication between Parents and Teenagers has been strained for as long as I can remember. Every generation always has that same parent-teen communication challenge where suddenly your sweet little child doesn't feel comfortable talking to you about certain issues and the parents are frustrated about how grown their child has become.
During this period, teenagers and parents of teenagers develop a two-sided perspective that is just an endless circle of unexpressed feelings and lack of communication:
Parent perspective: Teens can appear to be withdrawn, disrespectful, selfish, and out of control. They don't seem as open or talkative as they were when they were younger, and it can feel difficult to understand what's driving their behavior.
A teen perspective: Parents can seem insensitive and invasive. Teens often feel that their parents do not understand them and do not know what they are feeling or going through at this stage of their life. They feel misunderstood and sometimes act out in frustration. (wehavekids.com)
Communication is the most important element in a healthy relationship. Communication should be fluid and very dynamic, this means that as your child is growing, your communication style and patterns ought to change as well. The topics you talk about also have to change, the way they are being addressed during this conversation also should change. One of the early signs of disinterest for a teenager is when they are being treated or talked to like children.
No adult wants to be looked down upon or their opinions thought of as nothing, especially teenagers. As they grow, they want to be noticed, they want to voice their opinions strongly, they want to be heard, and if parents are not aligned with these changes and expressions, they can miss out on that relationship all together. Effective communication can help both parents and teens understand themselves and most importantly make the changes that are necessary for that relationship.
What is Effective Communication?
You and your child are communicating effectively when:
- you both feel able to talk freely about your feelings, and you feel heard and understood.
- you talk about all the little stuff, and you feel comfortable talking about the tough stuff when you need to
- you have a close and easy way of sharing things, and you both know you won’t be judged because you love and care about each other. (https://parents.au.reachout.com)
Teenagers have a lot to deal with, along with their physical development, hormonal changes, and emotional instability they also constantly deal with the pressure from their generation. This makes for complicated parenting, especially because teens are beginning to make decisions about things that have real consequences, like school and friends and driving, not to speak of substance use and sex. But they aren’t good at regulating their emotions yet, so teens are prone to taking risks and making impulsive decisions. (childmind.org)
It is because as a parent, you understand the consequences of these behaviors that your teenager is likely to take without a second thought that you need to begin to think seriously about the effective conversation.
How to develop Effective Parent-Teen Communication?
- Listen: The first step is to listen. Teens have a lot to say, unfortunately, parents don’t have enough time to listen. Hearing is not the same as Listening. Hearing is that you heard the words and understood, but it is passive. Listening, on the other hand, is that you considered and perhaps understood beyond what was said. It is giving conscious, thoughtful attention. With teenagers, subtle signals can be missed when you are not paying attention. Ask parents whose children committed suicide, they are often able to reflect and say that they saw the signs but either missed them or dismissed them because they weren't paying enough attention. While suicide can be far-fetched, there have been cases such as depression, substance use, teenage pregnancy, school drop-out, etc where parents missed the signs completely even though the signs were there. Listening to your teenage child also involves observation, and a lot of follow up questions without being intrusive. Let your child know that you are available and soon enough s/he will come to you without so much push.
- Trust: Research has said that children who believe that their parents trust them are likely to express positive behaviors. While this is important, your expression of trust should never be intrusive and judgemental. Most importantly, it should not be an exchange of good or bad behavior. Your teenagers should know that even though you trust them, you are supportive of who they are becoming, and you love them through it.
- Control your emotion: Another vital issue is Parent's reaction when issues are brought up. The truth is this can be hard especially when the issue being addressed is severe and you’ve had no idea. But if you remember that your immediate reaction can determine the rest of the conversation, whether your child will ever open up to you again or not, then you may want to rethink the temper. While it is important to show emotions because this can also come across as not caring, express your emotion in a manner that questions their actions and not their person. For example, 'what you did is bad' is not the same as 'you are bad'.
- Share activities: Sharing activities can be a great way to create moments of conversation in a relaxed and friendly way. You can naturally bring up conversations and even nudge them in the direction you want without the pressure that comes with a formal invite such as, 'I want to see you.'
Trying to achieve effective communication with your teenager can seem overwhelming in the beginning especially if you are just starting out. But the reward greatly outweighs the effort put it, it is a lasting happy relationship with your children.
Purchase the Parent-Teen Talk: Guide to effective Parent-Teen communication, to help you begin your Parent-Teen Talk and achieve great result.