The teenage years are certainly tricky for parents. Some people can relate them to the terrible twos. After all, they are doing exciting new things and they are trying to push boundaries at the same time. With the odd tantrum thrown in for good measure. You might have thought those days were behind you, but teenagers can be more alike to their two-year-old self than you would like to admit. But it doesn’t have to all be doom and gloom. At least this time you understand each other and can communicate. However, it can still be troublesome and difficult.
The teenage years can be complicated for parents. You might not be sure what to allow, what boundaries you want to set, and being able to stick to them. It is a testing time, and while communication is there, you both might not be doing it in the right way. Certainly to get the reaction you both want at the end. So how can you improve communication with your teen? Here are some suggestions that could help.
Listen to them
We all want to know what is going on in our teen’s lives, but often, asking direct questions will get you little to no response. It may cause your teen to close off and not talk. So instead, try just listening. Kids are more likely to open up to their parents if they don’t feel the pressure to share information. There may be clues throughout the day if you sit back and listen. An off-hand comment might be a sign they are struggling with something, or a compliment might mean that they like something. The more you listen, the more they might say.
Validate their feelings
Whatever happens in your teen’s life will feel like a big deal to them, and while it may not seem much to you, it is important you give validity to their feelings. No matter how extreme or insignificant it seems to you. Avoid being dismissive with your responses and instead explain that you understand and agree that it might be difficult, sad, hard, whatever is appropriate to say. The more validity and understanding you give your teen, the more likely they will confide in you. Avoid advising unless it is asked for.
Avoid dictating their behaviour where possible
At the end of the day, you are the parent and they are the child. But dictating what they do and how they do it can harm the relationship you have with your teen. While you want to ensure that boundaries and rules are followed, instead of saying it has to be that way, explain why. Explaining your thoughts behind something shows that you are treating them more like an adult and less like a child. The rules are still there to be followed, but talking through your reasoning means there is potentially less conflict.
Show that you trust them
Trust is a big thing when it comes to your teen. They will be wanting to do more things, explore boundaries and try new things, and even have a little more responsibility. But as a parent, it can be hard to relinquish the control in some areas and have the trust in your child to do the right thing.
Your teen will want to be treated seriously, so look for ways that you can show you trust them. Ask them for a favour or to do something. Volunteering a privilege can help them to feel encouraged you have confidence in them, and also shows faith in them. This can be a huge confidence booster for them, and help to improve communication when it comes to other things they want to do or try in the future.
Praise when praise is due
As parents, praising our children comes naturally when they are younger. As they learn new things and master new skills. But as our child gets older and becomes a teenager, we tend to praise them less. It is only natural to focus on some of the negatives, and this won’t be an intentional thing. But praise can be a huge booster for self-esteem, and that is something your teen will need in abundance as they go through mental and physical changes. Look for opportunities to give praise to your child. This can help a relationship to blossom and using positive language will help you both.
Keep your own emotions in check
There is no denying that tempers can flare and emotions can run high when it comes to your relationship with your teenager. Their behaviour and actions, the things they can say or do. However, the more you react, the worse it can get. Try and avoid letting your emotions take control of a situation. Count to ten, take some deep breaths and calmly listen or respond differently. You might be surprised how well this works. Nothing gets resolved when there are raised voices and comments.
Spend time together
It might sound obvious, but a great way to improve communication with your teen and to be able to talk to them more is to spend more time together. Naturally, a teenager will want to spend more time on their own, with their friends, or in their own space. However, if you can, try and encourage time together. Whether that is family mealtimes, a trip out just the two of you, or even using a car journey somewhere to talk instead of them being glued to their phones or listening to their music. The more time you can spend together, the more naturally improved your relationship will be. Helping you to communicate more.
Finally, a teenager goes through so many changes, but try and be observant so that you can notice any changes in their behaviour that you wouldn’t see as normal. Such as of they stop doing the things they enjoy, low energy levels, a loss in appetite, etc. Any changes that can’t usually be explained might mean something is going on. This can help you to openly talk to them and check to ensure all is ok, physically and mentally.
Let’s hope these tips help you to communicate with your teen.