Parents sometimes forget that it’s less important what you say to your teenager, but more how you listen. We explore the dos and don’ts for communicating with your teen.
In the best of times, communication with your teen may be minimal. Despite the distance, quality is more important than quantity. Read on for tips for positively handling conversation with your teenager.
Do’s of Teenager Talk:
Listening is key
It’s important to listen without judgment and reaction. It might be hard, but try to turn off the instinctual parent reaction, and have a meaningful discussion with them. Accept the rare moment for what it is, and listen twice as much as you speak.
Bedroom doors will be closed, night phone calls may be made, but don’t assume they are up to no good. By respecting their privacy, they may become more open to sharing things with you. Invasion of privacy will only drive them further away.
Apologise if you are wrong
Parents make mistakes, and teenagers can be all too quick to point the finger. If you decide that you are genuinely in the wrong, don’t be afraid to apologise.
Reward with increasing autonomy
When your teenager begins to show more maturity and rationality, reward them with more autonomy. Teenagers are fidgety for independence, and if they have been adopting better habits of behaviour, reward them with a bit more freedom. For example, adding half an hour to curfew.
Don’ts of Teenager Talk:
Avoid over-empathising and over-reacting
Always be genuine. Over-empathising may heighten your teenager’s feelings further. Be their emotional sounding board instead.
A calming and rational presence is best for guiding your teen through the tough years of high school. Create a safe space for them.
‘The lecture’ and guilt trips:
Your teenager will almost always turn off and stop listening as soon as the lecture begins. Give your teen your wisdom in a firm, concrete manner. Lectures can be hostile and abstract, without solving the solution.
Asking too many questions:
This goes back to respecting privacy. Of course as a parent you need to ask questions, but consider how you frame them. Ask curious and open-ended questions.
For example, instead of asking, “Why are you late?” try “I noticed you are home later than curfew, what happened?”
There are no strict right and wrong ways for talking to your teenager, because every teen is going to progress through the years differently.
However, there are strategies to ensure you protect your relationship with them, in an often turbulent time.