Adolescence is a transitional period from childhood into adulthood. It is a period of physical, cognitive, emotional, and social changes, that frequently result in confusion. As it is a period of self-discovery, it’s normal for teenagers to experiment with friendships, activities, substances, and sexuality. In search of their identity and independence, teenagers often push their limits, confronting parents, teachers, and any other authority figure.
However, teenagers are not all bad. They are curious, fun, and intense! They are in a very vulnerable stage, and they need the support, care, and guidance from adults.
To help your child and yourself to survive their teenage years, you need to have a strong relationship with them (one in which you are involved in their life, but you are not their best friend – they still need to see you as an authority). Effective communication is the foundation of a strong relationship between you and your teenager.
Here are my top 5 tips to effectively communicate with teens.
1. Be a good listener
Listening is as important as talking in the communication process. Pay attention to what your teen is saying, and try to understand not only the content, but also their view and their feelings. Even if you don’t agree with what they are saying, continue to listen and be open to the underlying message. Keep your opinions, views, and feelings to yourself until it’s your turn to talk – resist the urge to jump in!
2. Make eye-contact
Eye-contact is a very important form of non-verbal communication. When you make eye-contact, you show interest and you are more likely to pay attention. Eye-contact will also provide you with more information about how the other person is feeling.
3. Be assertive
Once you have listened to your teen, it’s your turn to talk. Be open, honest, and respectful. Be confident in what you want to say (what you want, need or feel) without being aggressive or passive. If you are having an argument, avoid sarcasm and do not exaggerate (e.g. “you always …”, “you never …”) or label (e.g. “you are a liar/lazy/rude”).
4. Get them involved (consider their opinion)
When you ask teens for their opinion, you make them feel valued and respected. You will show that their opinion is important, and that you care about them. Instead of being overly authoritarian, try to collaborate with them to find a solution or middle ground.
5. Don’t send mixed messages
Be sure of the message you want to transmit. Be clear, and don’t contradict yourself. It is very important that your non-verbal communication matches what you are saying. And of course, lead by example: If you are talking to your teen about the importance of doing exercise, why not do some exercise yourself, or even better, go for a run together!
Okay, I said 5 tips, but just one more vital tip to survive your child’s teenage years:
6. Stay calm
Regardless of what your teen is sharing, try to stay calm! You want to show your teen that they can share information with you without being judged. The more support you show, the more likely your teen will keep you involved in their life.
Remember: take time each day to nourish your relationship with your teen. Go for a walk, a coffee, take them out for dinner, or join a class together. Show interest in what they are interested (e.g. music, books, activities, sports, and their friends). This will give you an opportunity to have more things in common to talk about and maintain a healthy relationship with them.
And if you’d like any specific help or advice with your parenting challenges, please feel free to get in touch.