It is not uncommon for communication to break down between parents and children during the adolescent years. Teens start to balk against rules and parents don't quite see them as responsible and grown up as they themselves do. Talking to your teen can be a minefield of misunderstandings and arguments, but during these formative years, it is more important than ever to maintain good communication. Here are a ten tips to help you talk to your teen.
1. Be involved – Know who your teen is hanging out with and how they feel about each friend. Ask about classes and homework and try to understand where they are struggling most academically. If you don't know what is going on in the life of your teenager, you won't know what questions to ask and some teens need a little push to get talking.
2. Listen – Sometimes the best way to get your teen to talk is to stop yourself once you engage them. Listening is an extremely important part of communication and you need to show your teen that you can do that without jumping in to try to solve their problems. Sometimes talking helps them work through things and you can be a safe place to do that.
3. Read Your Teens Cues- Every child is different in how they communicate. While some may appreciate a parent pulling up a chair and asking them all about their day, others may feel put on the spot and withdraw. Figure out how your teen is most comfortable opening up to you and use it. For instance, the teen that doesn't like the “hot seat” may find themselves chatting in a less focused setting, such as helping mix cookies or talking after lights out, under cover of darkness. If your teen prefers your undivided attention, make time to set aside uninterrupted one on one opportunities.
4. Give Your Teen a Voice – As a parent, it can sometimes be difficult to remember that your teen while your teen is not yet an adult, he/she is approaching that quickly and is likely to feel more responsible than you feel they are. Constantly laying down the law without allowing them compromise can only lead your relationship downhill. So, before you are yelling at each other, give them regular options to calmly discuss the rules you have set and ways they think they can be improved. If your teen feels like he has a voice, he may be less likely to raise it all the time.
5. Apologize – Everyone makes mistakes, even parents. Your teen needs to know this by seeing you admit when you are wrong. You do your teen no favors by pretending that adults are always right, but it can be a great learning experience to show them how to handle it when you find yourself in the wrong. Far from questioning your every move from then on, your teen is more likely to trust you in the future because you have shown yourself to be fair.
6. Talk To Your Teen About Uncomfortable Subjects – It is tempting to not discuss some of the more uncomfortable subjects like pornography, drugs, drinking, social media and sexual activity, but your teen needs to know that you are aware of these things. You never know when they have questions that they don't dare bring up. Don't make these subjects taboo, or you could be missing a valuable opportunity to help guide your child in an increasingly troubled world.
7. Respect privacy – Although this can be a tricky one, you need to take steps to show your teen that they have your trust. Set initial ground rules such as and then let your teen show you that they can be trusted before you give a little more. Recognize that each teen has a need for a place to unload their emotions, free from parents, whether it is a visit with friends or a private journal.
8. Pick Your Battles – Some conversations with your teen are going to be unpleasant, but there is no need for every conversation to be that way. Try to avoid nit picking and nagging and keep the major discussions for the major issues. That being said, your teen should always know what is expected of them regarding respect, health and safety.
9. Give Weight To Your Teen's Feelings – From your adult perspective, some things may not seem like as big of a deal to you as it does to your teen. If you can't see things quite from the adolescent perspective, try to remember that whatever emotion your child is feeling is real to them. Give them space to feel the way they do without belittling or negating it or your teen will just feel dismissed.
10. Show Your Love – You may think you say it and show it enough, but every teen is insecure and their safest place should be home. Say it often and do the little things that will show your teen how much you love them. If they really believe that, then they are more likely to open up in the future.
If you are concerned about your teen and his behavior, contact us at Liahona Academy 1-855-587-1416 for a free consultation on program options available to you. We are a residential treatment center with a full time approach to therapy in order to help teen boys overcome behavioral issues and become the best they can be.
Tyler Clark is the Online Outreach Coordinator for Liahona Academy. Liahona Academy is located in Utah and specializes in behavioral management for teen boys.