By: Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA
Parents often times find themselves at a loss when it comes to speaking to and understanding their teens. Many times genuine parental concern turns into fights and misunderstandings.
The “trick” is to speak to your teens. Really speak to them and really listen to them without judgement (not easy but very important!). Parents often times ‘speak’ to their teens with the expectation that they will speak and children will listen and agree to their parents. Although this would be ideal for the parent, it is hardly fair to children.
The steps listed below are directed for parents. As a parent, it is your role to demonstrate good communication skills to your children. When you role model this steps, your kids will naturally adopt the behaviours as their own. Here are the tips to help you improve the quality of communication with your teens.
6 Tips to Effective Communication
Stop to discuss: Often times parents speak to kids as they are cooking, folding laundry, trying to write an email, searching for a phone number, etc. When multitasking you are not giving your children the attention they deserve. Your teens will feel unimportant and will be less likely to approach you for advice next time. When your teens approach you, stop what you are doing. If you are in the middle of something, ask them to wait for a minute or so, finish your task and turn your full attention onto them. Giving your entire attention to your teens will encourage them to keep coming back to you for guidance.
Check your immediate response: Your children are closely looking for your immediate behavioural and verbal response when they tell you stuff. As soon as they hear a vocal reprimand or see behavioural condemnation, they have already decided to end the discussion as soon as possible or to conceal information from you. Be aware of your words and behaviour when speaking to your children and try to remain objective at all times. An initial supportive attitude will calm your teens down and make it easier for you to let them know that you do not approve of their actions.
Acknowledge your teen’s feelings: Whether happy or sad, never dismiss how your teens are feeling, even if they are upset over a trivial matter. It is not for you to decide what should and should not get them upset. The first thing you ought to do is verbally acknowledge what they are feeling (good or bad) and why. The second thing is to accept their feelings. Accepting your teens’ feelings will help strengthen their trust in you.
Relate to your teen: Because of the age and maturity difference between you and your teens, it can be hard for you to see each other’s perspective. It is up to you as a parent to think back to your teen years and remember how a little thing easily became a ‘big thing.’ Your teen cannot ‘remember’ how it is to be an adult but you can use your personal experiences when speaking to them to let them know you understand.
Don’t command: No one likes to be ordered around or told what to do. Teens are developing their individuality and independence and as such don’t like to be ordered around. Ordering them around will challenge them. As a result, they will either rebel or confirm. Neither case, however, allows your teens to be who they want to be or to learn how to make good choices. The power of good, well delivered advice and a good example is far more effective than directing them.
You stop and you listen: Do not cut your teen off in the middle of the sentence. No one enjoys being cut off without having their full ideas heard. Often time’s parents tell their teens to stop and listen without being aware they do not stop to listen. Your kids want to be heard and have a right to be heard. Do not teach them their opinion doesn’t count by cutting them off. Slow down and listen.
Interested in more information about how to relate with your teen? Contact Teen Life Coach in Toronto, Ivana Pejakovic, and find out how you can communicate with your teen and strengthen your relationship.