Communicating With Your Teen
By: Michael Bouciquot, M.S.
July 15, 2016
Communicating With Your Teen
Teens face many issues in today’s world, having healthy communication with your teen is important to their well-being. Approximately 20 percent of teens will experience depression before adulthood and depression increases a teen’s risk for attempting suicide by 12 times. These numbers indicate teens need someone to turn to. Some parents struggle having a dialogue with their growing teen, this can be for a number of reasons. Some parents are afraid of certain topics, some are too strict and some are just too busy. Whatever reason you might have for not talking to your teen these tips might help you out.
- Don’t judge/Open Arms-If your teen comes to you and wants to talk, make the time. The last thing they want is to be judged. In reality, they are probably just as afraid as you. Provide your teen with a comforting and welcoming environment. As a parent you are the authority and their voice of approval and reason. Believe it or not your teen listens to you. How the message is delivered is the problem.
- Set Boundaries-You want to provide your teen with a comforting environment but you also need to let them understand that you are their parent not their friend. Your teen needs to feel comfortable enough to talk to you. However, they also need to know they are not allowed to talk to you any type of way at any given time. Respect needs to be present at all times. When setting boundaries a parent also needs to be aware of not becoming enmeshed in their teen’s life. For example, if your teen talks to you about a problem at school with a classmate. Unless they ask for you to intervene do not take it upon yourself to go to the school to resolve the situation. It may lead to your teen not talking to you about future situations. In addition, most of the time all they want is an ear. So do not cross boundaries and take it upon yourself to solve their problems.
- Think of the consequences-What will happen if you do not talk to them? You need to overcome your fears and anxieties. Your teen needs the helpful knowledge you possess. Most likely, you have “been there and done that.” Parents are often willing to talk to their teens and give information on succeeding in life, doing well in school, choosing a college or a major. However, parents are afraid to talk about sex, drugs and alcohol. Teens are prone to making life changing mistakes if they do not have the right info. And you as a parent can help guide life-changing decisions with your knowledge.
- Listen-Listen to your teen, Use active listening, try to concentrate and understand what your teen is communicating to you.
- No Coddling-Whether you have a pre-teen (tween) or a teenager, they are not the baby you brought home from the hospital. So, do not treat them as such. Show them that you care and recognize their feelings, but do not go overboard.
- Respect them-If you want your teen to share their life with you and communicate. You need to show your teen respect. What they are sharing with you is important to them, so show it. Yes, you might find it minimal or trivial. But to them it’s everything. Think about how you feel when someone dismisses you and your feelings. Another way to show respect is to not share what they tell you with other people. Yet, this is another way of dismissing their feelings. If they wanted to tell the world they would (trust me they will on social media), but they did not. So you should not.
- Open Invite-Give your teen an open invitation to talk to you at any time. Knowing they can come to you and express themselves means the world to them. Whichever way you can communicate with them use it. If it’s driving in the car, texting, or after dinner make the time. Do NOT make an excuse. A friend once told me, the way your kids spell love is T-I-M-E.
- Show Them-This tip seems like it’s the hardest and easiest at the same time. If you want your teen to communicate with you. You need to show them how. Children learn many things from their parents, this is one. Start a dialogue young, make sure your child knows they can talk to you about anything at any time.
These tips can be useful in talking with your teen. But if you are having difficulty or just don’t feel willing and able. Participating in Family therapy with a Marriage and Family Therapist can help develop competencies and a dialogue between you are your teen.