Secrets To Communicating Better With Your Teen
As a parent, you probably woke up one morning and realized your child has become a teenager. This is a big change. Yet, while this is a new challenge for you, at least you were a teen once. It’s important to remember your teen is going through changes too, for the first time. So things seem bigger for them.
If you remember, being a teenager is not easy. Everything from homework to friends to wanting to fit in can be very stressful. Teens need to be able to talk and share to help manage that stress.
Your teen will only talk and share if you have a good relationship with them. Unfortunately, most teens prefer to talk to their friends because their friends will listen versus lecture.
Here are a few tips that can help you better communicate with them and keep your relationship strong. Getting out of that parent/teacher/lecturer role is critical. Here’s how you can do that.
Validate Their Feelings
It’s normal for parents to want to jump in and solve all their children’s problems and worries. You know the answers, right? However, when you do that you communicate to them that they aren’t capable, which hurts their self-esteem. Instead, focus on validating their feelings first.
You may not always agree with how your teen reacts or feels, but that doesn’t mean their feelings aren’t valid. Validating their feelings has nothing to do with agreeing with the facts. “I can see this is hard for you.” Or, “I don’t blame you for feeling this way.” Statements like this communicate acceptance. Acceptance strengthens the relationship.
The next time your teen is upset, don’t fix anything. Instead, be there and listen without judgement and validate their feelings. Then you can ask them what they think might help or work for them? Now you can brainstorm – do not solve it for them!
Sometimes all we need is someone to listen to us.
Control Your Emotions
Almost every single teen experiences mood swings.
It’s normal for them to say things they don’t mean or be reactive to their emotions. When we’re upset, we can’t always think clearly and look at things logically. If you have trouble with that, don’t expect them to do what you can’t. This is a key area that we work with in therapy – emotional regulation.
Even though it may be hard at times, the next time your teen loses their temper, try your best to stay calm and be validating and empathetic. “I know you’re upset right now.” Or, “I can see this really frustrates you.” Statements like these lower the fight/flight response and help get them into their thinking and reasoning brain.
Once your teen has calmed down, the two of you can discuss the situation and come up with a game plan.
Do Fun Things Together
Sitting down and having a conversation isn’t the only way to communicate. Doing activities together you both enjoy can strengthen your relationship.
You can go to the movies, hike, or take a cooking class. It’s completely up to you. You might be surprised how much they talk and share while doing activities with you.
The more positive experiences you share, the deeper your bond will become.
Eat Dinner Together
When teens have a lot going on, it isn’t always easy to participate in family time. Having consistent family dinners is a great way for families to connect.
Your dinners don’t have to fancy. All you need is good food and good conversation.
Spending time letting your teen drive the conversation, talking about what interests them, and keep getting to know them. Be validating of their feelings and try to coach them instead of lecture and “fix” their problems. Do these things and you’ll improve your communication and relationship with your teen.