Even though our teens look like adults and are more independent, parental influence is so important during this phase. It’s crucial to have good communication with your teen during these years when their peers will have greater influence over their decisions but may not be any more equipped to lend guidance.
The teenage years can be confusing for both parents and teens. Your chatterbox has suddenly clammed up and it can be difficult to get them to open up again. It is important to remember to be delicate when you approach your teenager. Coming on strongly will put them on the defense and become more withdrawn.
While this can be a balancing act, you gain a lot by doing this. There are several key strategies you can follow to re-establish strong communication with your teen and strengthen your relationship at the same time.
How to Foster Communication with Your Teen
Ask Indirect Questions
By asking them a direct question, you run the risk of getting a one or two word response. Try asking them a more global question that is related to the subject. This will keep them from feeling you are prying into their lives.
Talk About Their Interests
Engage them in a subject you know they like. If they like basketball, but you know nothing about it, try learning some things so you can ask them interesting questions that will get them talking.
Spend More Time Listening, Less Time Lecturing
Most teens avoid conversations they anticipate will just turn into a lecture. You want to let them know you are truly interested in what they have to say, even if you don’t agree.
Keep An Eye Out for Non-Verbal Communication
Your teenager will send you messages with their body language if you pay attention. Try to respond by putting your arm around them, or simply touching them on the arm to subtly let them know they can speak when they want to.
Ask How They Want to be Listened to
Are they looking for advice or just a sounding board to get their frustrations out? By guessing you are setting yourself up for failure.
Respond to a particular thought by asking, “Is it correct you feel this way when X happens?” This shows you are paying attention and truly want to understand their feelings.
Remember, your aim is to show your teenager that you have a safe and nurturing environment where they can share their likes and issues without fear of judgement or reprimand. Even if you don’t agree with their feelings, take the time to accept them. In order for them to open up, you have to listen to your teen. Again, don’t jump in immediately by offering suggestions. Support them to find the answers themselves.
Start sharing daily tidbits from your life to encourage them to share more of theirs. Consider asking their opinion on things, occasionally. One you start adopting a few key strategies, you will be surprised to find it is much easier to get teenagers to open up. Provide a loving and nurturing environment and they will be more inclined to welcome you back into their life.
More Tips for Parenting Teens
Parenting teens is a lot different than parenting at other stages. The struggles and solutions are vary significantly from their younger years.
I have four teens so I’ve made a lot of parenting mistakes and learned a lot of important lessons. Here are some of the things I’ve learned: