Do you have a teenager in the house and feel like you never really talk to them? Here are 5 tips for talking with your teens to keep the line of communication open and build a strong relationship.
Navigating the teen years can be tough for both parents and teens. Teens often start to close the lines of communication and turn to their friends instead of parents to help them through problems.
Oftentimes simple conversations can turn into fights and outburst- from both parents and teens. Which can further damage the relationship you have with your child.
Better communication with teens is possible, and learning how to talk with your teen will improve your relationship in many ways. Keeping the lines of communication open between you and your teen will ensure that they will come to you for the big things instead of being afraid of punishment, yelling, or judgement.
During adolescence, your child is going through a ton of changes, both physically and emotionally. You may start to feel like you are living in a house with a strange being who has assumed the identity of your child, who was once so easy to talk to and communicate with.
The good news for parents is that there are ways to help break down the communication barriers that may arise during the tumultuous teen years. Here are 5 tips to help you talk with your teen and keep your relationship close and open.
5 Tips for Talking and Communicating With Your Teens
Set Some Discussion Ground Rules
It’s best to set some clear and basic ground rules as to what is and is not acceptable behavior during a discussion. These rules need to be fair, yet non-negotiable and should be based around the premise of mutual respect. It’s also important to make these rules well known BEFORE your teen, or you, wants to talk. Having discussion ground rules will make it easier for your teen to come to you when they need help.
You may set rules such as:
- Voices will not be raised
- Swearing will not be used
- No talking over one another
- No walking away from the conversation when it gets tough
- Keep an open mind
- No phones allowed (for hard conversations especially)
Both you and your teen must be prepared to follow these guidelines, and this will show your teenager that you respect the conversations you share and that you are prepared to be fair.
Teenagers, by nature, like to push limits and test boundaries. If they can’t follow the ground rules be prepared to calmly reschedule the conversation for a later time when everyone is prepared to cooperate with the discussion rules.
As an adult, you will be demonstrating that maintaining fairness and respect is essential for communication to succeed.
Listen With Your Ears, Not Your Voice
There will be times when your teen will just want you to listen to what he or she has to say. At these times, give your ears and resist the temptation to lecture.
It is often very easy to forget this, and many times parents and other adults tend to interject and share their life experience or offer suggestions and advice.
Ask if your teenager is seeking advice and if the answer is “no,” then respect that. Always let your teen know you are there for them and can give them suggestions and advice if they want it, but don’t assume that it is always needed or wanted.
It’s also important to be a good listener in general, not just when they want to talk about the hard stuff. Listen to their stories and comments and really keep your ears open at all times or you might miss the things your teen is trying to say.
Respect and Validate their Feelings
A teenager’s problems are very real to them. What adults might tend to dismiss as being trivial can be considered almost “life and death” by a teen.
Adolescents are not always blessed with the ability to see the “big picture” or consider life beyond the events of today, and so it is important not to minimize their concerns.
If they seem worried about something, give them your full attention without trying to force them to see the bigger picture. This will validate their feelings and reassure them of your willingness to help them when they have problems.
Don’t say dismissive things like, “you’re better off with out it”, “it’s not a big deal”, or “you’ll find someone else”. You may fee like you are being supportive, but in reality you are dismissing their feelings. Instead be empathetic to their feelings and validate that you know it’s hard to for them.
Basically listen to them, hear them, and validate them. And then help guide them to a solution if they want the help.
Keep Calm and Cool
It is so easy to say, “talk to me!!” and then blow up at your teen when what they say is not what you want to hear, or how they are saying it is inappropriate.
Open communication with your teenager will mean that sometimes you hear things you don’t want to hear.
At times like this, keep your cool, remind your teenager that you are committed to giving him or her a voice but that you have concerns with what was said or how it has been said. You don’t have to agree with everything they say or even be on their side, you just have to resist the urge to get angry. Hear them first and respond calmly.
By remaining calm, you will be sending an effective message about the appropriate way to discuss problems and you will prove to them that they can come to you no matter what problems they might have without fear.
This doesn’t mean they get away with everything or that they get whatever they want, it just means you need to stay calm and explain the reasoning behind your decisions.
When kids are young, a simple NO or punishment isn’t usually questioned, but teens can push boundaries and want to know why. Taking the time to explain will help them see why the rule is reasonable- and who knows, maybe your teen will help you see that rule is NOT reasonable!
Sometimes It Can be Light
Not every discussion with your teenager has to be a major ordeal. Your teen will certainly benefit from having conversations with you that are stress-free and light-hearted.
Be there for the hard conversations but also be there for the fun ones. Actively listen to any funny stories or secrets they want to share. Laugh with them and be excited for them.
As you move closer and closer to your teen becoming an adult and moving out on their own, the closer you get to being more of a friend than a parent they MUST listen to. So having a fun, light-hearted side to your relationship will help build that bridge and encourage a strong relationship with your teen when they are adults.
Remember kids who feel comfortable talking to their parents about the day to day stuff are more likely to come to them for the hard stuff.
Where to Talk to Your Teens
Sitting your teen down and forcing him to talk is never the best way to open a line of communication. It feels forced and unnatural. But that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage communication in a low stress setting.
Here are some ideas for where to talk with your teens:
Take a Walk or Hike: Sometimes it can feel easier to talk about hard stuff when you aren’t seated face to face with someone. Walking or hiking gives you ample time to be silent and talk, without a ton of pressure.
Cook Together: The kitchen is a great place for talking and it’s even easier when you are working together on a meal. Your hands are busy but it’s easy to multitask and talk too.
Take a Drive: Lots of conversations with my teens happen in the car. It’s an easy way to talk where you don’t have to be face to face or look each other in the eye.
Share a Meal: Meal times are perfect for talking about your day and sharing stories. Make meal time a family time to talk, share, and laugh.
Anything that gives you something to do when you need to think or pause the conversation is good. It gives both parties time to think and process information. Having a secondary activity also keeps the pressure off the conversation- if there’s nothing left to say- it’s okay you can still walk, bake, or drive.
These kinds of activities are great because they keep your hands or feet busy, but not necessarily your mind. They give you time to think, which can lead to talking. A quiet teen on a hike may be thinking about something that is bothering her, and after awhile of quiet she may need to talk- and you will be there to listen.
Here are some great Activities to Do With Your Teen, many of which are a great foundation for having some really good talks!
Although parenting your teen may seem an uphill battle at times, the effort made to create great communication will help your relationship both now and in the future. Keep in mind that teens are in the prime of learning appropriate interpersonal skills, and you can be their best role model by maintaining high communication expectations and by being fair in your listening and speaking during discussions with them.
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