One of the most difficult stages for parents is the teen stage. Parents feel frustrated, exasperated, unappreciated, and misunderstood. Teens feel misunderstood, trapped, depressed, and disconnected from their parents.
I want to share some simple tips that will help parents communicate with their teens. They may not be foolproof, but they certainly beat the silent treatment or the yelling matches that are common in homes of teenagers.
- The first suggestion I want to make is this: If what you have done in the past to connect with your teen hasn’t worked, then STOP. It won’t work no matter how many times you try.
- Don’t preach, badger, or nag. That won’t work.
- Don’t raise your voice. Your teen will get defensive, yell back at you, or retreat.
- Look for teachable moments. Every day there are situations that can be turned into teaching moments, but be careful not to start preaching. Make your comment, short and sweet, without turning it into a long drawn out sermon. Otherwise, you’ll probably get the famous “eye roll” from your teen.
- Take your teen to run an errand with you, or out to eat, and talk about casual things initially. If you try too hard to talk about the important things, they may clam up.
- Ask your teen what he or she thinks about issues. Then shut up and listen. Rephrase what he has shared with you, and then ask how he feels about it. Rephrase and reflect again what she says, and then ask something deeper. For example “So you said some of your friends are going camping this weekend, guys and girls together. What do you think about that?”…”so you think it could be fun but so-and-so will probably ‘get it on’? How do you feel about that?”…”What do you think is the best choice for you?”
- Be alert for the times when your teen wants to talk to you, and then drop everything!!! These times are not frequent so take full advantage of them. Usually, they are in the middle of the night or when you’re in the middle of something. It doesn’t matter-your teen is worth it.
- Set times aside to have fun with your son or daughter. Find out what they’re interested in and find common ground. Maybe a fishing trip, or getting a manicure together is just the thing that will bring you closer together.
- Don’t lose hope! Teens DO grow up and turn into lovely adults, most of the time. It takes some longer than others, but it does eventually happen.
If you have managed to maintain communication open during the teen years, you will reap the benefits when your teens are all grown up and you can enjoy a delightful relationship with this young adult who now has more sense.
Deborah Pinkston, Ph.D.