5 ways to begin talking
to your teenager
Talking to your teenager is not always easy
Understanding teenagers can be complicated, especially when you have just begun teenagehood parenting. So how do you begin talking to your teenager?
Communicating with a teenager can be like banging your head against a brick wall. The rivalry between parent and teen has not changed from when I was young, but the way we communicate probably has. With technology being a strong contender, parents need to find new ways of talking to their teenagers. Understanding the latest slang words helps but most teens don’t want another friend, they want to be able to communicate with their parents on a different level. And I say thank goodness!! Have you ever sat in a room while 4 teenage girls Skype each other? Absolutely crazy!!
When you think your teenager won’t listen to you, or you have tried everything to make your teen listen, and things are still not working, maybe it’s time to take advice from the teen’s themselves. Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg has often talked about teens wanting to be treated with respect, wanting to be treated like adults and often feel that they are not being listened to. This, of course, must go both ways for a successful connection. Every successful relationship, no matter what the age, is based on respect from both parties.
If you have ever sat down and wondered ‘Why my teenager won’t talk to me?’ or ‘My teen just never listens’, then here are some tips to open up the communication and begin talking to your teenager:
- Don’t Lecture.No one likes to be lectured to, especially teenagers. Try having an open conversation where each party has a chance to say exactly what they are feeling. Teens can often be more emotional, by respecting and understanding this, they are more likely to open up and share. Lecturing is counterproductive and often is a reason teenagers will shut down. The adolescent brain is still developing but it is very sensitive to experiences. Any sign of lecturing, the teenage brain simply switches off and moves to a happier place. So lecturing actually achieves nothing.
- Learn to negotiate. Most teenagers will respond negatively if threatened with ‘It’s my way or nothing’. Both parties have to give a little. Explain to your teenager that by negotiating, you are giving them more freedom, treating them more like an adult, but this must be respected. Abuse of trust is not negotiable. The area of the brain that is responsible for decision making – the prefrontal cortex – is not fully developed in teenagers so their negotiating skills will not be as strong as parents. Negotiating is a skill they will need to learn.
- Become an excellent listener. We all know how to talk but few people can claim to excellent listeners, especially when it comes to really listening to children. With teenagers, listening is more important than talking. Find a place that is neutral and where neither party can leave, like the car, ask an open-ended question and just listen. It is amazing what they say and how much you can learn about their life. A car trip is a great way to begin talking to your teenager as there is limited eye contact and it is a safe neutral ground. It is essential to also hear what they may not be saying. Notice any changes in their behaviour and attitude and if you are concerned, ask questions.
- Short and sweet is the key. Parents can over talk sometimes, giving more information than is necessary. If your teen asks a question, answer it as simply as possible, then move on. Teenagers are more likely to confide in you if they know they will get a simple, short answer and not be confronted with too much information.
- Praise, praise, praise. A kind word can go a long way. If your teen has done something that is worth praising, say it, they want to hear these things, especially from parents. Research from Carol Dweck recommends praise should come in the form of the effort they put in as this helps develop the adolescent mind to believe the more effort, the greater the results. In a busy world, we take so much for granted, but stopping every now and then to say a kind word to the person you love, will go further and be remembered.
Do you have a problem talking to your teenager? How do you go about opening up communication?