5 clues for better communication with your teenager:
Communicating with your teenager can sometimes be very challenging! How can you avoid that common situation when a simple misunderstanding or question, quickly descends into yelling and chaos? Despite their body language, their apparent disinterest and occasional damn rudeness, all teens need to feel love, approval and acceptance from you.
Even though your teen may seem to be withdrawn from you emotionally, or appears to be striving for independence, he or she still needs your attention and an indication that you are trying to “understand”. Sometimes, as adults, we fail to understand the impact of our moods, problems or activities on the children sharing our lives and our homes. Our children, especially our teens, are often more tuned in to our own issues than perhaps we give them credit for. Therefore, it is important to remember that teens can find changes in the home environment very unsettling. Stressful or even exciting developments such as moving house, moving to a new neighbourhood, a new school or a new relationship in their parents life, can be very confronting or confusing. “What about me?, “What about what I want?”, “Why wasn’t I asked?” may have a familiar ring to you.
Our teens may appear to be tough and very self confident, but deep down they may be worried and anxious about their lives and their futures. Change, which we, as adults, often welcome, plan for and discuss amongst ourselves, is sometimes missing from our engagement with our not-quite-adult children.
If this sounds like your home, I would encourage you to try a different approach. Sometimes it is more important to listen to your teenager than to talk at them. Let them speak. Wait your turn. Listen between the lines. What is my child really telling me? Once you have demonstrated your willingness and ability to listen, it is not unreasonable to expect the same in return. Be prepared to admit that you may have been mistaken about something. Acknowledge that there might be another way of viewing a situation. Share your feelings and your opinions but try to do so in a non-judgmental way. Try not to use words like “right” or “wrong” – it might just be a different perspective on the same issue. Most importantly, be conscious that you don’t want the outcome of a conversation to be that your teen will become defensive and angry. The primary goal of any such discussion is that the doors of communication remain open and that both you and your teen feel that you have actually listened to each other.
To ease the stress you and your teen could be feeling, you might be mindful of the following things. These simple “tools” can help reduce the sense of chaos at home and might help improve the quality of communication during a challenging period in the life of the family unit.
What you might do:
- Be genuine. Teenagers will usually respond to clear, honest conversation. You need to set the right example. Being genuine means that you are aware of your own stress levels or the things that have changed in your physical/social/emotional environment. If you are angry or upset this is probably not the right time to try to build a bridge with your teen.
- Avoid lecturing. Lecturing can often cause the teen to feel as if you are patronising them. Adolescents who are upset or in crisis will not absorb lessons delivered in a preaching style. They simply won’t be listening if the tone of voice or the body language is threatening. It’s important that you listen without judging, mocking, interrupting, criticizing or offering advice. Let them have their say. As explained above, set the ground rules early: in return for letting your teen unburden themselves, you expect the opportunity to respond…..once you’ve had time to think about and absorb the message. Be mindful, not judgemental. Be compassionate, not angry.
- Find compassion for your self and through that you will find it helps to improve your relationship with your teenager. Self-compassion shows that you respect yourself and shows that you are a worthy person. Take care of yourself, engage in a creative or a mindfulness activity, a hobby, a quite walk or seeing a friend. All of these are examples of activities that will be beneficial to your well-being. With a heightened sense of inner peace you can be a better communicator.
- Be available. Be there for your teen. It’s important to show your teen that you are available; not necessarily wherever or whenever, but make a date, set aside a time, and be there! It might mean making a time to chat over coffee or to share a pizza. And don’t be dismayed if the first response is a sarcastic put-down or dismissive gesture. Eventually, if you repeat your offer, it will be accepted.
- Create structure. Some teens crave consistency. While their world is changing, you can provide a sense of stability or predictability in small ways: have regular mealtimes or days when you go supermarket shopping together, for example. Routine helps to maintain a sense of equilibrium for your teen.
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