5 Ways to Improve Communication with Your Teen
Do you find it hard communicating with your teen?
Has it ever felt like you two could not agree on anything?
Many parents struggle to communicate with and understand their teens. Adolescence is a time of significant emotional, psychological, and physical change for teenagers, which can often result in attitudinal and behavioral shifts that can be hard to understand and deal with. It is also a time where you could see decreases in their willingness to share things about their life and increases in secrecy.
Below are some helpful suggestions on how to open the lines of communication with your teen to facilitate healthier conversations and mutual understanding.
- Listen rather than lecture. Focus on the moments where your teen shares about their day, school, work, relationships, or experiences. These are moments where you have an opportunity to listen and understand things from their perspective. When you allow teens the opportunity to disclose things when they want, this opens the door to trust and lets them know you are there to support them. Trust and support can result in an increased desire to communicate. We like to call it being “non-correctional and non-directional.”
- Validate rather than change their feelings. Validate what your teen is expressing to you and what their experiencing. It can be hard to hear your teen is struggling without giving your opinion or input on how they can change their situation or thoughts about it. Validation allows your teen to know you understand their struggles and shows your teen that you trust them in making their own decisions and solving their own problems. Let them know you are there if they do need support.
- Praise rather than criticize their choices. Praise your teen for their decisions and achievements. When giving praise, be sure to focus on their effort and hard work in addition to the desired outcome. Praise is something that typically decreases over time for parents, but praise works to build self-esteem and self-reliance. When teens feel more confident, they can be more willing to communicate and share things without the fear of criticism.
- Manage your own reactions to the things they do. Effective communication can only occur when all people involved in the conversation are calm and can think clearly and rationally. If emotions increase, then it can be challenging to see the others’ perspective and feel heard and understood. This can create a barrier to further communication and may increase a desire to hide or withhold information to avoid an argument or fight. Managing your own emotional reactions also shows your teen how to do this as well.
- Share time together. Share time together. Increasing the amount of positive and pleasurable interactions between you and your teen can build the relationship. Strengthening your relationship with your teen can improve communication. This creates a relationship founded in acceptance and respect, which can help you work through conflicts and arguments when they do arise.
At Restorative Psychological Services, we can help you learn more effective ways of communicating so you and your teen can develop a closer relationship.
For more information, please visit these resources:
Campbell, M. E. (2007). Communicating with adolescents. Continuing Medical Education, 25(5), 224-227. https://www.ajol.info/index.php/cme/article/view/43762/27285
Ehmke, R. (July, 2022). Tips for communicating with your teen. Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/article/tips-communicating-with-teen/
Keijsers, L., & Poulin, F. (2013). Developmental changes in parent-child communication through adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 49(12), 2301-2308. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0032217
Kids Health (February, 2021). Parenting teens – communication. https://www.kidshealth.org.nz/parenting-teens-communication
Smetana, J. D., & Rote, W. M. (2019). Adolescent-parent relationships: Progress, processes, and prospects. Annual Review of Developmental Psychology, 1, 41-68. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-devpsych-121318-084903