How To Communicate with your Teenager

by Frederick Akinola
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Father berating his son- communicating with your Teenager

When children grow older, into their teenage years, their relationship with their parents might have a strain, and the children withdraw, sinking into their shells, seemingly.

As a child, they talked to you about everything. As a teenager, they tell you nothing. When you try to converse, he either gives clipped responses or ignites an argument that turns your home ground into a battleground. It can be difficult to have even a simple conversation with your teenager. Connecting with your teenager, especially at this age and time can be very stressful. Consider two reasons that may contribute to the challenge:

The Quest for Independence

Some teenagers want more freedom than they should have; on the other hand, some parents grant less freedom than they could. The tug-of-war that may result can create considerable turmoil for parents and teens. Also, parents would naturally want to micro-manage their teenagers, and this might lead to the teenager withdrawing from the parents.

Abstract Thinking

When your children are young, they tend to think in simple terms, but as they grow older, many teenagers can perceive the gray areas of a matter. This is an important aspect of abstract thinking, and it helps a young person develop sound judgment. Abstract thinking allows your teenager to grapple with complex issues, and it can also cause him to grapple with you. What can you do to communicate better with your teenager?

When Possible, have Casual Chats

Take advantage of informal moments. For example, some parents have found that teenagers are more apt to open up while doing chores or when they are side-by-side with a parent rather than face-to-face. If your adolescent seems reluctant to talk, do something together​—take a walk, go for a drive, play a game, or perform a chore around the house. Often, such informal settings help adolescents feel more inclined to open up.

Keep it Brief

You do not have to argue every issue to the bitter end. Instead, make your point and then stop. Most of your message will be heard by your teenager later when he’s alone and can ponder over what you’ve said. Give him a chance to do so. You do not want to be overbearing or burden them with too much talk.

Listen and Be Flexible

Listen carefully—without interrupting—so that you can get the full scope of the problem. When replying, be reasonable. If your adolescent is unresponsive to questions, try a different approach. For example, instead of asking your daughter about her day, tell her how your day was and see if she responds. Or to discover your child’s opinion on a matter, ask questions that shift the focus away from your child. Ask her how a friend of hers feels about the topic. Then ask what advice she would give her friend.

Stay Calm

Rather than overreact, try to stay calm. Your teenager will definitely irritate you with their actions and behaviour.  You might have this irresistible urge to yell or smack them, but try not to. Take deep breaths and reflect on what you could say to keep things calm.

To the Extent Possible, Guide, Don’t Dictate

Your teen’s abstract thinking skills are like muscles that need to be developed. So when he faces a dilemma, do not do the thinking for him. As you discuss the matter, give him a chance to come up with some solutions of his own. Try not to be opinionated. This will help the child open up to you because he sees you as a guide, and not a dictator.


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