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Communicating with Your Teen

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 17 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Communicating With Your Teen

If you’ve got a teen then you realise that after the age of 12 communication can rapidly deteriorate from actual words into stares, smirks and sighs. While this might suit your teen just fine, it’s highly unlikely that you will feel the same way. Communicating with your teen is one of the best ways to stay close and stay involved in each others’ lives, so if you feel that you and your teen are drifting apart, resolve to begin communicating clearly and effectively.

Stop Multitasking

One of the premises of good communication with your teen is giving him/her the attention that (s)he deserves. Stop multitasking while you are talking to your teen and you’ll be amazed at what you can observe. Keep your eyes and ears open and soon you’ll be digesting:
  • Body language cues
  • The tone of voice that can hint at a hidden meaning
  • Facial expressions that can shed light on vague statements
  • Posture patterns (slumping forward or sitting up straighter) that can reveal true feelings

Ask Open Questions

You can’t fault your teen if they can answer your questions with a simple “Yes” or “No”. Instead of getting frustrated, just change the way you ask questions. Avoid questions that can be answered in a single word and strive instead for questions that will start a discussion. For example:
  • Instead of “Did you have a nice day?” ask “What was the best part of your day?”
  • Instead of “Have you finished your homework?” try “Tell me about your homework.”
  • Instead of “Will you be home for dinner?” switch to “What are your plans for the afternoon?”
  • Instead of “Are you going out tonight?” instead say “Tell me about your plans for the evening.”

Focus on the Actions, Not the Actor

Communication can easily break down with teens when negative emotions are involved. To avoid adding fuel to the fire, focus on the actions that are in question rather than on the teen. For instance:
  • Express your disappointment that a window was broken, not that your teen is a poor shot with the football
  • Express your frustration that dinner got burned, not that your teen is a bad cook
  • Express your anger that a party was thrown while you were away, not that your teen is inherently irresponsible
  • Express your displeasure with your teen’s bad marks, not with your teen’s intelligence

Accept Your Teen's Opinions

Nothing frustrates teens faster than feeling as if no one is listening to them. Whether you like them or not, your teen’s opinions are his/her own so you may just have to get used to them. Rather than dismissing them out of hand, dig deeper to find out the reasons behind them. Responding positively will help start a discussion, and asking for more details will help you get a sense of the big picture. For instance, if your teen tells you that her new dance teacher is worthless, respond with “I can see that you are frustrated with the new teacher. What is she doing that particularly bothers you?” Once you get the ball rolling you’ll be shocked by how much information you can elicit with a few simple questions.

Communicating with your teen may be a lot like walking a tightrope, but to stay involved in each others’ lives, clear and efficient communication is necessary. Remember to remain calm, stay focused and ask questions throughout and soon you’ll know all about your teen’s life.

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