by Bruno LoGreco
If you’re having difficulty communicating with your teenagers, you’re not alone. Many parents watch helplessly as their talkative, happy children turn into sullen, uncommunicative teens who prefer the company and conversation of their friends to their parents.
While this seemingly overnight transformation can be alarming, it’s important to realize that this change in behaviour is a normal part of growing up. If you feel like you’ve been talking to a brick wall lately, here are some ways to keep the lines of communication open.
Make it a habit to stop what you’re doing and really listen to what your teen has to say. If you’re distracted, chances are you’re not looking at your teen’s face or reading his/her body language. Often teens will give verbal–and even nonverbal–clues about problems while engaging in a seemingly normal conservation with a parent. If you are preoccupied and not really listening, you’ll miss the chance to pick up on any problems your teen may be experiencing. Remember, teens don’t always want or need you to fix the problem, they just need a safe place to vent and have their feelings heard.
2. Respect their feelings.
Have you ever had a family member, friend or co-worker make you feel embarrassed or humiliated because of the way you felt about something? If so, you probably haven’t confided in them since. Your teenagers are in the process of discovering who they are and how they feel about the world. They don’t want you to tell them how they should or should not be feeling. What they need is a safe place they can discuss their feelings without the fear of being judged. Let them know you’ll always be there to listen and, most importantly, that their feelings matter.
3. Ask the right questions.
Instead of asking your teen What’s wrong?, try being more specific with your questions. When uttered in frustration, What’s wrong? can have an accusatory tone and may put your son/daughter in defense mode. Try using words that convey the warmth of emotion you’re really trying to project: You look angry/hurt/upset. Is there something you want to talk about? Those words not only provoke thought and discussion, but they also help you to avoid the dreaded What’s wrong? response of Nothing!
4. Skip the lecture.
Technology, clothing, values…the high school experience has changed since you were a teenager. Instead of dragging your teen into your past with when-I-was-your-age lectures, inspire and motivate him/her with stories about when you got into trouble and what you learned from each incident.
5. Show your teens you love them.
The teenage years are a time of adjustment for both parents and teens. As a parent, you’re trying to prepare your teens for the world and learning to let them go. Your teens, however, are learning to become more independent and discovering what it takes to create a life of their own. Make sure they know you love them unconditionally and will continue to support them as they make the inevitable mistakes on their road to adulthood.
As an author, speaker, and contributor to Style by Jury and Save Us from Our House, nationally renowned Life Coach Bruno LoGreco has helped Canadians from all walks of life discover the strength inside themselves to lead healthier, happier lives and walk with confidence on the path to success.