Effectively Communicating With Your Teen

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Sometimes talking with your teenager can be a real challenge. I feel I have made a major breakthrough if I hear more than "fine" when I ask my teen how his day was. Sound familiar? In reviewing the current literature on the topic of communicating with teenagers, I have read that although teenagers are becoming more independent, they still want to communicate with their parents. They want to hear their parents' values and opinions, but will become very defensive of themselves or friends if parents' opinions feel judgmental or condescending toward them. They also tend to tune parents out if they feel they are being lectured or if parents act as if they have all the answers. I cringe when I think of how many times I have said "well, when I was your age….." or "you really need to just ……"

Teens will feel more like they are being heard if parents practice active listening. Getting rid of distractions, paying complete attention, not interrupting, and repeating back the major points goes a long way to make teens feel as though parents are listening – and care about what they have to say. Also, following up on the conversation at a later date by asking your teen how things worked out and how they are doing will also prove this as well.

A fact sheet on positive parenting strategies I found from the Department of Health and Human Services, lists these additional tips to follow when talking with your teen:

  • Keep any judgmental thoughts to yourself – stick with the subject at hand
  • Allow your child to talk without interruption until he/she gets to the point
  • Show respect for your child's point of view, even if you don't agree with it
  • Develop common interests with your child such as a sport, hobby or favorite movie
  • Seize the moment – catch up with your child whenever you have an opportunity
  • Build some structure and routine in your family schedule i.e. at least one dinner a week where family can come together to catch up and focus on each other

Fact Sheet can be found at: