Overcome communication barriers with your teenager today
Byline: Judith Xavier
Have you heard stories from parents about their lovely, angelic children morphing into rebellious adolescents who unexpectedly snap in response to questions? Such anecdotes are sufficient to scare parents of young children into fearing this looming phase of life.
While adolescence can be a challenging time, it can also be a promising period as you are preparing your child for adulthood. Change is a key theme in this season. Your daughter may experience romantic feelings, and experiment with dating, while your son may struggle with feelings of insecurity and seek peer acceptance over yours.
In this season, their depth of understanding and capacity for abstract thinking will continue to grow, coupled with a desire for greater independence; personal values are internalised and adopted. As a parent, your main role will be to help them successfully navigate through these changes – only possible if you share a strong bond with your child.
3 Steps to Better Communication
Are your conversations with your teen limited to delivering instructions or lecturing them? Do you find them pulling back from you, giving you monosyllabic answers or being reluctant to share information about their life? Good communication is possible, when you begin with listening. Instead of engaging in a verbal war, try out these essential and effective steps:
- Begin with passive listening (or silence). This gives them a chance to speak their mind. Hold your tongue and be mindful of your facial and body language.
- Verbally acknowledge their sharing, by making sincere comments like “I see”, “Hmmm” and “Tell me more”, which emphasise that you are paying attention.
- Provide suggestions by using a simple, non-judgmental statement like “How would you feel about talking to your teacher?” or “How would you feel about me helping you out?”. This is a non-confrontational way to ease into a discussion.
The Value of Conflict
Many parents tend to avoid conflict with their teens or ‘sweep it under the carpet’ rather than deal with it. However, dealing with conflict can be a positive experience for both parents and teenager. Handling conflict is a skill that you can model and teach them at home, so that they can successfully manage conflicts in school or at the workplace in future.
In a highly charged disagreement, strong emotions like anger, hurt or resentment can be overwhelming. Remember that your teen is undergoing a process of learning and change and allow them to share their point of view first, before offering yours.
Make it a point to reconcile, if you have said hurtful words out of anger. While it can be hard – to apologise and ask for forgiveness, that act can soften a conflict. At the end of the day, building a solid relationship with your child is more important than being right.
Think of your teen as a teammate rather than an opponent. When a conflict arises, don’t point fingers or focus on the problem. Instead, emphasise on coming up with solutions that can move you forward. Let them be part of the brainstorming process, and consider all suggestions (no matter how silly it may seem to you). When you have reached an agreement, write it down. You can also agree on a timeline and consequences if either parent or teen forfeits on the action plan.
Investing effort in building strong lines of communication with your teen will pay rich dividends over the longer term. As you take time to listen to your teen’s hopes, dreams and fears, share your values and set boundaries, you are training your child to make good decisions, and become more confident and independent to face the world we live in.