Strategies for communicating with your teen

First, make an attempt to really know your teenager. Key things to aim to know include their learning style, fears, role models, games and TV programmes they enjoy most, favourite sport, the worst and best jobs they could have, who their friends are, what they would do with $10,000, personality type, and what embarrasses them the most.

A quick note – it is normal for teenagers to communicate online and via text with all of their friends. They have almost created an entire new language to communicate online. Face-to-face communication is always going to be the most valuable way to relate to one another, but learning how to engage with your teenager digitally will be a huge asset as well. Chances are that initiating a conversation with your teen through text or online may get you surprisingly effective results. Here are a few ideas to help you along as you get to know your teen.

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Build the relationship

  • Keep doors of communication open – be available
  • Refrain from constant lecturing, teaching and nagging and keep your tone friendly
  • Realise some of their ideas are a work in progress – a tentative experiment in thinking something through
  • Spend time with your them doing something of their choice and listen attentively to their ideas and opinions
  • One-on-one time helps a teen feel lovable again if things have been difficult.
  • Get to like and participate in parts of their world. Be involved or interested in their games, sports and events. Understand their love of technology and need for participation in social networking sites.
  • Tell them you really care that certain aspects of their life have not turned out the way they had hoped.

The Big Weekend‘ – hosted by Petra Bagust and Pio Terei – is designed to start conversations about sex and puberty for you, preparing you and your child for the teen years ahead. It is designed for both boys and girls and is available for purchase on CD, alternatively, visit iTunes or Spotify and search for ‘The Parenting Place’.

Be firm

  • Set up boundaries and consequences that are known ahead of time and develop a ‘thicker skin’ so you can calmly enforce them.
  • Be prepared to negotiate a change in the family rules.
  • Let them know you always expect to know where they are, who they are with, what time they will be home and to be contacted if any of these details change.

Be a coach

  • Parent like a coach – confident, firm, fair, friendly, encouraging, honouring, fun, attentive, humble and empathetic.
  • Use phrases such as, “This isn’t working.”
  • Refrain from arguing and keep the ‘heat’ low – teenagers will match you emotion for emotion.
  • Walk away if your teenager becomes verbally or physically abusive. Let them know you are prepared to talk when they can be respectful.

Understand their needs

  • Unconditional love. You may not like them much at the moment, but they do need your love! Express this love. Tell them. Greet them warmly. Show affection in various ways and don’t be surprised or offended if they don’t seem to respond.
  • Keep them connected to the family. Chores, family outings, expressions of gratitude, problem solving together, and actively seeking out their opinion are all ways of helping them feel they belong.
  • Do not rescue them from their challenges, but let them feel your support and encouragement.
  • A united approach offers security. When parents support each other (even if they are separated) it sends strong messages to their kids – “We love you” and, “Don’t mess with us!”

Strategies that work

  • Try using a contract to establish boundaries over things like technology and the use of the car.
  • A token or point system can help to motivate younger teens.
  • Eat together regularly with devices away. Studies have shown this is instrumental in helping prevent drug and alcohol abuse. It also builds great minds and better nutrition.
  • Keep the dream alive. Remind your kids of their value and capabilities. Talk about your dreams for them. Believe in the future for them.
  • Have a teen-friendly home. Let your kids bring their friends home and get to know them.
  • Don’t assume you are not wanted in their world. They may not invite you in, but they need your interest and love. Stay in their arena!
  • Expect to be treated respectfully. One very important sign of respect is the way they talk to you.
  • Leave notes as a different way of communicating. Too much dialogue can turn them off.
  • Learn to say sorry. It is very disarming. It creates a bridge and a model that can be emulated.

Use open questions but set them up to engage by giving them an on-ramp to the conversation. So instead of, “How was your day?”, an easier question to get them talking is, “I was thinking about you today, how did you get on with Ben at lunchtime?” Or, “Seems like you have heaps on your mind right now – how are you finding things with your mates at school?”, “You don’t really seem like your usual self these days, is there stuff causing you grief at school?”

Book a session with a Family Coach

family-coachSometimes family life is way more challenging than we had ever imagined. We would like it to be a lot more enjoyable, if only we knew how. Family coaching is designed to meet you where you are at, whatever stage you are at on your parenting and relationship journey. We want to be on the journey with you. To find out more and to book a session, click here.